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What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

what is a business plan notes

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

Key Takeaways

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

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Types of Business Plans

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

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

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

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

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

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needing to write a business plan to get there.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated February 2, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

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. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

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  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: How to collaborate with AI on your business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

Free business plan templates and examples

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

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

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

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

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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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 .

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. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.

Bizee

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.

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

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, 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, which should contain 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, it should cover 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

what is a business plan notes

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

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

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

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.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution 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.

» 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.

You may also include 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.

» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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.

List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. 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 help your business plan stand out:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. 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. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

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

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

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

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

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

businessplan_0

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

What is a business plan?

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

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

What is a business plan used for?

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

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]

businessplan_2

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

Purposes of a Business Plan

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

1. Securing financing from investors.

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

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

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

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

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

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

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

what is a business plan notes

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

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

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

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

4. Getting an A in your business class.

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

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

What does a business plan need to include?

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

1. Business Plan Subtitle

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

2. Executive Summary

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

3. Company Description

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

4. The Business Opportunity

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

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5. Competitive Analysis

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

6. Target Market

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

7. Marketing Plan

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

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

8. Financial Summary

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

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

10. Funding Requirements

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

Types of Business Plans

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

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

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

1. Startup Business Plan

businessplan_7

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

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

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

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

2. Feasibility Business Plan

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

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

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

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

3. Internal Business Plan

businessplan_5

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

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

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

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

4. Strategic Business Plan

businessplan_8

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

These types of business plans may include:

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

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

5. Business Acquisition Plan

businessplan_3

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

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

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

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

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

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

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

6. Business Repositioning Plan

businessplan_6 (1)

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

This plan will:

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

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

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

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

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

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

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

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

Learning Objectives

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Overview

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

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

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

Purposes of a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

Link to Learning

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

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

Types of Business Plans

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

Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Ready?

Create a brief business plan.

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

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

Full Business Plan

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

Executive Summary

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

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

Business Description

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

Industry Analysis and Market Strategies

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

Competitive Analysis

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

Operations and Management Plan

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

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

Marketing Plan

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

Financial Plan

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

Entrepreneur In Action

Laughing man coffee.

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

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

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

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

What Can You Do?

Textbooks for change.

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

Work It Out

Franchisee set out.

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

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

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

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

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Business Plan

Who should write a business plan, pros and cons of a business plan, the anatomy of a business plan, .css-uphcpb{position:absolute;left:0;top:-87px;} what is a business plan, definition of a business plan.

A business plan is a strategic document which details the strategic objectives for a growing business or startup, and how it plans to achieve them.

In a nutshell, a business plan is a written expression of a business idea and will describe your business model, your product or service, how it will be priced, who will be your target market, and which tactics you plan to use to reach commercial success.

Whilst every enterprise should have a plan of some sort, a business plan is of particular importance during the investment process. Banks, venture capitalists, and angel investors alike will need to see a detailed plan in order to make sound investment decisions — think of your plan as a way of convincing them your idea is worth their resources.

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Business plans can also be useful as a guide to keeping a new business on track, especially in the first few months or years when the road ahead isn’t too clear.

Starting a business isn’t an exact science. Some companies organically develop out of trial and error, while others are plotted out from start to finish.

So if you’re asking whether your company needs a lengthy business plan, the answer would be ‘no’. That said, there are definitely a few situations in which writing a plan makes sense and can help increase the chances of a business becoming successful:

In situations when the market is new and untested — or simply volatile — it can be very helpful to have a business plan to refer back to when the road ahead isn’t clear.

For those who have an exciting business idea but haven’t necessarily distilled it down into black-and-white. Writing a business plan is a great way to look at a concept from all angles and spot any potential pitfalls.

How to write a business plan?

The most important step in writing a business plan is to identify its purpose.

Who are you trying to attract with it, and why?

Here are a few key pointers for writing a business plan:

Are you looking to secure a bank loan, get funding from private investors, or to lure skilled professionals to join you?

Include a brief history of your business, the concept, and the products or services. Keep it professional and transparent.

Don’t exaggerate your experience or skills, and definitely don’t leave out information investors need to know. They’ll find out at some point, and if they discover you lied, they could break off their involvement. Trust is crucial.

Explain what the product or service your business offers in simplistic terms.

Watch out for complex language and do whatever you can to prevent readers from becoming confused.

Focus on the benefits the business offers, how it solves the core audience’s problem(s), and what evidence you have to prove that there is a space in the market for your idea. It’s important to touch on the market your business will operate in, and who your main competitors are.

Another essential aspect of writing an effective business plan is to keep it short and sweet. Just focus on delivering the crucial information the reader has to know in order to make a decision. They can always ask you to elaborate on certain points later.

Still, deciding whether or not a business plan will benefit you at this stage of your venture?

Let’s look at a few reasons why you might (or might not) want to write a business plan.

A business plan will help you to secure funding even when you have no trading history. At the seed stage, funding is all-important — especially for tech and SaaS companies. It’s here that a business plan can become an absolute lifesaver.

Your business plan will maintain a strategic focus as time goes on. If you’ve ever heard of “mission creep”, you’ll know how important an agreed can be — and your business plan serves exactly that purpose.

Having a plan down in black and white will help you get other people on board . Again, with no trading history, it can be hard to convince new partners that you know what you’re doing. A business plan elegantly solves this problem.

Your business plan can cause you to stop looking outward. Sometimes, especially in business, you need to be reactive to market conditions. If you focus too much on your original business plan, you might make mistakes that can be costly or miss golden opportunities because they weren’t in the plan.

 A lot of time can be wasted analyzing performance. It’s easy to become too focused on the goals and objectives in your business plan — especially when you’re not achieving them. By spending too much time analyzing past performance and looking back, you may miss out on other ways to push the business forward.

A business plan is out of date as soon as it’s written. We all know how quickly market conditions change. And, unfortunately, certain elements in your business plan may have lost relevance by the time you’re ready to launch. But there is another way — by transferring your strategic plan into an actionable roadmap , you can get the best of both worlds. The business plan contains important detail that is less likely to change, such as your mission statement and target audience, and the roadmap clarifies a flexible, adaptable, route forward.

So, you’ve decided to write a business plan — a great choice! 

But now comes the tricky task of actually writing it. 

This part can be a little frustrating because there is no one-size-fits-all template appropriate for all business plans. The best approach, in fact, is to look at common ingredients of a business plan and pick out the ones that make sense for your venture.

The key elements of a great business plan include:

An overview of the business concept . This is sometimes referred to as an executive summary and it’s essentially the elevator pitch for your business.

A detailed description of the product or service. It’s here that you’ll describe exactly what your core offering will be — what’s your USP , and what value do you deliver?

An explanation of the target audience. You need a good understanding of who you’ll be selling your product or service to, backed up by recent market research.

Your sales and marketing strategy. Now that you know who you’re targeting, how do you plan to reach them? Here you can list primary tactics for finding and maintaining an engaged client base.

Your core team . This section is all about people: do you have a team behind you already? If not, how will you build this team and what will the timeline be? Why are you the right group of people to bring this idea to the market? This section is incredibly important when seeking external investment — in most cases, passion can get you much further than professional experience.

Financial forecasts . Some investors will skim the executive summary and skip straight to the finances — so expect your forecasts to be scrutinized in a lot of detail. Writing a business plan for your eyes only? That’s fine, but you should still take time to map out your financial requirements: how much money do you need to start? How do you plan to keep money coming in? How long will it take to break even ? Remember, cash is king. So you need a cash flow forecast that is realistic, achievable and keeps your business afloat, especially in the tricky first few years.

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Business Planning - Introduction

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

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The business plan sets out how the owners/managers of a business intend to realise its objectives. Without such a plan a business is likely to drift.

The business plan serves several purposes:it

(1) enables management to think through the business in a logical and structured way and to set out the stages in the achievement of the business objectives.

(2) enables management to plot progress against the plan (through the management accounts)

(3) ensures that both the resources needed to carry out the strategy and the time when they are required are identified.

(4) is a means for making all employees aware of the business's direction (assuming the key features of the business plan are communicated to employees)

(5) is an important document for for discussion with prospective investors and lenders of finance (e.g. banks and venture capitalists).

(6) links into the detailed, short-term, one-year budget.

The Link Between the Business Plan and the Budget

A budget can be defined as "a financial or quantitative statement", prepared for a specific accounting period (typically a year), containing the plans and policies to be pursued during that period.

The main purposes of a budget are:

(1) to monitor business unit and managerial performance (the latter possibly linking into bonus arrangements)

(2 )to forecast the out-turn of the period's trading (through the use of flexed budgets and based on variance analyses)

(3 )to assist with cost control.

Generally, a functional budget is prepared for each functional area within a business (e.g. call-centre, marketing, production, research and development, finance and administration). In addition, it is also normal to produce a "capital budget" detailing the capital investment required for the period, a "cash flow budget", a "stock budget" and a "master budget", which includes the budgeted profit and loss account and balance sheet.

Preparing a Business Plan

A business plan has to be particular to the organisation in question, its situation and time. However, a business plan is not just a document, to be produced and filed. Business planning is a continuous process. The business plan has to be a living document, constantly in use to monitor, control and guide the progress of a business. That means it should be under regular review and will need to be amended in line with changing circumstances.

Before preparing the plan management should: - review previous business plans (if any) and their outcome. This review will help highlight which areas of the business have proved difficult to forecast historically. For example, are sales difficult to estimate? If so why? - be very clear as to their objectives - a business plan must have a purpose - set out the key business assumptions on which their plans will be based (e.g. inflation, exchange rates, market growth, competitive pressures, etc.) - take a critical look at their business. The classical way is by means of the strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis, which identifies the business's situation from four key angles. The strategies adopted by a business will be largely based on the outcome of this analysis.

Preparing the Budget

A typical business plan looks up to three years forward and it is normal for the first year of the plan to be set out in considerable detail. This one-year plan, or budget, will be prepared in such a way that progress can be regularly monitored (usually monthly) by checking the variance between the actual performance and the budget, which will be phased to take account of seasonal variations.

The budget will show financial figures (cash, profit/loss working capital, etc) and also non-financial items such as personnel numbers, output, order book, etc. Budgets can be produced for units, departments and products as well as for the total organisation. Budgets for the forthcoming period are usually produced before the end of the current period. While it is not usual for budgets to be changed during the period to which they relate (apart from the most extraordinary circumstances) it is common practice for revised forecasts to be produced during the year as circumstances change.

A further refinement is to flex the budgets, i.e. to show performance at different levels of business. This makes comparisons with actual outcomes more meaningful in cases where activity levels differ from those included in the budget.

What Providers of Finance Want from a Business Plan

Almost invariably bank managers and other providers of finance will want to see a business plan before agreeing to provide finance. Not to have a business plan will be regarded as a bad sign. They will be looking not only at the plan, but at the persons behind it. They will want details of the owner/managers of the business, their background and experience, other activities, etc. They will be looking for management commitment, with enthusiasm tempered by realism. The plan must be thought through and not be a skimpy piece of work. A few figures on a spreadsheet are not enough.

The plan must be used to run the business and there must be a means for checking progress against the plan. An information system must be in place to provide regular details of progress against plan. Bank managers are particularly wary of businesses that are slow in producing internal performance figures. Lenders will want to guard against risk. In particular they will be looking for two assurances:

(1) that the business has the means of making regular payment of interest on the amount loaned, and

(2) that if everything goes wrong the bank can still get its money back (i.e. by having a debenture over the business's assets). Forward-looking financial statements, particularly the cash flow forecast, are therefore of critical importance. The bank wants openness and no surprises. If something is going wrong it does not want this covered up, it wants to be informed - quickly.

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Table of Contents

What is a business plan, the advantages of having a business plan, the types of business plans, the key elements of a business plan, best business plan software, common challenges of writing a business plan, become an expert business planner, business planning: it’s importance, types and key elements.

Business Planning: It’s Importance, Types and Key Elements

Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the  World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database  shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.

Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.

Several  other statistics  expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.

This isn’t surprising at all. 

Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%)  don't have a formal business plan in place. 

It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.  

But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.  

Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.

No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.  

More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.

A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained. 

However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes. 

Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.

Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.

  • Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals. 
  • Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
  • Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
  • Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
  • Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
  • Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest. 

Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.

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Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.  

Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans. 

  • Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
  • Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments. 
  • Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
  • Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
  • Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.

There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them. 

Here are the key elements of a good business plan:

  • Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.  
  • Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
  • Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
  • Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time. 
  • Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.

The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:

  • Business Sorter

The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:

  • Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
  • Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
  • Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
  • You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.

Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success. 

Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.

While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.   

Simpliearn’s Executive Certificate Program in General Management will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive general management program by IIM Indore can serve as a career catalyst, equipping professionals with a competitive edge in the ever-evolving business environment.

What Is Meant by Business Planning?

Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.

What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?

The following are the four types of business plans:

Operational Planning

This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.

Strategic Planning

Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.

Tactical Planning

Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.

Contingency Planning

When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.

What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?

The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:

Conduct Research

If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.

Have a Goal

The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.

Create a Company Profile

Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.

Describe the Company in Detail

Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.

Create a marketing plan ahead of time.

A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.

Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience

Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.

Incorporate Your Motivation

Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.

What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?

These are the basic steps in business planning:

Summary and Objectives

Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.

Services and Products

Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.

Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.

Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.

How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.

Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.

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1.5: Chapter 5 – Business Planning

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  • Page ID 21257

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

Business planning is an important precursor to action in new ventures. By helping firm founders to make decisions, to balance resource supply and demand, and to turn abstract goals into concrete operational steps, business planning reduces the likelihood of venture disbanding and accelerates product development and venture organizing activity. – Delmar and Shane (2003, p. 1165)

We always plan too much and always think too little. We resent a call to thinking and hate unfamiliar argument that does not tally with what we already believe or would like to believe. – Joseph Schumpeter

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. – Peter Drucker

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter you will be able to

  • Describe the purposes of business planning
  • Describe common business planning principles
  • List and explain the elements of the business plan development process outlined in this book
  • Explain the purposes of each of the elements of the business plan development process outlined in this book
  • Explain how applying the business plan development process outlined in this book can aid in developing a business plan that will meet entrepreneurs’ goals
  • Describe general business planning guidelines and format

This chapter describes the purposes of business planning, the general concepts related to business planning, and guidelines and a format for a comprehensive business plan.

Business Planning Purposes

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. The most common external purpose for a business plan is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

  • defines the vision for the company
  • establishes the company’s strategy
  • describes how the strategy will be implemented
  • provides a framework for analysis of key issues
  • provides a plan for the development of the business
  • is a measurement and control tool
  • helps the entrepreneur to be realistic and to put theories to the test

External Purposes

The business plan is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel. It also provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business.

Business Planning Principles

Business plan communication principles.

As Hindle and Mainprize (2006) note, business plan writers must strive to communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future. However, the liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures difficult (more so than for existing businesses). They outline five communications principles:

  • Translation of your vision of the venture and how it will perform into a format compatible with the expectations of the readers
  • you have identified and understood the key success factors and risks
  • the projected market is large and you expect good market penetration
  • you have a strategy for commercialization, profitability, and market domination
  • you can establish and protect a proprietary and competitive position
  • Anchoring key events in the plan with specific financial and quantitative values
  • your major plan objectives are in the form of financial targets
  • you have addressed the dual need for planning and flexibility
  • you understand the hazards of neglecting linkages between certain events
  • you understand the importance of quantitative values (rather than just chronological dates)
  • Nothing lasts forever—things can change to impact the opportunity: tastes, preferences, technological innovation, competitive landscape
  • the new combination upon which venture is built
  • magnitude of the opportunity or market size
  • market growth trends
  • venture’s value from the market (% of market share proposed or market share value in dollars)
  • Four key aspects describing context within which new venture is intended to function (internal and external environment)
  • how the context will help or hinder the proposal
  • how the context may change & affect the business & the range of flexibility or response that is built into the venture
  • what management can or will do in the event the context turns unfavourable
  • what management can do to affect the context in a positive way
  • Brief and clear statement of how an idea actually becomes a business that creates value
  • Who pays, how much, and how often?
  • The activities the company must perform to produce its product, deliver it to its customers and earn revenue
  • And be able to defend assertions that the venture is attractive and sustainable and has a competitive edge

Business Plan Credibility Principles

Business plan writers must strive to project credibility (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006), so t here must be a match between what the entrepreneurship team (resource seekers) needs and what the investors (resource providers) expect based on their criteria. A take it or leave it approach (i.e. financial forecasts set in concrete) by the entrepreneurship team has a high likelihood of failure in terms of securing resources. Hindle and Mainprize (2006) outline five principles to help entrepreneurs project credibility:

  • Without the right team, nothing else matters.
  • What do they know?
  • Who do they know?
  • How well are they known?
  • sub-strategies
  • ad-hoc programs
  • specific tactical action plans
  • Claiming an insuperable lead or a proprietary market position is naïve.
  • Anticipate several moves in advance
  • View the future as a movie vs. snapshot
  • Key assumptions related to market size, penetration rates, and timing issues of market context outlined in the business plan should link directly to the financial statements.
  • Income and cash flow statements must be preceded by operational statements setting forth the primary planning assumptions about market sizes, sales, productivity, and basis for the revenue estimate.
  • If the main purpose is to enact a harvest, then the business plan must create a value-adding deal structure to attract investors.
  • Common things: viability, profit potential, downside risk, likely life-cycle time, potential areas for dispute or improvement

General Business Plan Guidelines

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

  • A standard format helps the reader understand that the entrepreneur has thought everything through, and that the returns justify the risk.
  • Binding the document ensures that readers can easily go through it without it falling apart.
  • everything is completely integrated: the written part must say exactly the same thing as the financial part
  • all financial statements are completely linked and valid (make sure all balance sheets validly balance)
  • the document is well formatted (layout makes document easy to read and comprehend—including all diagrams, charts, statements, and other additions)
  • everything is correct (there are NO spelling, grammar, sentence structure, referencing, or calculation errors)
  • It is usually unnecessary—and even damaging—to state the same thing more than once. To avoid unnecessarily duplicating information, you should combine sections and reduce or eliminate duplication as much as possible.
  • all the necessary information is included to enable readers to understand everything in your document
  • For example, if your plan says something like “there is a shortage of 100,000 units with competitors currently producing 25,000. We can help fill this huge gap in demand with our capacity to produce 5,000 units,” a reader is left completely confused. Does this mean there is a total shortage of 100,000 units, but competitors are filling this gap by producing 25,000 per year (in which case there will only be a shortage for four years)? Or, is there an annual shortage of 100,000 units with only 25,000 being produced each year, in which case the total shortage is very high and is growing each year? You must always provide the complete perspective by indicating the appropriate time frame, currency, size, or another measurement.
  • if you use a percentage figure, you indicate to what it refers, otherwise the figure is completely useless to a reader.
  • This can be solved by indicating up-front in the document the currency in which all values will be quoted. Another option is to indicate each time which currency is being used, and sometimes you might want to indicate the value in more than one currency. Of course, you will need to assess the exchange rate risk to which you will be exposed and describe this in your document.
  • If a statement is included that presents something as a fact when this fact is not generally known, always indicate the source. Unsupported statements damage credibility
  • Be specific. A business plan is simply not of value if it uses vague references to high demand, carefully set prices, and other weak phrasing. It must show hard numbers (properly referenced, of course), actual prices, and real data acquired through proper research. This is the only way to ensure your plan is considered credible.

Developing a High Power Business Plan

The business plan development process described next has been extensively tested with entrepreneurship students and has proven to provide the guidance entrepreneurs need to develop a business plan appropriate for their needs; a high power business plan .

The Stages of Development

There are six stages involved with developing a high power business plan . These stages can be compared to a process for hosting a dinner for a few friends. A host hoping to make a good impression with their anticipated guests might analyze the situation at multiple levels to collect data on new alternatives for healthy ingredients, what ingredients have the best prices and are most readily available at certain times of year, the new trends in party appetizers, what food allergies the expected guests might have, possible party themes to consider, and so on. This analysis is the Essential Initial Research stage.

In the Business Model stage, the host might construct a menu of items to include with the meal along with a list of decorations to order, music to play, and costume themes to suggest to the guests. The mix of these kinds of elements chosen by the host will play a role in the success of the party.

The Initial Business Plan Draft stage is where the host rolls up his or her sleeves and begins to assemble make some of the food items, put up some of the decorations, send invitations, and generally get everything started for the party.

During this stage, the host will begin to realize that some plans are not feasible and that changes are needed. The required changes might be substantial, like the need to postpone the entire party and ultimately start over in a few months, or less drastic, like the need to change the menu when an invited guest indicates that they can’t eat food containing gluten. These changes are incorporated into the plan to make it realistic and feasible in the Making the Business Plan Realistic stage.

Making A Plan to Appeal to Stakeholders stage involves further changes to the party plan to make it more appealing to both the invited guests and to make it a fun experience for the host. For example, the host might learn that some of the single guests would like to bring dates and others might need to be able to bring their children to be able to attend. The host might be able to accommodate those desires or needs in ways that will also make the party more fun for them—maybe by accepting some guests’ offers to bring food or games, or maybe even hiring a babysitter to entertain and look after the children.

The final stage— Finishing the Business Plan— involves the host putting all of the final touches in place for the party in preparation for the arrival of the guests.

Six-Rounds-Final1.jpg

Figure 5 – Business Plan Development Process (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Essential Initial Research

A business plan writer should analyze the environment in which they anticipate operating at each of the s ocietal , i ndustry , m arket , and f irm levels of analysis (see pages 51–60). This stage of planning, the e ssential initial research , is a necessary first step to better understand the trends that will affect their business and the decisions they must make to lay the groundwork for, and to improve their potential for success.

In some cases, much of the e ssential initial research should be included in the developing business plan as its own separate section to help build the case for readers that there is a market need for the business being considered and that it stands a good chance of being successful.

In other cases, a business plan will be stronger when the components of the e ssential initial research are distributed throughout the business plan as a way to provide support for the plans and strategies outlined in the business plan. For example, the industry or market part of the e ssential initial research might outline the pricing strategies used by identified competitors and might be best placed in the pricing strategy part of the business plan to support the decision made to employ a particular pricing strategy.

Business Model

Inherent in any business plan is a description of the business model chosen by the entrepreneur as the one that they feel will best ensure success. Based upon their essential initial research of the setting in which they anticipate starting their business (their analysis from stage one) an entrepreneur should determine how each element of their business model—including their revenue streams, cost structure, customer segments, value propositions, key activities, key partners, and so on—might fit together to improve the potential success of their business venture (see Chapter 4 – Business Models).

For some types of ventures, at this stage an entrepreneur might launch a lean start-up (see page 68) and grow their business by continually pivoting, or constantly adjusting their business model in response to the real-time signals they get from the markets’ reactions to their business operations. In many cases, however, an entrepreneur will require a business plan. In those cases, their initial business model will provide the basis for that plan.

Of course, throughout this and all of the rounds in this process, the entrepreneur should seek to continually gather information and adjust the plans in response to the new knowledge they gather. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the business model and moving on to the initial business plan draft.

Initial Business Plan Draft

The Business Plan Draft stage involves taking the knowledge and ideas developed during the first two stages and organizing them into a business plan format. An approach preferred by many is to create a full draft of the business plan with all of the sections, including the front part with the business description, vision, mission, values, value proposition statement, preliminary set of goals, and possibly even a table of contents and lists of tables and figures all set up using the software features enabling their automatic generation. Writing all of the operations, human resources, marketing, and financial plans as part of the first draft ensures that all of these parts can be appropriately and necessarily integrated. The business plan will tell the story of a planned business startup in two ways by using primarily words along with some charts and graphs in the operations, human resources, and marketing plans and in a second way through the financial plan. Both ways must tell the same story.

The feedback loop shown in Figure 8 demonstrates that the business developer may need to review the business model. Additionally, as shown by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Initial Business Plan Draft stage and moving on to the Making Business Plan Realisticstage.

Making Business Plan Realistic

The first draft of a business plan will almost never be realistic. As the entrepreneur writes the plan, it will necessarily change as new information is gathered. Another factor that usually renders the first draft unrealistic is the difficulty in making certain that the written part—in the front part of the plan along with the operations, human resources, and marketing plans—tells the exact same story as the financial part does. This stage of work involves making the necessary adjustments to the plan to make it as realistic as possible.

The Making Business Plan Realistic stage has two possible feedback loops. The first goes back to the Initial Business Plan Draft stage in case the initial business plan needs to be significantly changed before it is possible to adjust it so that it is realistic. The second feedback loop circles back to the Business Model stage if the business developer need to rethink the business model. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Making Business Plan Realistic stage and moving on to the Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders stage.

Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur

A business plan can be realistic without appealing to potential investors and other external stakeholders, like employees, suppliers, and needed business partners. It might also be realistic (and possibly appealing to stakeholders) without being desirable to the entrepreneur. During this stage the entrepreneur will keep the business plan realistic as they adjust plans to appeal to potential investors and to themselves.

If, for example, investors will be required to finance the business start, some adjustments might need to be relatively extensive to appeal to potential investors’ needs for an exit strategy from the business, to accommodate the rate of return they expect from their investments, and to convince them that the entrepreneur can accomplish all that is promised in the plan. In this case, and in others, the entrepreneur will also need to get what they want out of the business to make it worthwhile for them to start and run it. So, this stage of adjustments to the developing business plan might be fairly extensive, and they must be informed by a superior knowledge of what targeted investors need from a business proposal before they will invest. They also need to be informed by a clear set of goals that will make the venture worthwhile for the entrepreneur to pursue.

The caution with this stage is to balance the need to make realistic plans with the desire to meet the entrepreneur’s goals while avoiding becoming discouraged enough to drop the idea of pursuing the business idea. If an entrepreneur is convinced that the proposed venture will satisfy a valid market need, there is often a way to assemble the financing required to start and operate the business while also meeting the entrepreneur’s most important goals. To do so, however, might require significant changes to the business model.

One of the feedback loops shown in Figure 8 indicates that the business plan writer might need to adjust the draft business plan while ensuring that it is still realistic before it can be made appealing to the targeted stakeholders and desirable to the entrepreneur. The second feedback loop indicates that it might be necessary to go all the way back to the Business Model stage to re-establish the framework and plans needed to develop a realistic, appealing, and desirable business plan. Additionally, this stage’s enclosure in the progressive research box suggests that the business plan developer might need conduct further research.

Finishing the Business Plan

The final stage involves putting all of the important finishing touches on the business plan so that it will present well to potential investors and others. This involves making sure that the math and links between the written and financial parts are accurate. It also involves ensuring that all the needed corrections are made to the spelling, grammar, and formatting. The final set of goals should be written to appeal to the target readers and to reflect what the business plan says. An executive summary should be written and included as a final step.

General Business Plan Format

Include nice, catchy, professional, appropriate graphics to make it appealing for targeted readers

Executive summary

  • Can be longer than normal executive summaries, up to three pages
  • Write after remainder of plan is complete
  • Includes information relevant to targeted readers as this is the place where they are most likely to form their first impressions of the business idea and decide whether they wish to read the rest of the plan

Table of Con t ents

List of tables.

Each table, figure, and appendix included in the plan must be referenced within the text of the plan so the relevance of each of these elements is clear.

List of Figures

Introduction.

  • Describes the business concept
  • Indicates the purpose of the plan
  • Appeals to targeted readers

Business Idea

  • May include description of history behind the idea and the evolution of the business concept if relevant
  • Generally outlines what the owner intends for the venture to be
  • Should inspire all members of the organization
  • Should help stakeholders aspire to achieve greater things through the venture because of the general direction provided through the vision statement
  • Should be very brief—a few sentences or a short paragraph
  • Indicates what your organization does and why it exists—may describe the business strategy and philosophy
  • Indicates the important values that will guide everything the business will do
  • Outlines the personal commitments members of the organization must make, and what they should consider to be important
  • Defines how people behave and interact with each other.
  • Should help the reader understand the type of culture and operating environment this business intends to develop

Major Goals

  • Describes the major organizational goals
  • Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely [SMART]
  • Realistic, Understandable, Measurable, Believable, and Achievable [RUMBA]
  • Perfectly aligns with everything in plan

Operating Environment

Trend analysis.

  • Consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better positioned in, for example, the Financial Plan section to provide context to the analysis of the critical success factors, or in the Marketing Plan to help the reader understand the basis for the sales projections.

Industry Analysis

  • Includes an analysis of the industry in which this business will operate
  • consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better placed in, for example, the Marketing Plan to enhance the competitor analysis, or in the Financial Plan to provide context to the industry standard ratios in the Investment Analysis section

Operations Plan

  • expressed as a set physical location
  • expressed as a set of requirements and characteristics
  • How large will your facility be and why must it be this size?
  • How much will it cost to buy or lease your facility?
  • What utility, parking, and other costs must you pay for this facility?
  • What expansion plans must be factored into the facility requirements?
  • What transportation and storage issues must be addressed by facility decisions?
  • What zoning and other legal issues must you deal with?
  • What will be the layout for your facility and how will this best accommodate customer and employee requirements?
  • Given these constraints, what is your operating capacity (in terms of production, sales, etc.)?
  • What is the workflow plan for your operation?
  • What work will your company do and what work will you outsource?

Operations Timeline

  • When will you make the preparations, such as registering the business name and purchasing equipment, to start the venture?
  • When will you begin operations and make your first sales?
  • When will other milestone events occur such as moving operations to a larger facility, offering a new product line, hiring new key employees, and beginning to sell products internationally?
  • May include a graphical timeline showing when these milestone events have occurred and are expected to occur

Business Structure and other Set-up Elements

Somewhere in your business plan you must indicate what legal structure your venture will take. Your financial statements, risk management strategy, and other elements of your plan are affected by the type of legal structure you choose for your business:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Cooperative

As part of your business set-up, you need to determine what kinds of control systems you should have in place, establish necessary relationships with suppliers and prior to your start-up, and generally deal with a list of issues like the following. Many of your decisions related to the following should be described somewhere in your business plan:

  • Zoning, equipment prices, suppliers, etc.
  • Lease terms, leasehold improvements, signage, pay deposits, etc.
  • Getting business license, permits, etc.
  • Setting up banking arrangements
  • Setting up legal and accounting systems (or professionals)
  • Ordering equipment, locks and keys, furniture, etc.
  • Recruiting employees, set up payroll system, benefit programs, etc.
  • Training employees
  • Testing the products/services that will be offered
  • Testing the systems for supply, sales, delivery, and other functions
  • Deciding on graphics, logos, promotional methods, etc.
  • Ordering business cards, letter head, etc.
  • Setting up supplier agreements
  • Buying inventory, insurance, etc.
  • Revising business plan
  • And many more things, including, when possible, attracting purchased orders in advance of start-up through personal selling (by the owner, a paid sales force, independent representatives, or by selling through brokers wholesalers, catalog houses, retailers), a promotional campaign, or other means
  • What is required to start up your business, including the purchases and activities that must occur before you make your first sale?
  • When identifying capital requirements for start-up, a distinction should be made between fixed capital requirements and working capital requirements.

Fixed Capital Requirements

  • What fixed assets, including equipment and machinery, must be purchased so your venture can conduct its business?
  • This section may include a start-up budget showing the machinery, equipment, furnishings, renovations, and other capital expenditures required prior to operations commencing.
  • If relevant you might include information showing the financing required; fixed capital is usually financed using longer-term loans.

Working Capital Requirements

  • What money is needed to operate the business (separately from the money needed to purchase fixed assets) including the money needed to purchase inventory and pay initial expenses?
  • This section may include a start-up budget showing the cash required to purchase starting inventories, recruit employees, conduct market research, acquire licenses, hire lawyers, and other operating expenditures required prior to starting operations.
  • If relevant you might include information showing the financing required … working capital is usually financed with operating loans, trade credit, credit card debt, or other forms of shorter-term loans.

Risk Management Strategies

  • enterprise – liability exposure for things like when someone accuses your employees or products you sell of injuring them.
  • financial – securing loans when needed and otherwise having the right amount of money when you need it
  • operational – securing needed inventories, recruiting needed employees in tight labour markets, customers you counted on not purchasing product as you had anticipated, theft, arson, natural disasters like fires and floods, etc.
  • avoid – choose to avoid doing something, outsource, etc.
  • reduce – through training, assuming specific operational strategies, etc.
  • transfer – insure against, outsource, etc.
  • assume – self-insure, accept, etc.

Operating Processes

  • What operating processes will you apply?
  • How will you ensure your cash is managed effectively?
  • How will you schedule your employees?
  • How will you manage your inventories?
  • If you will have a workforce, how will you manage them?
  • How will you bill out your employee time?
  • How will you schedule work on your contracts?
  • How you will manufacture your product (process flow, job shop, etc.?)
  • How will you maintain quality?
  • How will you institute and manage effective financial monitoring and control systems that provide needed information in a timely manner?
  • How will you manage expansion?
  • May include planned layouts for facilities

Organizational Structure

  • May include information on Advisory Boards or Board of Directors from which the company will seek advice or guidance or direction
  • May include an organizational chart
  • Can nicely lead into the Human Resources Plan

Human Resources Plan

  • How do you describe your desired corporate culture?
  • What are the key positions within your organization?
  • How many employees will you have?
  • What characteristics define your desired employees?
  • What is your recruitment strategy? What processes will you apply to hire the employees you require?
  • What is your leadership strategy and why have you chosen this approach?
  • What performance appraisal and employee development methods will you use?
  • What is your organizational structure and why is this the best way for your company to be organized?
  • How will you pay each employee (wage, salary, commission, etc.)? How much will you pay each employee?
  • What are your payroll costs, including benefits?
  • What work will be outsourced and what work will be completed in-house?
  • Have you shown and described an organizational chart?

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

  • Includes how many employees are required at what times
  • Estimates time required to recruit needed employees
  • employment advertisements
  • contracts with employment agency or search firms
  • travel and accommodations for potential employees to come for interviews
  • travel and accommodations for interviewers
  • facility, food, lost time, and other interviewing costs
  • relocation allowances for those hired including flights, moving companies, housing allowances, spousal employment assistance, etc.
  • may include a schedule showing the costs of initial recruitment that then flows into your start-up expense schedules

Leadership and Management Strategies

  • What is your leadership philosophy?
  • Why is it the most appropriate leadership approach for this venture?
  • What training is required because of existing rules and regulations?
  • How will you ensure your employees are as capable as required?
  • Health and safety (legislation, WHMIS, first aid, defibulators, etc.)
  • Initial workplace orientation
  • Financial systems
  • Product features

Performance Appraisals

  • How will you manage your performance appraisal systems?

Health and Safety

  • Any legal requirements should be noted in this section (and also legal requirements for other issues that may be included in other parts of the plan)

Compensation

  • Always completely justifies your planned employee compensation methods and amounts
  • Always includes all components of the compensation (CPP, EI, holiday pay, etc.)
  • Outlines how will you ensure both internal and external equity in your pay systems
  • Describes any incentive-based pay or profit sharing systems planned
  • May include a schedule here that shows the financial implications of your compensation strategy and supports the cash flow and income statements shown later

Key Personnel

  • May include brief biographies of the key organizational people

Marketing Plan

  • You must show evidence of having done proper research, both primary and secondary. If you make a statement of fact, you must back it up with properly referenced supporting evidence. If you indicate a claim is based on your own assumptions, you must back this up with a description as to how you came to the conclusion.
  • It is a given that you must provide some assessment of the economic situation as it relates to your business. For example, you might conclude that the current economic crisis will reduce the potential to export your product and it may make it more difficult to acquire credit with which to operate your business. Of course, conclusions such as these should be matched with your assessment as to how your business will make the necessary adjustments to ensure it will thrive despite these challenges, or how it will take advantage of any opportunities your assessment uncovers.
  • If you apply the Five Forces Model, do so in the way in which it was meant to be used to avoid significantly reducing its usefulness while also harming the viability of your industry analysis. This model is meant to be used to consider the entire industry—not a subcomponent of it (and it usually cannot be used to analyze a single organization).
  • Your competitor analysis might fit within your assessment of the industry or it might be best as a section within your marketing plan. Usually a fairly detailed description of your competitors is required, including an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, your business may have direct and indirect competitors to consider. Be certain to maintain credibility by demonstrating that you fully understand the competitive environment.
  • Assessments of the economic conditions and the state of the industry appear incomplete without accompanying appraisals outlining the strategies the organization can/should employ to take advantage of these economic and industry situations. So, depending upon how you have organized your work, it is usually important to couple your appraisal of the economic and industry conditions with accompanying strategies for your venture. This shows the reader that you not only understand the operating environment, but that you have figured out how best to operate your business within that situation.
  • Have you done an effective analysis of your venture? (See the Organizational Analysis section below.)

Market Analysis

  • Usually contains customer profiles, constructed through primary and secondary research, for each market targeted
  • Contains detailed information on the major product benefits you will deliver to the markets targeted
  • Describes the methodology used and the relevant results from the primary market research done
  • If there was little primary research completed, justifies why it is acceptable to have done little of this kind of research and/or indicate what will be done and by when
  • Includes a complete description of the secondary research conducted and the conclusions reached
  • Define your target market in terms of identifiable entities sharing common characteristics. For example, it is not meaningful to indicate you are targeting Canadian universities. It is, however, useful to define your target market as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, or as information technology managers at Canadian universities, or as student leaders at Canadian universities. Your targeted customer should generally be able to make or significantly influence the buying decision.
  • You must usually define your target market prior to describing your marketing mix, including your proposed product line. Sometimes the product descriptions in business plans seem to be at odds with the described target market characteristics. Ensure your defined target market aligns completely with your marketing mix (including product/service description, distribution channels, promotional methods, and pricing). For example, if the target market is defined as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, the product component of the marketing mix should clearly be something that appeals to this target market.
  • Carefully choose how you will target potential customers. Should you target them based on their demographic characteristics, psychographic characteristics, or geographic location?
  • You will need to access research to answer this question. Based on what you discover, you will need to figure out the optimum mix of pricing, distribution, promotions, and product decisions to best appeal to how your targeted customers make their buying decisions.

Competition

  • However, this information might fit instead under the market analysis section.
  • Describes all your direct competitors
  • Describes all your indirect competitors
  • If you can, includes a competitor positioning map to show where your product will be positioned relative to competitors’ products

Figure-9.jpg

Figure 6 – Competitor Positioning Map (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

  • What distinguishes your business from that of your competitors in a way that will ensure your sales forecasts will be met?
  • You must clearly communicate the answers to these questions in your business plan to attract the needed support for your business. One caution is that it may sound appealing to claim you will provide a superior service to the existing competitors, but the only meaningful judge of your success in this regard will be customers. Although it is possible some of your competitors might be complacent in their current way of doing things, it is very unlikely that all your competitors provide an inferior service to that which you will be able to provide.

Marketing Strategy

  • Covers all aspects of the marketing mix including the promotional decisions you have made, product decisions, distribution decisions related to how you will deliver your product to the markets targeted, and pricing decisions
  • Outlines how you plan to influence your targeted customers to buy from you (what is the optimum marketing mix, and why is this one better than the alternatives)

Organizational Analysis

  • Leads in to your marketing strategy or is positioned elsewhere depending upon how your business plan is best structured
  • If doing so, always ensure this analysis results in more than a simple list of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis should always prove to the reader that there are organizational strategies in place to address each of the weaknesses and threats identified and to leverage each of the strengths and opportunities identified.
  • An effective way to ensure an effective outcome to your SWOT Analysis is to apply a TOWS Matrix approach to develop strategies to take advantage of the identified strengths and opportunities while mitigating the weaknesses and threats. A TOWS Matrix evaluates each of the identified threats along with each of the weaknesses and then each of the strengths. It does the same with each of the identified opportunities. In this way strategies are developed by considering pairs of factors
  • The TOWS Matrix is a framework with which to help you organize your thoughts into strategies. Most often you would not label a section of your business plan as a TOWS Matrix. This would not normally add value for the reader. Instead, you should describe the resultant strategies—perhaps while indicating how they were derived from your assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, you could indicate that certain strategies were developed by considering how internal strengths could be employed toward mitigating external threats faced by the business.

Product Strategy

  • If your product or service is standardized, you will need to compete on the basis of something else – like a more appealing price, having a superior location, better branding, or improved service. If you can differentiate your product or service you might be able to compete on the basis of better quality, more features, appealing style, or something else. When describing your product, you should demonstrate that you understand this.

Pricing Strategy

  • If you intend to accept payment by credit card (which is probably a necessity for most companies), you should be aware of the fee you are charged as a percentage of the value of each transaction. If you don’t account for this you risk overstating your actual revenues by perhaps one percent or more.
  • Sales forecasts must be done on at least a monthly basis if you are using a projected cash flow statement. These must be accompanied by explanations designed to establish their credibility for readers of your business plan. Remember that many readers will initially assume that your planned time frames are too long, your revenues are overstated, and you have underestimated your expenses. Well crafted explanations for all of these numbers will help establish credibility.

Distribution Strategy

  • If you plan to use e-commerce, you should include all the costs associated with maintaining a website and accepting payments over the Internet.

Promotions Strategy

  • If you are attracting customers away from competitors, how will these rivals respond to the threat you pose to them?
  • If you intend to create new customers, how will you convince them to reallocate their dollars toward your product or service (and away from other things they want to purchase)?
  • In what ways will you communicate with your targeted customers? When will you communicate with them? What specific messages do you plan to convey to them? How much will this promotions plan cost?
  • If your entry into the market will not be a threat to direct competitors, it is likely you must convince potential customers to spend their money with you rather than on what they had previously earmarked those dollars toward. In your business plan you must demonstrate an awareness of these issues.
  • Consider listing the promotional methods in rows on a spreadsheet with the columns representing weeks or months over probably about 18 months from the time of your first promotional expenditure. This can end up being a schedule that feeds the costs into your projected cash flow statement and from there into your projected income statements.
  • If you phone or visit newspapers, radio stations, or television stations seeking advertising costs, you must go only after you have figured out details like on which days you would like to advertise, at what times on those days, whether you want your print advertisements in color, and what size of print advertisements you want.
  • Carefully consider which promotional methods you will use. While using a medium like television may initially sound appealing, it is very expensive unless your ad runs during the non-prime times. If you think this type of medium might work for you, do a serious cost-benefit analysis to be sure.
  • Some promotional plans are developed around newspaper ads, promotional pamphlets, printing business cards, and other more obvious mediums of promotion. Be certain to, include the costs of advertising in telephone directories, sponsoring a little league soccer team, producing personalized pens and other promotional client give-always, donating items to charity auctions, printing and mailing client Christmas cards, and doing the many things businesses find they do on-the-fly. Many businesses find it to be useful to join the local chamber of commerce and relevant trade organizations with which to network. Some find that setting a booth up at a trade fair helps launch their business.
  • If you are concerned you might have missed some of these promotional expenses, or if you want to have a buffer in place in case you feel some of these opportunities are worthwhile when they arise, you should add some discretionary money to your promotional budget. A problem some companies get into is planning out their promotions in advance only to reallocate some of their newspaper advertisement money, for example, toward some of these other surprise purposes resulting in less newspaper advertising than had been intended.

Financial Plan

  • It is nearly certain you will need to make monthly cash flow projections from business inception to possibly three years out. Your projections will show the months in which the activities shown on your fixed capital and working capital schedules will occur. This is nearly the only way to clearly estimate your working capital needs and, specifically, important things like the times when you will need to draw on or can pay down your operating loans and the months when you will need to take out longer-term loans with which to purchase your fixed assets. Without a tool like this you will be severely handicapped when talking with bankers about your expected needs. They will want to know how large of a line of credit you will need and when you anticipate needing to borrow longer-term money. It is only through doing cash flow projections will you be able to answer these questions. This information is also needed to determine things like the changes to your required loan payments and when you can take owner draws or pay dividends.
  • Your projected cash flows are also used to develop your projected income statements and balance sheets.

Pro forma Cash Flow Statements

Pro forma income statements, pro forma balance sheets, investment analysis, projected financial ratios and industry standard ratios, critical success factors (sensitivity analysis).

Business Tips from SCORE: A business plan gives owners a guide to their operations

One of the sure ways of launching a business that will fail is not to plan its launch and growth.

Most budding entrepreneurs’ eyes roll back in their head when they hear “business plan.” It doesn’t have to be complicated or voluminous. It might be as simple as a one-page Business Model Canvas – BMC − plan or if needed a deeper dive with a full business plan . But there’s no better way to think through important issues and gain focus in your business than by creating a guide.

Not only will building a business plan help you get a better handle on where you are and how you’ll grow, but it’s an absolute necessity if you seek outside investment.

A business model is a way of describing how the enterprise will make money.  Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas is a 9-block process that explores, initially, value proposition (your offer, but not what you are selling), customer segments (to whom are you making the offer(s)), communication channels (how will you reach your customer segments). Then validate your assumptions. Then follow-up with customer relationships , activities, resource and strategic partners , expenses and revenue streams . The right side of the BMC canvas focuses on the customer and market or external factors that are not totally under your control. The left side focuses on the internal that is mostly in your control. The middle is the value proposition that represents the exchange of value between your customers and your business.

Here’s an easy guide on how to build a business plan step-by-step.

Step 1: Describe the “Big Idea” in an executive summary

Think of the executive summary as an explanation of your unique selling proposition. You want someone to be able to immediately grasp what your company does and the value you bring to the market.

This section should include a mission statement, brief explanations of the products or services you plan to offer, a basic introduction of key team members and where your company is located. If you’re seeking financing, you’ll also need to include basic information about your finances and plans for use of borrowed funds.

Step 2: Conduct a market analysis

This is where you’ll get into more detail by describing your industry and where your business fits into its landscape. Some questions to answer:

  • What exactly does your business do? 
  • What do you sell and why do you sell it? 
  • Why is your product or service needed? 
  • Who’s going to benefit from the products or services you provide?

Step 3: Introduce your team with a company description

In this section, include information like the legally registered name of your company, your business address, the company’s legal structure (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.) and key team members. 

If your company is large, consider using an organizational chart to show who’s in charge of what. Also, include any special skills or unique experience your team has that will help advance your mission.

Step 4: Describe the value of your products and services

Piggyback on what you wrote in your market analysis to give details about your products and/or services. Give a thorough explanation of what your product or service does, how it works, your pricing structure, your ideal customer and your distribution strategy.

If you have intellectual property like patents, copyrights or trademarks, mention those as well, along with any research you plan to conduct or have completed.

Step 5: Describe your “go to market” strategy with a marketing and sales plan

How are you going to acquire customers? How are you going to create loyalty? There’s no right or wrong strategy here, only the strategy that makes sense given your current circumstances, the market and your customers’ attitudes. Over time, this may evolve, which is fine!

You can describe your sales process, how you’ll initially attract prospects, how you’ll deepen that attraction into a purchase, what a typical sales cycle might look like, what happens after the sale and so on. 

Step 6: Dive into the numbers with a financial analysis

Depending on how long you’ve been in business, you may not have a lot of concrete numbers for this section. Or, you may have a lot.

If you’re a startup, you’ll have to supply financial projections — forecasted income statements and balance sheets, for example. Be detailed for the first year, breaking down your projections quarterly or, even better, monthly.

If you’re established and are writing the plan to guide your growth strategy, you should include profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, a section for metrics like profit margin and a statement of your total assets and debts. This is also a great place to include any charts and graphs that help tell the financial story of your business. 

Step 7: If you need funding, explain why and for what 

If you’re seeking outside investment, use this section to provide details about your capital needs. How much do you anticipate needing over the next three to five years, what will it be used for, what are the terms you’re seeking, what opportunities will it allow you to exploit, and how will it help you meet your growth targets? And, don’t forget to include your “skin in the game” investment.  A critical step for lender evaluations.

Step 8: Anything else to include?

If you want to include additional information — resumes, leases, permits, bank statements, contracts, photos, charts, diagrams, etc. — include them at the end of your plan in an appendix.

Regardless of which format you select remember that a business plan is a guide, compass and companion for you to reach your business objectives.

Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor, SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands, www.score.org/capecod , 508-775-4884.  A SCORE Mentor Can Help You Build a Detailed Business Plan.  Sources: ASK Score 2023, An Easy Guide to the Business Model Canvas, Creately Blog, May 18, 2022.

  Thanks to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider supporting quality local journalism with a Cape Cod Times subscription.  Here are our subscription plans.    

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Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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What is Bluesky? Everything to know about the app trying to replace Twitter

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Is the grass greener on the other side? We’re not sure, but the sky is most certainly bluer. It’s been more than a year since Elon Musk purchased Twitter , now X , leading people to set up shop on alternative platforms. Mastodon , Post , Pebble (which has already shuttered operations ) and Spill have been presented as potential replacements , but few aside from Meta’s Threads have achieved the speed of growth Bluesky has reached.

After being invite-only for almost a year, Bluesky is now open to anyone who wants to join . Within a day, Bluesky gained almost 800,000 new users and is slated to break 4 million total signups. Though that number is promising, the network has a lot of catching up to do to compete with Threads’ 130 million monthly active users or even Mastodon’s 1.8 million . And while X users flock to Bluesky anytime Musk makes less than favorable changes , the platform is still able to hit the top of the U.S. App Store .

Here we answer the most common questions about Bluesky social:

What is bluesky.

Bluesky is a decentralized social app conceptualized by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and developed in parallel with Twitter. The social network has a Twitter-like user interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design and community-specific moderation.

Bluesky is using an open source framework built in-house, the AT Protocol , meaning people outside of the company have transparency into how it is built and what is being developed.

Dorsey introduced the Bluesky project back in 2019 while he was still Twitter CEO. At the time, he said Twitter would be funding a “small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers,” charged with building a decentralized standard for social media, with the original goal that Twitter would adopt this standard itself. But that was before Elon Musk bought the platform, so as of late 2022, Bluesky is completely divorced from Twitter. Dorsey has even used Bluesky to express his dismay with Musk’s leadership.

Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard. 🧵 — jack (@jack) December 11, 2019

How do you use Bluesky?

Upon signing up, users can create a handle which is then represented as @username.bsky.social as well as a display name that appears more prominent in bold text. If you’re so inclined, you can turn a domain name that you own into your username — so, for example, I’m known on Bluesky as @amanda.omg.lol.

The app itself functions much like a bare-bones Twitter, where you can click a plus button to create a post of 256 characters, which can also include photos. Posts themselves can be replied to, retweeted, liked and, from a three-dot menu, reported, shared via the iOS Share Sheet to other apps or copied as text.

You can search for and follow other individuals, then view their updates in your “Home” timeline. Previously, the Bluesky app would feature popular posts in a “What’s Hot” feed. That feed has since been replaced with an algorithmic and personalized “Discover” feed featuring more than just trending content. 

There is also a “Discover” tab in the bottom center of the app’s navigation, which offers more “who to follow” suggestions and a running feed of recently posted Bluesky updates.

Screenshot of Bluesky menu tab

Image Credits: Natalie Christman

Who’s on Bluesky?

By the beginning of July 2023, when Instagram’s Threads launched, Bluesky topped a million downloads across iOS and Android. Notable figures like Neil Gaiman , Dril and Chelsea Manning have migrated to Bluesky. It’s also home to news organizations and journalists like Bloomberg , The Washington Post and Engadget . With Bluesky now open to the public, it’s possible that other figures could soon make the move over.

Does Bluesky work just like Twitter?

In many ways, yes. However, Bluesky does not yet have DMs or some advanced tools like adding accounts to lists. Additionally, Twitter does not use a decentralized protocol like ActivityPub or AT .

Bluesky was initially kicked off as a project convened by Jack Dorsey in 2019 when he was CEO of Twitter. But the social app has been an independent company since its inception in 2021.

Is Bluesky free?

Yes, and it is now open to the public.

How does Bluesky make money?

Bluesky’s goal is to find another means to sustain its network outside of advertising with paid services, so it can remain free to end users. On July 5, Bluesky announced additional seed round funding and a paid service that provides custom domains for end users who want to have a unique domain as their handle on the service.

Is Bluesky decentralized?

Yes. Bluesky’s team is developing the decentralized AT Protocol, which Bluesky was built atop. In its beta phase, users can only join the bsky.social network, but Bluesky plans to be federated, meaning that endless individually operated communities can exist within the open source network. So, if a developer outside of Bluesky built their own new social app using the AT Protocol, Bluesky users could jump over to the new app and port over their existing followers, handle and data. In November, Bluesky announced their intention to launch its federation “early next year.”

“You’ll always have the freedom to choose (and to exit) instead of being held to the whims of private companies or black box algorithms. And wherever you go, your friends and relationships will be there too,” a Bluesky blog post explained .

Is Bluesky secure?

In October 2023, Bluesky added email verification as part of a larger effort to improve account security and authentication on the network. The addition is an important step forward in terms of making Bluesky more competitive with larger networks like X, which have more robust security controls.  In December 2023, Bluesky allowed users to opt out of a change that would expose their posts to the public web following backlash from users. 

Is Bluesky customizable?

Yes. In May Bluesky released custom algorithms, or what it calls “custom feeds.” Custom feeds allow users to subscribe to multiple different algorithms that showcase different kinds of posts a user may want to see. You can pin custom feeds that will show up at the top of your timeline as different tabs to pick from. The feeds you pin, or save, are located under “My Feeds” menu in the app’s sidebar.

Is Bluesky on iOS and Android?

Yes. Bluesky rolled out to Android users on April 20 and was initially launched to iOS users in late February. Users can access Bluesky on the web here . Bluesky also launched a third-party app called GraySky that’s set to launch on iOS and Android.

Are Bluesky posts really called ‘skeets?’

There is technically no name for posts, but internet users have adopted the name “skeets,” a portmanteau of “tweet” and “sky.” Users still widely refer to posts as “skeets,” despite protests from Bluesky CEO Jay Graber and others who don’t find the slang for semen amusing.

How does Bluesky tackle misinformation?

After an October update , the app will now warn users of misleading links by flagging them. If links shared in users’ posts don’t match their text, the app will offer a “possibly misleading” warning to the user to alert them that the link may be directing them somewhere they don’t want to go.

what is a business plan notes

Image Credits: Bluesky on GitHub

Has Bluesky had any controversies?

Bluesky has been embattled with moderation issues since its first launch. The app has been accused of failing to protect its marginalized users and failing to moderate racist content. Following a controversy about the app allowing racial slurs in account handles, frustrated users initiated a “posting strike,” where they refused to engage with the platform until it established guardrails to flag slurs and other offensive terms in usernames.

What’s the difference between Bluesky and Mastodon?

Though Bluesky’s architecture is similar to Mastodon’s, many users have found Bluesky to be more intuitive, while Mastodon can come off as inaccessible: Choosing which instance to join feels like an impossible task on Mastodon, and longtime users are very defensive about their established posting norms, which can make joining the conversation intimidating. To remain competitive, Mastodon recently simplified its sign-up flow, making mastodon.social the default server for new users.

Who owns Bluesky?

Though Jack Dorsey funded Bluesky and sits on the company’s board, he is not involved in day-to-day development. The CEO of Bluesky is Jay Graber, who previously worked as a software engineer for the cryptocurrency Zcash, then founded an event-planning site called Happening .

If you have more FAQs about Bluesky not covered here, leave us a comment below. 

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  5. 65. Business Plan Note Taker

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  6. What To Include In A Business Plan Executive Summary

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are ...

  2. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups,...

  3. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you're going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are. Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future.

  4. Write your business plan

    Your business plan is the tool you'll use to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice. ... We discuss nine components of a model business plan here: Key partnerships. Note the other businesses or services you'll work with to run your business. Think about suppliers, manufacturers ...

  5. How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

    A business plan is a document that outlines your business's financial goals and explains how you'll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business's next...

  6. Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

    A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines financial planning.

  7. How to Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Updated Jan 10, 2024 A strong, well-thought-out business plan is crucial for a business's success. Without one, it's tough to maintain a vision of the future and what the next steps for your business should be. Think of it as a litmus test to prove that every step taken is part of a larger calculated effort.

  8. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    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.

  9. How To Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

    A business plan is a formal document (about 15-25 pages in length) that precisely defines a company's objectives in fine detail. It also describes how the company plans to achieve its goals. All companies — including startups and established institutions — create and use business plans.

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

    A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement.

  11. A step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan

    8. Write up your financial forecast. This is one of the trickier parts of writing a business plan and requires a good understanding of business finance and accounting. If your business has been trading for a while, you'll want to start off by outlining some historical data, such as sales and gross margin.

  12. Business Plan

    A business plan is a document that contains the operational and financial plan of a business, and details how its objectives will be achieved. It serves as a road map for the business and can be used when pitching investors or financial institutions for debt or equity financing.

  13. 11.4 The Business Plan

    The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years. Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations.

  14. PDF HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN

    Use this note as your guide or aide memoir. The Purpose of a Business Plan Any business plan has a dual function: 1. Internal: Providing management and staff with a clear map, complete with signposts and milestones against which progress can be monitored and evaluated. 2. External: Presenting the investment case to an outsider.

  15. Business Plan

    Summary A business plan is a summary document that outlines how and why a new business is being created. New entrepreneurial ventures must prepare formal written documents to outline their long-term objectives and the means to be employed to reach said objectives.

  16. What is a Business Plan? Definition, Pros & Cons & Anatomy

    A business plan is a strategic document which details the strategic objectives for a growing business or startup, and how it plans to achieve them. In a nutshell, a business plan is a written expression of a business idea and will describe your business model, your product or service, how it will be priced, who will be your target market, and ...

  17. Business Planning

    The business plan sets out how the owners/managers of a business intend to realise its objectives. Without such a plan a business is likely to drift. The business plan serves several purposes:it

  18. Business Planning: It's Importance, Types and Key Elements

    More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion. A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale.

  19. Simple Business Plan Template (2024)

    This section of your simple business plan template explores how to structure and operate your business. Details include the type of business organization your startup will take, roles and ...

  20. Lecture Notes

    LECTURE NOTES Session 1. Part 1: Introduction and Overview of Business Plans. Speaker. Joe Hadzima (bio) Introduction to Business Plans What is it, why do I need it and what is it used for? Practical do's and don'ts in preparing a Business Plan. Things to keep in mind in writing a Business Plan which will improve your chances of obtaining ...

  21. Basic Structure Of A Business Plan For Beginners

    One place where to start from is the beginning: the business plan. This is the basic structure you can follow when you do not know how to go about it. 1. Cover page. Small but important, it should ...

  22. 1.5: Chapter 5

    The business plan is the road map for the development of the business because it. defines the vision for the company. establishes the company's strategy. describes how the strategy will be implemented. provides a framework for analysis of key issues. provides a plan for the development of the business.

  23. How to build a successful business plan in eight steps

    A business model is a way of describing how the enterprise will make money. Strategyzer's Business Model Canvas is a 9-block process that explores, initially, value proposition (your offer, but ...

  24. Business PLAN

    BUSINESS PLAN. A business plan is a detailed and integrated written document that describes the various activities involved in opening and operating a new entrepreneurial venture.. The major sections of the business plan are as follows:. A. INTRODUCTION The introduction presents the general perspective of the business. It may consist of one or two pages

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

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

  26. Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

    Show the Developer tab. If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab.. Open a template or use a blank document. To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls.

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    At one point this past season, Sam Howell looked primed to be a franchise QB, boasting the stats to show it. But with a new head coach (Dan Quinn) and general manager (Adam Peters), along with the ...