500+ Free business plan examples

500+ Free Sample Business Plans

Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 500 free real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries to guide you through writing your own plan. If you're looking for an intuitive tool that walks you through the plan writing process, we recommend LivePlan . It includes many of these same SBA-approved business plan examples and is especially useful when applying for a bank loan or outside investment.

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Accounting, Insurance & Compliance

Accounting, Insurance & Compliance Business Plans

Children & Pets

Children & Pets Business Plans

Cleaning, Repairs & Maintenance

Cleaning, Repairs & Maintenance Business Plans

Clothing & Fashion

Clothing & Fashion Business Plans

Construction, Architecture & Engineering

Construction, Architecture & Engineering Business Plans

Consulting, Advertising & Marketing

Consulting, Advertising & Marketing Business Plans


Education Business Plans

Business plan template: There's an easier way to get your business plan done.

Entertainment & Recreation

Entertainment & Recreation Business Plans


Events Business Plans

Farm & Agriculture

Farm & Agriculture Business Plans

Finance & Investing

Finance & Investing Business Plans

Fine Art & Crafts

Fine Art & Crafts Business Plans

Fitness & Beauty

Fitness & Beauty Business Plans

Food & Beverage

Food & Beverage Business Plans

Hotel & Lodging

Hotel & Lodging Business Plans

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IT, Staffing & Customer Service Business Plans

Manufacturing & Wholesale

Manufacturing & Wholesale Business Plans

Medical & Health

Medical & Health Business Plans


Nonprofit Business Plans

Real Estate & Rentals

Real Estate & Rentals Business Plans

Retail & Ecommerce

Retail & Ecommerce Business Plans


Technology Business Plans

Transportation, Travel & Logistics

Transportation, Travel & Logistics Business Plans

Example business plan format

Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.

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, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).

Products & services

The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and how your product or service fits into the existing competitive landscape.

Describe the problem you're solving, how your offering solves the problem, and who your potential competitors are. You'll want to outline your competitive advantages and the milestones you have in mind to successfully start and grow your business.

Market analysis

Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.

Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.

Organization & management

Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure, location, and history if you're already up and running.

Financial projections

Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.

Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.

The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or our-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.

Types of business plans explained

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

Traditional business plan

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

Business model canvas

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

The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.

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

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

Download a free sample business plan template

Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2022.

This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.

How to use an example business plan to help you write your own

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How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.

Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company

You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.

For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.

Use a business plan example as a guide

Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.

One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.

You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition ), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.

If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, this guide on how to write a business plan is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .

Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document

Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool

Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.

If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.

Prepare to pitch your business

If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.

Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.

With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .

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Free Business Plan Template With Examples for Small Businesses (2023)

Sample business plan template for entrepreneurs

A business plan is the secret to starting a business successfully. 

The easiest way to simplify the work of writing a business plan is to start with a business plan template.

You’re already investing time and energy in refining your business model and planning your launch—there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to formatting your plan. Instead, to help build a complete and effective plan, lean on time-tested structures created by entrepreneurs and startups who have come before you. 

Free: Business Plan Template

Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

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What our business plan template includes

This template is designed to ensure you’re thinking through all of the important facets of starting a new business. It’s intended to help new business owners and entrepreneurs consider the full scope of running a business and identify functional areas they may not have considered or where they may need to level up their skills as they grow.

That said, it may not include the specific details or structure preferred by a potential investor or lender. If your goal with a business plan is to secure funding , check with your target organizations—typically banks or investors—to see if they have business plan templates you can follow to maximize your chances of success.

Our free business plan template includes seven key elements typically found in the traditional business plan format:

In our business plan template, each section includes an overview of the most important information to cover and guidelines on how to approach writing and researching each one.

Professional business plan example

We’ve filled out a sample business plan as a companion to our template, featuring a fictional ecommerce business . We’ve noted where—and how—an entrepreneur could add more details to expand on their business plans, depending on their goals.

Our fictional business creates custom greeting cards with your pet’s paw prints on them, and the founder of the business is writing a plan to help understand the target market, as well as the logistics and costs involved, to give themselves the best chance of success before they launch.

professional business plan example

The sample is set up to help you get a sense of each section and understand how they apply to the planning and evaluation stages of a business plan. If you’re looking for funding, this example won’t be a complete or formal look at a business plan, but it will give you a great place to start and notes about where to expand.

Before you write your own, read through the following business plan example . You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own planning.

Download the business plan example (.doc)

Lean business plan example

A lean business plan format is a shortened version of your more detailed business plan. It’s helpful when modifying your plan for a specific audience, like investors or new hires. 

Also known as a one-page business plan, it includes only the most important, need-to-know information, such as:

Want to create a lean business plan? Read Trimming It Down: How to Create a Lean Business Plan .

A good business plan helps you operate successfully

It’s tempting to dive right into execution when you’re excited about a new business or side project, but taking the time to write a solid business plan and get your thoughts on paper allows you to do a number of beneficial things:

Should you use a template for a business plan? 

A business plan can be as informal or formal as your situation calls for, but even if you’re a fan of the back-of-the-napkin approach to planning, there are some key benefits to starting your plan from an existing outline or template.

Tips for creating a successful business plan

There are some high-level strategic guidelines beyond the advice included in this free business plan template that can help you write an effective, complete plan while minimizing busywork.

Once you’ve done the strategic work, it’s time to put it into action and write your plan. Download the business plan template and review our guide on writing a business plan for additional information.

Maximizing your business planning efforts

Planning is key to the financial success of any type of business , whether you’re a startup, non-profit, or corporation.

To make sure your efforts are focused on the highest-value parts of your own business planning, like clarifying your goals, setting a strategy, and understanding the target market and competitive landscape, lean on a business plan outline to handle the structure and format for you. Even if you eventually omit sections, you’ll save yourself time and energy by starting with a framework already in place.

Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall

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Desirae is a senior product marketing manager at Shopify, and has zero chill when it comes to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

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Are you starting an accounting business? Our accounting business plan can help you establish exactly what you need to successfully start your business.

Starting an automotive business? Our automotive business plan will help you get on the road to success!

Opening your own bakery? Let our bakery business plan help guide you to sweet success!

Opening your own childcare business? Our childcare business plan can help guide you to success.

Starting a coffee shop? Our coffee shop business plan can help you with everything from plotting financial information to helping you determine what sets you apart from your competitors.

Do you want to run a food truck? This food truck business plan will put you on the road to success.

Starting a Graphic Design business? Our Graphic Design business plan takes the stress out of getting your business ready to launch.

Opening a Grocery Store? A grocery Store business plan can help you with everything from plotting your inventory to social media marketing.

Needing to start a Housekeeping business? A housekeeping business plan can help set you apart from the competition. (Can help you sweep your competition under the rug, and out the door.)

Starting a law firm? From a small private practice to a large corporate firm, our law firm business plan can help you get started.

Opening you own Pharmacy? Our Pharmacy business plan can help you get ahead in this competitive industry.

Starting a restaurant? From fast food to fine dining our restaurant business plan can help you with getting investors, or anything else before you open your doors.

Opening a retail store? A retail store business plan can help you improve your chance for success.

Starting a small business? Our business plan for small business is you guide to success.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a written document describing your business and outlining its future. Business plans serve several purposes for those starting a new venture. They're often a first line of communication between your company and potential investors. Therefore, business plans provide, in one sense, the "first impression" of your business to potential investors. Additionally, business plans are often used to attract desired employees, create greater continuity with suppliers, and in many other situations that call for a succinct explanation of your company's identity and aspirations.

Who Needs One?

Startups/new businesses.

Any new business, especially startups, need a business plan. The document is an essential tool to identify need and address uncertainty (e.g. sales projections, operating costs, expense budgets, etc.).

Framework of a Startup's Business Plan:

Existing Businesses

Business plans are also important tools for existing businesses, even those with an established history of success.

Framework(s) of an Existing Business Plan:

What about Freelancers?

In general, freelancers do not need one. However, if you are a freelancer that intends to devote a significant amount of time, resources, money and energy in a specific field or on a specific set of skills, a business plan can be a beneficial tool to make sure you maximize your potential as a freelancer.

Choosing the right plan for your business

Depending on your goals and needs, there are different business plans to consider.

Basic business plans include:

Succinct Business Plan

Internal Business Plan: For startups and existing businesses

External Business Plan, or Standard Business Plan

How to do an initial assessment of your business

There are many ways to assess your business. In our view, however, all useful assessments include the following:

Mission Statement

Break Even Analysis

Market Analysis

Contents of a Business Plan

Overview: Business plans should identify both the current strengths of a business and areas of opportunity or improvement.

Components of a Business plan

We recommend that each proposal have the following components:

This should include your name, title and contact information; the name of your company; the name of the person you are contacting.

Executive Summary

Think of this section as the first impression of your plan, which is the first impression of your company. The summary should begin with your mission statement. Your mission statement needs to be well thought out.

Think of it as follows: how, in one or two sentences, would you describe your business? If a potential investor remembers nothing else, what core idea or concept do you want them to take away from your plan. The rest of the summary should provide a succinct overview of the highlights of the business plan and must be compelling enough to convince readers to continue reading.

Highlights include:

Furthermore, your executive summary should be written as a stand alone document. In other words, a reader should be able to understand the summary and your company without having to consult other sections of the plan.

Recommendation: write your executive summary last, after you complete the rest of your business plan. Doing so will give you a better sense of what to highlight in your summary.

Executing Your Business Plan

Every business plan is unique; therefore, the execution of each plan is also unique. It is therefore imperative that you have a general understanding of how you will execute your specific business. Doing so will help you identify the important questions, and subsequently craft answers for potential investors. The biggest of which being how are you going to make your business work? With that in mind, there are multiple elements to the implementation of virtually all business plans.

They include:

Marketing & Sales


Summary of your Business' Key Elements

1. products and services.

This should include further detail about the problem you are solving, how your products or services do so, your competitive advantage in the market, etc.

2. Target Market

Who are your customers? This is essential to crafting your sales processes and marketing campaigns.

3. Marketing Plan

How are you going to market to your target audience?

4. Milestones & Metrics

What are your short term and long term goals? When do you plan on hitting those targets? Who on your team is responsible for each of those goals? How will you track growth and measure success?

Metrics are different for each business. Common metrics include:

5. Management

Since internal business plans will only circulate within your company, this section is only necessary for standard/external business plans. It should include short biographies of each team member that details how they are uniquely qualified for their position.

Financial Overview

Profit and loss statement.

Details how your business will earn profits or lose money over time (generally three months).

Should include:

Cash Flow Statement

How much cash is brought in and paid out? What is the cash balance (generally per 1 month)?

Cash vs Accrual Accounting: the two methods of accounting

Balance Sheet

Snapshot of the business' financial position at a specific moment in time.

The following equation should balance out: Liabilities + Equity = Assets.

Sales Forecast

How much do you anticipate you will sell in a certain period of time (1-3 years)?

You should provide answers to the following questions:

How much revenue do you need to generate in order to break even and cover all of your expenses?

Supplementary Documents

In addition to the main document, you should provide an appendix containing resumes, personal financial statements, credit reports, lease copies, and reference letters for every major player in your startup, as well as copies of contracts, other legal documents and any other pertinent documents, at the end of your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

1. Keep it concise 2. Keep your reader in mind 3. Make sure the language, prose, and jargon is easy for your target audience to understand


Needs Analysis: What evidence do you have that your target community needs the services your non-profit will provide? Alternatively, are there existing organizations offering similar services? How is your non-profit different from similar organizations, or how does it address an unfulfilled need in your target community?

Outline for a Business Plan for Non-Profits

A business plan is an essential part of getting your business off the ground. It is also an important tool for existing businesses to map out their future, optimize performance and manage growth. Well-executed business plans serve as a go-to guide detailing your business, its identity, its offerings, its financial status, and its path forward. They offer a quick but thorough introduction to potential investors, employees and anyone else looking to quickly get up to speed about your company. Effective business plans can mean the difference between whether or not your business attracts the capital and talent it needs to thrive, or whether an existing business is able to reach its full potential. We hope this guide is an asset in producing the best business plan possible.

What is SWOT?

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats.

SWOT analysis is a methodological tool designed to help workers and companies optimize performance, maximize potential, manage competition, and minimize risk. SWOT is about making better decisions, both large and small. It can help you determine the efficacy of something as small as introducing a new product or service or something as large as a merger or acquisition. Again, SWOT is a method that, once mastered, can only enhance performance.

The Essential Guide to SWOT Analysis is a well-researched, well-written, and well-rounded guide co-authored by Justin Gomer and Jackson Hille.


Who Should Use This Guide?

Because SWOT is a method, anyone can use it for any business purpose, large or small. Whether you are a large team in a Fortune 500 Company assessing the utility of a USP, or an individual worker taking stock of your current or future position/role, this guide will serve as a useful tool.

Why Use This Guide?

Why Use This Guide?

Your company is at risk! At risk of immobility, that is. Stasis is the enemy of any business. SWOT analysis is the antidote for stasis. This guide offers a comprehensive introduction to SWOT.

This guide is easy to read, concise, and driven by examples. More importantly, it is informed by extensive research on SWOT in leading business journals and magazines.

How Should This Guide Be Used?

How To Use This Guide?

We designed this guide to work from all angles and for people with different levels of familiarity with SWOT.

For newcomers to the method, we suggest you read the guide start to finish, in order to familiarize yourself with SWOT's history and applicability.

For SWOT experts, while we think it is always helpful to review the basics, scroll down to the sections on which you need more information, maybe sections specific to your type of organization (e.g. non-profit). Maybe you just want to check out our SWOT Matrix Templates. We encourage you to jump around as you wish!


A Brief History of SWOT

SWOT Analysis was the product of a decade of research at the Stanford Research Institute between 1960-1970. By the late-1950s, many American Corporations had grown frustrated that their significant financial investments in strategic business planning had failed to produce acceptable results. So, in 1960 a number of these corporations initiated a project at Stanford to develop a better method for strategic planning. The result was SWOT.

Conducting a SWOT Analysis

When to Conduct a SWOT Analysis

When should you conduct a SWOT analysis? There are countless situations in which a SWOT analysis will prove beneficial.

If any of these questions speak to your organization's needs, a SWOT analysis can significantly help.

Ultimately, if it is beneficial to re-examine your position within your market niche (Weaknesses, Threats from competitors) and identify your core benefits (Strengths) and determine how those can open new areas of growth (Opportunities), a SWOT Analysis will prove an asset.

Why Conduct a SWOT Analysis?

Why SWOT it out? A SWOT analysis provides organizations with an opportunity to accurately assess their position in their particular market or field. As the Kansas University Work Group For Community Health And Development writes, "Developing a full awareness of your situation can help with both strategic planning and decision-making."

A SWOT analysis, which offers "simplicity and application to a variety of levels of operation," is an ideal way to develop such awareness, which can then be used to craft a sound strategy that capitalizes on an organization's internal strengths and external opportunities, while simultaneously addressing (internal) weaknesses and (external) threats. Moreover, although "originally developed for business and industry," SWOT Analysis "is equally useful in the work of community health and development, education, and even personal growth."

S.W.O.T. - Breaking Down the Components of SWOT

Once you've identified the subject of your SWOT analysis, it is time to begin. SWOT consists of four components--Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. These four components are organized into two categories--internal and external. That is, look internally for Strengths and Weaknesses, and look externally for Opportunities and Threats.

S.W.O.T. - Breaking Down the Components of SWOT

Once you've identified the subject of your analysis (e.g. should we add x product to our lineup?), it is time to identify your strengths. Quality and reliability, for example, should always be strengths for any organization. More specifically, Charlie Ioannou defines strengths as "the resources and capabilities that can be used to develop a competitive advantage" (Ioannue, SWOT Analysis - An Easy to Understand Guide, 47-49).

This brings us to perhaps the most important aspect of the Strengths assessment: it is imperative that you analyze your strengths(and weaknesses) in relation to your competitors. In other words, what are the unique features of your company--a well-established company with established brand trust, lower production costs, superior customer service, stronger web presence, etc.--that will provide a competitive advantage? Identify those and you've identified your strengths.

Now identify your weaknesses. The more honest you are here the better. One way to think of weakness is the absence of strength. Therefore, the items of your business model you did not identify as strengths above are the first place to look for weaknesses. Cash flow, brand recognition, marketing budgets, distribution networks, age of your company, etc. are all places to consider when assessing weaknesses. The idea here is that you'll turn these weaknesses into strengths. Doing so, however, requires an honest assessment of where your company needs to improve.

Now that you've looked internally for Strengths and Weaknesses, its time to look externally for Opportunities and Threats. Opportunities and Threats interact similarly to Strengths and Weaknesses. That is, they draw on similar dynamics (external ones, in this case) to assess whether those create opportunities or threats to your business.


Here is where you identify the opportunities for growth, greater profit, and larger market share. Again, assessing opportunity in relation to competition is imperative. What opportunities are there for you to distinguish your company from your competitors? What opportunities can you identify to offer a similar service or product at a higher quality or at a lower price than your competition? What are the needs of your customers that your field does not currently address?

Technology is an external factor that always presents new opportunities and, as we shall see, new threats. What technological innovations open up new opportunities for your business to lower costs, speed up production, market more effectively, or improve customer service?

The key with Opportunities is that they must be acted on. Remember, if you don't act your competitors will.

Lastly, in which areas is your company at risk? Is your competitor developing a product to compete with one of yours? Is there a new or bigger company poaching your best employees? These are all threats to your business.

The Harvard Business Reviews defines "Threats" as "possible events or forces outside of your control that your company or unit needs to plan for or decide how to mitigate."

What about new legislation? Does a new law or proposed law threaten your production costs? What about new tax laws? A yes to any of these equals a threat.

Lastly, just as technological innovation may provide an opportunity, it can also issue a threat.

Threats to the business now include lawsuits over insurance liability, legislation proposing banning the service, and higher profit-margins at competing companies.

Putting Your SWOT into Action

Choosing an action plan after a SWOT analysis is a complicated process that is specific to each decision in each company. However, there is a general philosophy regarding how to approach action with the results of a SWOT. Here it is:

Putting Your SWOT into Action

Another important thing to remember is that the purpose of a SWOT analysis is to assess your organization's current position. Therefore, as the University of Kansas encourages, use your SWOT to look for a "stretch," not just a "fit." SWOT's are often improperly used to justify complacency and verify current practices. If you are conducting a SWOT to identify areas of need and/or growth, it is imperative you use the analysis to diagnose where you can "stretch."

SWOT Examples From Various Industries

Below are descriptions of and links to a series of SWOT analyses in a variety of industries to help get you started:

Tech Start-Up

We drew from the first in our example above. The second, is driven by the following questions: "Is Uber prepared to rule the transport world in 2015?." What does Uber's future look like? "Should they expand further without decreasing the impact of weaknesses that they are already aware of or will Uber's expansion be held up by surrounding threats?"

Uber's low cost, unlimited fleet of cars, convenience of use and flexibility of driver schedule are some of its key strengths. Its unpredictable customer volume and the ease of imitation make up central weaknesses. That Uber's services are only offered in a handful of metropolitan areas provides significant opportunities in suburbs and untapped cities. Lawsuits and proposed legislation to ban the service in certain cities, moreover, comprise Uber's most serious threats.

Here are two SWOTs from major film companies. In the first, Warner Brothers Entertainment conducted this SWOT in 2004 after their President decided to re-evaluate the company's approach to movie production in light of the popularity of big-budget "blockbusters."

Warner Brother's brand recognition, size, and cash reserves were obvious strengths, while the fluid and subjective process of purchasing scripts and green-lighting films, as well as unpredictable film budgets and production timelines made up key weaknesses. Growing audiences abroad provided the most significant opportunity, while upstart film companies and piracy posed significant threats.

In the second example, DreamWorks Animation explores distribution options in light of the popularity of the company's 3D films. Written against the backdrop of the Great Recession, the SWOT Analysis focused on whether the opportunities presented by producing all films in 3D from inception could counteract the threats of a general economic downturn, which was depressing overall box office receipts. DreamWorks had the ability to take advantage of the opportunity in 3D film production because of its two central strengths: a large animated film inventory, such as the Shrek franchise, and an attractive work environment for creatives. Capitalizing on the expanding opportunity of the 3D film market in a successful manner would allow DreamWorks to overcome at least one of its main weaknesses: a sinking stock price, precipitated by the downturn at the box office.

Yahoo! Sports columnist Glenn Logan completed this SWOT analysis of the University of Kentucky's Men's Basketball Team at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 pre-season in order to assess the team's chances to win the NCAA National Title.

As Logan assessed, Kentucky's size, depth, and unselfish play were its biggest strengths while free-throw and 3-point shooting some of its greatest weaknesses. Surveying the rest of the NCAA landscape, Logan concluded UK's tough out-of-conference schedule along with its international pre-season tournament trip afforded unique opportunities to gain useful experience for a deep run in March, while youth and injury posed their largest threats.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission posted a SWOT worksheet in advance of a Webinar on their Open Government program. In this case, SWOT provided an opportunity for employees to brainstorm and prepare their assessments of the program in advance of the more thorough evaluation of the Open Government at the Webinar.

For the NRC's Open Government program, the live feeds of meetings and blog casts create transparency and accessibility for viewers and employees. In terms of weaknesses, the somewhat convoluted website made it difficult to find certain information. Employees identified social media--Twitter, Facebook, etc.--as areas of opportunity and the difficulty of balancing transparency while maintaining full public confidence as a significant threat.

Lastly, here are two examples of SWOTs for small businesses. The first example discusses the restaurant business and the second the construction industry, While these examples do not refer to specific companies, they nonetheless offer insightful information on the specifics of SWOTs in their respective industries.

For a restaurant, high-quality food, price, taste, and customer service are all areas to look for strengths. These areas can also reveal weaknesses. Could your customer service improve? Are your prices competitive? Is your food delicious? Adding online ordering or delivery service may provide an opportunity to generate new business, while new competing restaurants and changes to the cost of food (e.g. a rise in the price of fish) pose areas of threat.

In construction, a trusted and reliable brand name as well as a consistent ability to complete work on schedule are major strengths. Conversely, delays or the inability to perform certain work are weaknesses. In terms of new opportunities, consider examining your city's plans to expand public transportation and how such an expansion provides new opportunity for business and residential construction. As the housing bubble demonstrated, fluctuations in the housing market pose the biggest threat (or opportunity in times of economic boom).

From SWOT to TOWS? Flipping The Script To Maximize Results

Are we SWOTing all wrong? There is a school of thought, found often in the Harvard Business Review, for example,that insists this method produces more effective results when done backwards--TOWS rather than SWOT. Here's Michael Watkins, cofounder of Genesis Advisors, in HBR:

I would introduce the [SWOT] tool, then ask the team to focus on identifying organizational strengths and weaknesses, and end up in abstract, navel-gazing discussions about "what are we good at" and "what are we bad at."

I decided to experiment with running the process in the reverse order and was amazed at the difference. Teams were able to have focused, productive discussions about what was going on in the external environment, and to rapidly identify emerging threats and opportunities. This provided a solid foundation for talking about weaknesses and strengths. Do we have weaknesses that leave us vulnerable to emerging threats? Do we have (or can we acquire) strengths that enable us to pursue emerging opportunities?

We suggest you experiment with both. Try it frontwards and backwards and figure out which results work best for your team.

SWOT Templates

We can help you get started. Select a template below and begin analyzing your business.

Standard SWOT

Further Reading

Fine, Lawrence.The SWOT Analysis. (2011)

Ioannou, Charlie. SWOT Analysis: An Easy to Understand Guide. (2012)

SWOT Analysis I: Looking Outside for Threats and Opportunities. Harvard Business School Press.(2005)

SWOT Analysis II: Looking Inside for Strengths and Weaknesses. Harvard Business School Press.(2005)

free help with business plan

FormSwift is proud to present the centerpiece of our business resources. This SWOT Analysis Guide is the centerpiece of our free business documents. It presents a comprehensive solution to your business challenges. Our SWOT Analysis Guide is one of the many excellent ways that FormSwift provides value to the business community. Whether you're ready to find the job of your dreams or you're looking for ways to minimize your business risk , FormSwift can help.

Highlights & SWOT Samples

Ultimately, if it is beneficial to:

a SWOT Analysis will prove an asset.

Although "originally developed for business and industry," SWOT Analysis "is equally useful in the work of community health and development, education, and even personal growth."

Along the way, we'll create a sample SWOT analysis for an app-based taxi service by providing examples of what such a company might include in each section.

Uber (logo) + lyft (logo)


For the next two examples, we are going to step back to the inception of app-based taxi companies.

With this in mind, consider the impact of companies like Uber or Lyft on traditional taxi businesses. Leveraging app-based technology proved a serious opportunity for the former to enter the taxi market.

Current opportunities include untapped markets (companies like Uber only operate in a handful of cities) and additional transportation services (e.g. a Lyft school bus?!)

Just as new mobile technology afforded a significant opportunity for new taxi companies like Uber and Lyft, it simultaneously posed a serious threat to existing cab companies who could not incorporate the technology.


Restaurant: Adding online ordering or delivery service may provide an opportunity to generate new business, while new competing restaurants and changes to the cost of food (e.g. a rise in the price of fish) pose areas of threat.

Construction: In terms of new opportunities, consider examining your city's plans to expand public transportation and how such an expansion provides new opportunity for business and residential construction.

Let's return to our Uber/Lyft example. The entire existence of app-based taxi services arose out of the Threat new mobile technology posed to traditional taxi companies. Had one of those companies identified the Threat far enough in advance, they could have seen that a taxi-app actually provided their business with an Opportunity for customers to more efficiently and conveniently hail a cab.

Once that Threat was translated into an Opportunity for a particular cab company, they could have assessed the Weaknesses in their company that left them vulnerable to the emerging Threat (i.e. the lack of technological investment or infrastructure to develop a similar app), and strategized how to address those weaknesses and capitalize on their Strengths (i.e. full-time experienced drivers, well-established driving infrastructure, etc.) to stay at the forefront of the taxi business

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Resources On How to Write a Business Plan

19 Free Resources On How To Write A Business Plan For Your Startup (That Won’t Suck)

There a number of challenges you face when starting a business. If you’re prepared and have a strong business plan, you’ll be ready to deal with anything thrown your way. 

Before you start writing your business plan you should make an outline. 

For example, your business plan sections might include:

Once you have your plan’s structure in place you’ll need to add meat to the bone. But  how do you write a business plan for your startup that will put you in a position to succeed?

Start with these 19 free business plan resources:

1.  Y Combinator’s Startup Library

Y Combinator helps startups get through their first phases of funding and their free startup library is full of helpful business planning resources. 

To apply to Y Combinator and ask for their financial assistance, it is necessary to fill out an application form. The philosophy of Y Combinator founders implies a lack of total control over projects they fund, and, in their opinion, it is the reason why startups succeed.

Of course, this service also provides a useful blog that includes articles and posts concerning  how to write a startup business plan and steps to turn it into reality. So feel free to read it and get a piece of useful information. 

2. Cleverroad’s Business Plan Guide

Writing a business plan for a startup doesn’t have to be boring and excessively formal. Nowadays, entrepreneurs can use a business model canvas that is a more agile form of the traditional business plan. A living document that can guide you as you grow your business.

If want to know what you should include in your business plan, this step-by-step guide can help.

3.  Entrepreneur’s 12-Step Startup Guide

Entrepreneur is a famous magazine and website that posts news, articles, and guides about entrepreneurship, business management, and everything in between. 

Their 12-step startup guide just one fo their resources full of interesting tips on creating a business plan and launch a startup wisely. 

Bplans offers startups and business owners tips to enhance their business. Bplans contains a vast number of free sample business plans, and it also provides users with tools and interactive calculators to manage their business more efficiently.

It’s a phenomenal resource for startups.  

SCORE is a non-profit organization that serves as a marketplace for volunteers experienced in helping small businesses grow and succeed.

The platform provides mentoring services to new entrepreneurs including  various on-demand webinars and courses on topics from startup business strategies to finances and management.

Apart from that, they offer a free startup library of practical business-building resources.

SBA or U.S. Small Business Administration is the organization that’s been around since 1953, established to help small business owners and entrepreneurs properly build their business.

Today the SBA’s website includes guides and tools on how to write business plans and run your business successfully. 

Apart from this, SBA provides customers with financial assistance and funding programs to take loans, find investors, use security bonds, and so on. 

Inc is an online magazine similar to Entrepreneur. It’s a great daily resource for business owners and CEOs looking for practical/useful advice on  marketing, sales, raising capital,  and so on.

And of course, they have great business guides like this on how to write the perfect business plan. 

8.  Cayenne Consulting

CayCon consulting agency that specializes in drawing up business plans, creating pitch decks, and making financial forecasts. 

If you’re looking for hands-on help, they can help you determine how your startup business plan should look, develop a business strategy, and present your project idea to investors.

9.  Lean Planning

Lean business planning is a strategic approach to business plan writing created by Tim Berry, the founder of Bplans.

It proposes business plans should include the following areas of concern: strategy, tactics, AMMS (Assumptions, Milestones, Metrics, and Schedule), forecasts of sales, and expenses. 

The Lean Planning website includes free how-to-guides and tips for executing business plans that not only won’t “suck”, but they’ll also put you in a position to succeed. 

1o.  Business Model Generation

Business Model Generation is a book written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur considered to be a deskbook for any who wants to change their business for better and lead it to success. 

It’s a book that has gained enormous popularity among long-time business owners and startups alike as it includes strategic ideas and tools that help businesses find and articulate their core value proposition. An excellent resource for writing a business plan. 

11.  Shopify’s Business Plan Guide

Shopify is a popular SaaS platform for eCommerce and its website includes a lot of helpful information for small business owners including how to write a business plan, how to set KPIs , and so on.

I n fact, this business plan writing guide may be all you need to get started. 

12.  Mplans

Mplans is another awesome resource created by Tim Berry’s network. It offers entrepreneurs both software solutions and marketing resources including eBooks on public relations, marketing strategy, branding, and a vast number of free sample marketing plans.

If you already built your plan with a detailed approach to marketing, start here. 

13.  ExpertHub

ExpertHub is another amazing online resource for business owners. In this article, they provide you with a comprehensive business plan format guide.

It’s a full guide to the business plan contents including standard business plan format for these 10 basic elements:

14.  Startups.com

Startups.com bills itself as the world’s largest launch platform for startups, providing education and tools to walk aspiring founders through the entire startup process. It includes resources on education, business planning, mentorship, customer acquisition, funding, and staffing.

Moreover, Startups.com has its library where you can find playbooks, videos, founder stories, and expert pieces of advice. Visit a website to check out it in detail and make your idea real. 

15.  StartupNation

StartupNation is full of practical information about launching, running, and growing your business. It was created by two entrepreneurial brothers with loads of business experience. The site contains insightful articles from experts on a variety of business topics.

Apart from the website’s content, it also has community forums where business people can interact with each other and share their opinions and ideas. 

16.  Futurpreneur

Futurpreneur is a non-profit organization that offers young entrepreneurs mentoring, support, and financing. There are more than 3000 volunteer mentors who give startups advice.

Apart from coaching and mentoring, Futurpreneur also contains online resources with tools, articles, and interactive business plan writers.

17.  Fast Company’s Creative Business Plan Guide

If you’re a creative and you’re considering starting a new venture or taking your work to the next level, but feel unsure about the steps, this guide will get you going.

It details everything you need to know about how to write a business plan. 

18.  Forbes’ Business Plan Tips

In this Forbes piece, the author points out that the key issue is not whether to write a business plan or not but how to write a business plan.

There are many ways to do it. Some of these ways are efficient, and some of them are not. Here’s what you need to do it right.

19. Growthink’s Business Plan Template & Guide for Entrepreneurs

This business plan template and guide is the result of 20 years of research into the types of business plans that help entrepreneurs and executives raise funding and build thriving companies.

It’s primarily for those who have never created a business plan, but there’s plenty of advice for those who have written one or many plans before.

ebook cta

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of the blog series  Start Your Business  brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the  virtual phone system  priced and designed for startups and small business owners.

Vitaly Kuprenko

Vitaly Kuprenko is a writer at Cleveroad, a mobile and web application development company. He loves writing about startups and new tech.

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The resources are (almost) all free.

Thinking of starting a business? Working for yourself is awesome, but it can also be a risky prospect: Your income depends upon your success, and many small businesses fail.

One of the key things that sets successful companies apart from those that don't make it is a solid plan for success. A business plan can create a roadmap to profitability and business growth, but it's up to you to create a detailed plan.

A business plan will help guide your decisions as you start your company , will give you an idea of whether the business is viable, and will help you to qualify for loans or attract investors -- but making a plan isn't as simple as it seems.

If you're thinking of starting a company, or if you have a start-up but no business plan in place, these three categories of resources can provide you with invaluable help.

Woman typing on a laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Free (and low cost) consultants

Talking with experts who understand the business planning process is a surefire way to make a solid business plan. The good news is that this doesn't have to cost you a fortune. There are even some free sources of professional advice you can tap into.

Organizations that can help with your business plan include:

You can also hire paid business-plan consultants, although costs vary. If you go this route, ask for referrals from trusted sources and check reviews of anyone you're considering working with.

2. Business plan apps

Today, there's an app for everything -- including creating a business plan. In fact, there is a wide range of different programs for your mobile devices or computer that walk you through the business planning process. Options include:

These suggested tools are free or very-low-cost. There are also apps and programs that cost hundreds of dollars. Compare features and reviews before deciding which app or tool is right for you.

3. Business plan templates and guides

Thanks to the Internet, there's an endless array of resources available to those who want to write a business plan -- including comprehensive templates and guides.

While your best option may be to search for templates in the form you prefer, there are also plenty of general tools out there to suit any business. These include:

Looking at these resources can help you understand not only what sections should be in your business plan and what information to include, but also the types of language used in these professional documents.

Start your business plan today

Creating a business plan may seem daunting. But don't let your fear or reluctance to create a plan stop you from moving forward.

Just use these tools to get your plan underway, and you'll be ready to start providing products or services to customers before you know it.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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Do you want to increase the odds that your business startup will be a success? Then download this step-by-step business plan template and use it to lay the groundwork for your new business.

Writing a business plan gives you an opportunity to carefully think through every step of starting your company so you can better prepare and handle any challenges.

While a thorough business plan is essential in the financing process, it's helpful even if you don’t need outside financing.

Creating a business plan can:

Laying out a detailed, step-by-step plan gives you a blueprint you can refer to during the startup process and helps you maintain your momentum.

What this business plan template includes

Writing a business plan for a startup can sometimes seem overwhelming. To make the process easier and more manageable, this template will guide you step-by-step through writing it. The template includes easy-to-follow instructions for completing each section of the business plan, questions to help you think through each aspect, and corresponding fillable worksheet/s for key sections.

After you complete the 11 worksheets, you will have a working business plan for your startup to show your SCORE mentor .

The business plan sections covered in this template include:

The Appendices include documents that supplement information in the body of the plan.  These might be contracts, leases, purchase orders, intellectual property, key managers’ resumes, market research data, or anything that supports assumptions or statements made in the plan.

The last section of the template, “Refining Your Plan,” explains ways you may need to modify your plan for specific purposes, such as getting a bank loan, or for specific industries, such as retail or manufacturing.

Complete the Business Plan Template for a Startup Business to create a working business plan for your startup.

Then, contact your local  SCORE mentor  to review and refine your plan either online or in person.

For more than 100 years, Deluxe Corporation has sought to create the tools that help shape our economy. Since 1915, Deluxe has recognized the vital role that small business plays in our communities, from job creation to business development. For these reasons, the Deluxe Corporation Foundation provides financial support to nonprofits that help entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed. Our grants to SCORE have totaled more than $1.5M in recent years, with the majority of these funds supporting the creation and updates of online training and certification for SCORE mentors.   

Business Planning & Financial Statements Template Gallery Download SCORE’s templates to help you plan for a new business startup or grow your existing business.

An Easier Way to Prepare Your Business Plan -The Business Model Canvas The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a one-page business plan that allows you to test and validate the key parts of your business in a manageable format.

Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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The 7 Best Free Resources for Planning Your New Business

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The 7 Best Free Resources for Planning Your New Business

Prepare your business for the future and beyond

Business is always changing. Make sure yours is prepared to adapt to whatever comes next by downloading our free guide with actionable advice.

1. Small Business Association

The Small Business Association’s Create Your Business Plan section of its website is an excellent place to start when drafting your business plan. If you’re not sure how to write a business plan, this free resource will walk you through each section, telling you what to include and how to make it stand out.

2. Your state’s small business development center

Each state runs its own small business development center, a valuable free resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs. For example, the California Small Business Development Center offers a handy business startup checklist on its website along with a variety of other tools. It also provides access to business advisors and special events. Check out the SBA’s list of small business development centers by state here .

SCORE’s Business Plan page is another fantastic and free small business resource loaded with online business workshops and podcasts. Free mentoring is also available–both in person and via email.

a woman smiling while on the phone and at her laptop

4. Bplans business templates

A great business starts with a great business plan. Bplans.com has over 500 free sample plans that you can download and use, from traditional plans to elevator pitch guides to pitch decks. They also have informative blog articles and videos on their website to help you start and fund your business. 

5. Lightspeed Resources

In addition to our blog, Lightspeed also has a robust retail resources page that is entirely dedicated to providing new and seasoned business owners alike with free tools and advice. You can find great information and tools for each of the following topics: Operations, Marketing, Technology and Industry Tips.

6. Later Blog

Having a presence online is more important now than ever–and social media is a great free tool to use to build your brand. The Later blog provides detailed information on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn and Pinterest best practices, so that you can cultivate a cult following across your social media channels. They regularly update their content to reflect new algorithm changes and feature updates, so you can check back in to see the latest news on how to optimize your digital content. 

When starting your business, there’s a strong chance that you may need to provide and sign basic legal agreements. Docracy is a great resource for finding free legal templates for hiring employees, renting or leasing a space and more. We still highly recommend consulting a lawyer before making or sending any agreements, but Docracy is a good free starting point. 

Get the advice you need, when you need it 

Starting a business comes with many challenges, but the good news is there are so many great free resources available to help you get started. If you’re looking to get actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to receive our free newsletter in the box below. 

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Lightspeed is a cloud-based commerce platform powering small and medium-sized businesses in over 100 countries around the world. With smart, scalable and dependable point of sale systems, it's an all-in-one solution that helps restaurants and retailers sell across channels, manage operations, engage with consumers, accept payments and grow their business.

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Guide to Creating a Business Plan With Template

Skye Schooley

To make your business idea a reality, you need a business plan. These simple business plan templates will get you started.

Having a road map helps you reach your journey’s end successfully. Business plans do the same for small businesses. They lay out the milestones you need to reach to build a profitable small business. They are also essential for identifying and overcoming obstacles along the way. Each part of a business plan helps you reach your goals, including the financial aspects, marketing, operations and sales.

Plenty of online business plan templates are available to take some of the pain out of the writing process. You may benefit from simple, easy-to-follow business plan tools so you spend less time writing and more time launching your venture.

What is a business plan?

With most great business ideas , the best way to execute them is to have a plan. A business plan is a written outline that you present to others, such as investors, whom you want to recruit into your venture. It’s your pitch to your investors, sharing with them what the goals of your startup are and how you expect to be profitable. 

It also serves as your company’s roadmap, keeping your business on track and ensuring your operations grow and evolve to meet the goals outlined in your plan. As circumstances change, a business plan can serve as a living document – but it should always include the core goals of your business.

Why do I need a business plan?

Starting a new business comes with headaches. Being prepared for those headaches can greatly decrease their impact on your business. One important step in preparing for the challenges your startup may face is writing a solid business plan.

Writing a business plan helps you understand more clearly what you need to do to reach your goals. The finished business plan also serves as a reminder to you of these goals. It’s a valuable tool that you can refer back to, helping you stay focused and on track.

What are the three main purposes of a business plan? 

Before you write your business plan, it’s important to understand the purpose of creating it in the first place. These are the three main reasons you should have a business plan:

Your business plan can be written as a document or designed as a slideshow, such as a PowerPoint presentation. It may be beneficial to create both versions. For example, the PowerPoint can be used to pull people in, and the document version that contains more detail can be given to viewers as a follow-up.

Free downloadable business plan template

Business News Daily put together a simple but high-value business plan template to help you create a business plan. The template is completely customizable and can be used to attract investors, secure board members, and narrow the scope of your company.

Business plans can be overwhelming to new entrepreneurs, but our template makes it easy to provide all of the details required by financial institutions and private investors. The template has eight main sections, with subsections for each topic. For easy navigation, a table of contents is provided with the template. As you customize each section, you’ll receive tips on how to correctly write the required details.

Here is our free business plan template you can use to craft a professional business plan quickly and easily.

Types of business plans

There are two main types of business plans: simple and traditional. Traditional business plans are long, detailed plans that expound on both short-term and long-term objectives. In comparison, a simple business plan focuses on a few key metrics in concise detail so as to quickly share data with investors.

Simple business plan

Business model expert Ash Maurya has developed a simple type of business plan called a lean canvas . The model, which was developed in 2010, is still one of the most popular types of business plans emulated today.

A lean canvas comprises nine sections, with each part of the plan containing high-value information and metrics to attract investors. This lean business plan often consists of a single page of information with the following listed:

Traditional business plan 

Traditional plans are lengthy documents, sometimes as long as 30 or 40 pages. A traditional business plan acts as a blueprint of a new business, detailing its progress from the time it launches to several years in the future when the startup is an established business. The following areas are covered in a traditional business plan:

We lay out each area of a traditional business plan in detail below.

1. Executive summary 

The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan, because it needs to draw your readers into your plan and entice them to continue reading. If your executive summary doesn’t capture the reader’s attention, they won’t read further, and their interest in your business won’t be piqued.

Even though the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, you should write it last. When you are ready to write this section, we recommend that you summarize the problem (or market need) you aim to solve, your solution for consumers, an overview of the founders and/or owners, and key financial details. The key with this section is to be brief yet engaging.

2. Company description 

This section is an overview of your entire business. Make sure you include basic information, such as when your company was founded, the type of business entity it is – limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietorship, partnership , C corporation or S corporation – and the state in which it is registered. Provide a summary of your company’s history to give the readers a solid understanding of its foundation. Learn more about articles of incorporation , and what you need to know to start a business.

3. Products and services 

Next, describe the products and/or services your business provides. Focus on your customers’ perspective – and needs – by demonstrating the problem you are trying to solve. The goal with this section is to prove that your business fills a bona fide market need and will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

4. Market analysis 

In this section, clearly define who your target audience is, where you will find customers, how you will reach them and, most importantly, how you will deliver your product or service to them. Provide a deep analysis of your ideal customer and how your business provides a solution for them. 

You should also include your competitors in this section, and illustrate how your business is uniquely different from the established companies in the industry or market. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how will you differentiate yourself from the pack?

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to conduct a competitor analysis and what details it should include.

You will also need to write a marketing plan based on the context of your business. For example, if you’re a small local business, you want to analyze your competitors who are located nearby. Franchises need to conduct a large-scale analysis, potentially on a national level. Competitor data helps you know the current trends in your target industry and the growth potential. These details also prove to investors that you’re very familiar with the industry.

For this section, the listed target market paints a picture of what your ideal customer looks like. Data to include may be the age range, gender, income levels, location, marital status and geographical regions of target consumers.

A SWOT analysis is a common tool entrepreneurs use to bring all collected data together in a market analysis. “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses analyze the advantages and disadvantages unique to your company, while opportunities and threats analyze the current market risks and rewards.

5. Management team 

Before anyone invests in your business, they want a complete understanding of the potential investment. This section should illustrate how your business is organized. It should list key members of the management team, the founders/owners, board members, advisors, etc.

As you list each individual, provide a summary of their experience and their role within your company. Treat this section as a series of mini resumes, and consider appending full-length resumes to your business plan.

6. Financial plan 

The financial plan should include a detailed overview of your finances. At the very least, you should include cash flow statements, and profit and loss projections, over the next three to five years. You can also include historical financial data from the past few years, your sales forecast and balance sheet. Consider these items to include:

Make sure this section is precise and accurate. It’s often best to create this section with a professional accountant. If you’re seeking outside funding for your business , highlight why you’re seeking financing, how you will use that money, and when investors can expect a return on investment .

Struggling for cash flow? Here are eight cash flow strategies for survival.

If you really want to master your financial plan, Jennifer Spaziano, vice president of business development at Accion, offers these helpful tips:

7. Operational plan

The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. This section discusses the location of the business , as well as required equipment or critical facilities needed to make your products. Some companies – depending on their business type – may also need to detail their inventory needs, including information about suppliers. For manufacturing companies, all processing details are spelled out in the operational plan section.

For startups, you want to divide the operational plan into two distinct phases: the developmental plan and the production plan. 

Free vs. paid business plan templates

You have your option of choosing between free and paid business templates. Both come with their own benefits and limitations, so the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. Evaluating the pros and cons of each can help you decide.

Free templates

The biggest advantage of using a free template is the cost savings it offers to your business. Startups are often strapped for cash, making it a desirable choice for new business owners to access a free template. Although it’s nice to use templates at no cost, there are some drawbacks to free business plan templates – the biggest one being limited customizability.

“The process of writing a business plan lets you personally find the kinks in your business and work them out,” Attiyya Atkins, founder of A+ Editing, told Business News Daily. “Starting with an online template is a good start, but it needs to be reviewed and targeted to your market. Downloadable business plans may have dated market prices, making the budget inaccurate. If you’re looking to get money from investors, you need a customized business plan with zero errors.” 

Janil Jean, head of overseas operations at LogoDesign.net, agreed that free templates offer limited customization – such as the company name and some text. She added that they are often used by a ton of people, so if you use one to secure funds, investors might be tired of seeing that business plan format.

Paid templates

The benefit of paying for business plan templates – or paying for an expert to review your business plan – is the accuracy of information and high customization.

“Your audience gets thousands of applications per day. What’s to make your business plan stand out from the crowd when you’re not there in the room when they make the decisions about your enterprise?” Jean said. “Visuals are the best way to impress and get attention. It makes sense to get paid templates that allow you maximum customization through design, images and branding.”

On the contrary, the limitation to using a paid template is the cost. If your startup doesn’t have the funds to pay for a business plan template, it may not be a feasible option.

The best business plan software

In case you take the route of investing money in your business plan, there are several great software programs available. Software takes the legwork out of writing a business plan by simplifying the process and eliminating the need to start from scratch. They often include features like step-by-step wizards, templates, financial projection tools, charts and graphs, third-party application integrations, collaboration tools and video tutorials.

After researching and evaluating dozens of business plan software providers, we narrowed down these four of the best options available:

LivePlan is a cloud-hosted software application that provides many tools to create your business plan, including more than 500 templates, a one-page pitch builder, automatic financial statements, full financial forecasting , industry benchmark data and KPIs . Annual plans start at $15 per month.

Bizplan is cloud-hosted software that features a step-by-step builder to walk you through each section of the business plan. Annual plans start at $20.75 per month.

GoSmallBiz is a cloud-based service that offers industry-specific templates, a step-by-step wizard that makes creating a detailed business plan an easy one, and video tutorials. Monthly plans start at $15 per month.

Enloop focuses on financial projections. It provides you with everything you need to demonstrate how financially viable your business can be, and walks you through the process of generating financial forecasts. Annual plans start at $11 per month.

Common challenges of writing a business plan

The challenges of writing a business plan vary. Do you have all the information about your business that you need? Does your industry have strict guidelines that you must adhere to? To help you prepare, we identified 10 of the most common issues you may face:

Crafting a business plan around these 10 challenges can prepare your business – and anyone who joins it – for a prosperous future.

How to overcome the challenges of writing a business plan

Although you won’t accurately predict everything for your business, you can take preemptive steps to reduce the number of complications that may arise. For example, familiarize yourself with the business plan process by researching business plans and identifying how others successfully executed their plans.

You can use these plans as a basis; however, Rick Cottrell, CEO and founder of BizResults.com, recommends taking it one step further: Talk to small business owners and others who have experience.

“The business owner should talk to an accountant, banker, and those who deal with these plans on a daily basis and learn how others have done it,” Cottrell said. “They can join startup and investment groups, and speak to peers and others who are getting ready to launch a business, and gain insights from them. They can seek out capital innovation clubs in their area and get additional expertise.”

If you research how to write a business plan and still don’t feel comfortable writing one, you can always hire a consultant to help you with the process.

“It is simply a time-consuming process that cannot be rushed,” Cottrell added. “Millions of dollars can be at stake and, in many cases, requires a high level of expertise that either needs to be learned or executed in conjunction with an experienced business consultant.” 

Sean Peek, Jennifer Post, Chad Brooks, Howard Wen and Joshua Stowers contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article and related articles.

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Simple Business Plan Template (2023)

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Updated: Dec 16, 2022, 11:45pm

Simple Business Plan Template (2023)

Table of Contents

Why business plans are vital, get your free simple business plan template, how to write an effective business plan in 6 steps, frequently asked questions.

While taking many forms and serving many purposes, they all have one thing in common: business plans help you establish your goals and define the means for achieving them. Our simple business plan template covers everything you need to consider when launching a side gig, solo operation or small business. By following this step-by-step process, you might even uncover a few alternate routes to success.

Whether you’re a first-time solopreneur or a seasoned business owner, the planning process challenges you to examine the costs and tasks involved in bringing a product or service to market. The process can also help you spot new income opportunities and hone in on the most profitable business models.

Though vital, business planning doesn’t have to be a chore. Business plans for lean startups and solopreneurs can simply outline the business concept, sales proposition, target customers and sketch out a plan of action to bring the product or service to market. However, if you’re seeking startup funding or partnership opportunities, you’ll need a write a business plan that details market research, operating costs and revenue forecasting.

Whichever startup category you fall into, if you’re at square one, our simple business plan template will point you down the right path.

Copy our free simple business plan template so you can fill in the blanks as we explore each element of your business plan. Need help getting your ideas flowing? You’ll also find several startup scenario examples below.

Download free template as .docx

Whether you need a quick-launch overview or an in-depth plan for investors, any business plan should cover the six key elements outlined in our free template and explained below. The main difference in starting a small business versus an investor-funded business is the market research and operational and financial details needed to support the concept.

1. Your Mission or Vision

Start by declaring a “dream statement” for your business. You can call this your executive summary, vision statement or mission. Whatever the name, the first part of your business plan summarizes your idea by answering five questions. Keep it brief, such as an elevator pitch. You’ll expand these answers in the following sections of the simple business plan template.

These answers come easily if you have a solid concept for your business, but don’t worry if you get stuck. Use the rest of your plan template to brainstorm ideas and tactics. You’ll quickly find these answers and possibly new directions as you explore your ideas and options.

2. Offer and Value Proposition

This is where you detail your offer, such as selling products, providing services or both, and why anyone would care. That’s the value proposition. Specifically, you’ll expand on your answers to the first and fourth bullets from your mission/vision.

As you complete this section, you might find that exploring value propositions uncovers marketable business opportunities that you hadn’t yet considered. So spend some time brainstorming the possibilities in this section.

For example, a cottage baker startup specializing in gluten-free or keto-friendly products might be a value proposition that certain audiences care deeply about. Plus, you could expand on that value proposition by offering wedding and other special-occasion cakes that incorporate gluten-free, keto-friendly and traditional cake elements that all guests can enjoy.

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3. Audience and Ideal Customer

Here is where you explore bullet point number three, who your business will benefit. Identifying your ideal customer and exploring a broader audience for your goods or services is essential in defining your sales and marketing strategies, plus it helps fine-tune what you offer.

There are many ways to research potential audiences, but a shortcut is to simply identify a problem that people have that your product or service can solve. If you start from the position of being a problem solver, it’s easy to define your audience and describe the wants and needs of your ideal customer for marketing efforts.

Using the cottage baker startup example, a problem people might have is finding fresh-baked gluten-free or keto-friendly sweets. Examining the wants and needs of these people might reveal a target audience that is health-conscious or possibly dealing with health issues and willing to spend more for hard-to-find items.

However, it’s essential to have a customer base that can support your business. You can be too specialized. For example, our baker startup can attract a broader audience and boost revenue by offering a wider selection of traditional baked goods alongside its gluten-free and keto-focused specialties.

4. Revenue Streams, Sales Channels and Marketing

Thanks to our internet-driven economy, startups have many revenue opportunities and can connect with target audiences through various channels. Revenue streams and sales channels also serve as marketing vehicles, so you can cover all three in this section.

Revenue Streams

Revenue streams are the many ways you can make money in your business. In your plan template, list how you’ll make money upon launch, plus include ideas for future expansion. The income possibilities just might surprise you.

For example, our cottage baker startup might consider these revenue streams:

Sales Channels

Sales channels put your revenue streams into action. This section also answers the “where will this happen” question in the second bullet of your vision.

The product sales channels for our cottage bakery example can include:

Channels that support other income streams might include:

Nowadays, the line between marketing and sales channels is blurred. Social media outlets, e-books, websites, blogs and videos serve as both marketing tools and income opportunities. Since most are free and those with advertising options are extremely economical, these are ideal marketing outlets for lean startups.

However, many businesses still find value in traditional advertising such as local radio, television, direct mail, newspapers and magazines. You can include these advertising costs in your simple business plan template to help build a marketing plan and budget.

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5. Structure, Suppliers and Operations

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 responsibilities, supplier logistics and day-to-day operations. Also, include any certifications or permits needed to launch your enterprise in this section.

Our cottage baker example might use a structure and startup plan such as this:

6. Financial Forecasts

Your final task is to list forecasted business startup and ongoing costs and profit projections in your simple business plan template. Thanks to free business tools such as Square and free marketing on social media, lean startups can launch with few upfront costs. In many cases, cost of goods, shipping and packaging, business permits and printing for business cards are your only out-of-pocket expenses.

Cost Forecast

Our cottage baker’s forecasted lean startup costs might include:

Gross Profit Projections

This helps you determine the retail prices and sales volume required to keep your business running and, hopefully, earn income for yourself. Use product research to spot target retail prices for your goods, then subtract your cost of goods, such as hourly rate, raw goods and supplier costs. The total amount is your gross profit per item or service.

Here are some examples of projected gross profits for our cottage baker:

Bottom Line

Putting careful thought and detail in a business plan is always beneficial, but don’t get so bogged down in planning that you never hit the start button to launch your business . Also, remember that business plans aren’t set in stone. Markets, audiences and technologies change, and so will your goals and means of achieving them. Think of your business plan as a living document and regularly revisit, expand and restructure it as market opportunities and business growth demand.

Is there a template for a business plan?

Yes, you can copy our free business plan template and fill in the blanks or customize it in Google Docs, Microsoft Word or another word processing app. This free business plan template includes the six key elements that any entrepreneur needs to consider when launching a new business.

What does a simple business plan include?

A simple business plan is a one- to two-page overview covering six key elements that any budding entrepreneur needs to consider when launching a startup. These include your vision or mission, product or service offering, target audience, revenue streams and sales channels, structure and operations, and financial forecasts.

How can I create a free business plan template?

Start with this free simple business plan template that covers the six essential elements of a startup. Once downloaded, you can edit this document in Google Docs or another word processing app and add new sections or subsections to your plan template to meet your specific business plan needs.

What basic items should be included in a business plan?

When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business,  an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.

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Krista Fabregas is a seasoned eCommerce and online content pro sharing more than 20 years of hands-on know-how with those looking to launch and grow tech-forward businesses. Her expertise includes eCommerce startups and growth, SMB operations and logistics, website platforms, payment systems, side-gig and affiliate income, and multichannel marketing. Krista holds a bachelor's degree in English from The University of Texas at Austin and held senior positions at NASA, a Fortune 100 company, and several online startups.


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