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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

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

1. Write an executive summary

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

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

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

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

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

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

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

Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

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

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

Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

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

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

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

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

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

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

You may also include metrics such as:

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

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

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

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

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

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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

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

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

List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:

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

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

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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

Smartsheet Contributor Joe Weller

October 11, 2021

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

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

What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Steps

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

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

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

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

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

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

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

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

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

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

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

Step 1: Executive Summary

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

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

Step 2: Description of Business

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

Step 3: Market Analysis

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

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

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

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

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

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

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

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

Step 7: Marketing Plan

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

Step 8: Sales Plan

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

Start by answering the following questions:

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

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

Step 10: Financial Projections

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

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

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

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

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

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

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

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

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

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

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

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

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

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

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

How to write a business plan in 7 steps

how to write a business plan step by step template

With this step-by-step guide, learn how to write a well-written professional business plan that can help you successfully start your business, apply for funding, and grow.

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to have a business or accounting degree to put together a viable business plan. Business planning can be simple—even fun! 

This guide will show you how to get your plan done without any complexity or frustration. By the time you’re done, you’ll be better prepared to start, run, and grow your business. Here are the 7 steps to write a business plan:

Be sure to download our free business plan template to start writing your own business plan as you work through this guide. For a more detailed guide to writing a business plan, download our free ebook : The Easy Way to Write Your Business Plan.

What is a business plan?

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

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. Setting sales goals, expense budgets, and predictions for cash flow. 

Now, a business plan can be far more than just a static document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. A management tool to analyze results, make strategic decisions, and showcase how your business will operate and grow. In short, if you’re thinking of starting a business or plan to pitch to investors or venture capitalists, writing a business plan can improve your chances of success.  

Why do you need a business plan?

You likely already have a good idea of your business strategy in your head. So you may be wondering, “Why should I spend my time making a business plan?” Here are the top reasons why you should invest in planning:

Businesses that plan grow 30% faster.

A surprising amount of research has been done on business planning and has shown that companies that take the time to write a plan and review it regularly grow 30% faster than those businesses that don’t plan. Not only do these companies grow faster, but they perform better and are less likely to fail in the long run.

Lenders and investors need business plans

If you’re growing your business and plan on getting a business loan or raising money from investors, you’ll need a business plan. Most lenders and investors will ask for a plan, but even if they don’t want to see the actual document, they will ask you questions that only a solid business plan will be able to answer.

Business plans reduce risk

Starting and running a business is always risky. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, you can use a plan to forecast potential cash flow issues and get ahead of any potential roadblocks so you aren’t caught off guard. A business plan will help you reduce your risk and help you navigate the future.

Business planning helps you make smart spending decisions 

Before you make a big spending decision for your business, you need to know the potential impacts on your finances. With a business plan in place, you can easily explore different scenarios and see what impacts a new hire or an expansion to a second location will have on your business.

Need more reasons for why you need a business plan? Read our full list of reasons why having a business plan is important for small businesses .

How to write a business plan step-by-step

Whether you’re building a business plan to raise money and grow your business or just need to figure out if your idea will work, every business plan needs to cover 6 essential sections. Here’s an overview of each section:

Free business plan template

1. 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. Most people write it last, though. 

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. In fact, it’s very common for investors to ask for only the executive summary when they are evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation, and more in-depth financials.

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).

Learn more about writing an effective executive summary .

2. 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.

Start the products & services chapter by describing the problem that you are solving for your customers and what your solution is. This is a description of your product or service. 

Next, you should outline your competition . Who else is providing solutions that try to solve your customers’ pain points? What are your competitive advantages over other businesses?

If you happen to have any competitive advantages, such as specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product—this chapter is a great place to talk about those things.

Finally, review your milestones and metrics. This is an overview of the next steps that you need to accomplish to get your product or service ready to sell, with target dates. If you’ve already achieved some key milestones, such as landing a crucial customer or taking on pre-orders, discuss that here. 

3. Market analysis

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.

First, describe your target market . Your target market is the group of people that you plan on selling to. Try to be as specific as possible. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers.

Next, provide any market analysis and market research that you have. You’ll want to explain how your market is growing over time and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of expected changes in your industry.

4. Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments, 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.

Some businesses that distribute their products and reach their customers through stores like, Walmart, Target, grocery store chains, and other retail outlets should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles that the business may have to overcome.

The marketing & sales chapter of your business plan can also be a good place to include a SWOT analysis . This is purely optional but can be a good way to explain how your products and services are positioned to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of opportunities.

5. Company organization and management team

Investors look for great teams in addition to great ideas. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire. You will also provide a quick overview of your legal structure, location, and history if you’re already up and running.

Include brief bios that highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member. It’s important here to make the case for why the team is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before?

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

Be sure to provide a review of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

6. Financial projections

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. This is often what entrepreneurs find most daunting, but it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems. Business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. That said, if you need additional help, there are plenty of tools and resources out there to help you build a solid financial plan.

A typical financial plan will include:

Sales and revenue projections

A monthly sales and revenue forecast for the first 12 months, and then annual projections for the remaining three to five years. Three-year projections are typically adequate, but some investors will request a five-year forecast.

Profit and loss statement

An income statement , also known as the profit and loss (or P&L), is where your numbers all come together and show if you’re making a profit or taking a loss.

Cash flow statement

A cash flow statement . While the income statement calculates your profits and losses, the cash flow statement keeps track of how much cash (money in the bank) you have at any given point. 

Balance sheet

A balance sheet lists the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

Optional sections to include when seeking funding

If you are raising money from investors, you should include a brief section of your business plan that details exactly how you plan on using your investors’ cash. This is typically just called, “Use of Funds.”

Investors will also want to see a short section on your exit strategy. An exit strategy is your plan for eventually selling your business, either to another company or to the public in an IPO. If you have investors, they will want to know your thoughts on this. If you’re running a business that you plan to maintain ownership of indefinitely, and you’re not seeking angel investment or VC funding, you can skip the exit strategy section. 

For more information, read our guide on the different types of exit strategies .

Finally, discuss any assumptions and important risks for your business. Knowing what your assumptions are as you start a business can make the difference between business success and business failure. When you recognize your assumptions, you can set out to prove that your assumptions are correct. The more that you can minimize your assumptions, the more likely it is that your business will succeed.

7. Appendix

An appendix to your business plan isn’t a required chapter by any means. However, it is a useful place to stick any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that either felt too long or too out-of-place to include elsewhere in your business plan. If you have a patent or a patent-pending, or illustrations of your product, this is where you’d want to include the details. For more details, read about what to include in your business plan appendix .

Get a quick fill-in-the-blank planning tool

Business plan writing tips 

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

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. For example, if you are writing a business plan for yourself or just for use inside your own business, you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the money you want and exactly how you’re going to use those funds. So, before you start writing your plan, think about why you are writing a business plan and what you’re trying to get out of the process.

Keep things concise

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

So, focus on trimming things down to the essentials that your readers need to know. Skip the extended descriptions of your target market and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. It’s helpful to zoom out from time to time and make sure that your plan is logical and makes sense. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand. Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look, though. 

Start sharing your plan early and find out from your reader what questions the plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help keep you on track. If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to give it a thorough examination.

Use a free business plan template to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template that’s been used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 500 free sample business plans .

How do I write a simple business plan?

If you’re not ready to work on a detailed business plan and want to start with something shorter and simpler, we recommend starting with a simple one-page business plan . You’ll be able to put together an initial plan in less than 30 minutes. For many businesses, this is a great way to get started. And, if you’re not raising money from investors, this may be all the plan you need.

Next steps for writing your business plan

Whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, establishing steps to start a business, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan will help get you there. 

Business planning is a continuous process that can help you validate your idea, set goals, manage, and successfully pitch your business. One of the most helpful things you can do to build a successful business is to jump in and start planning. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough for writing a business plan, check out our Business Planning Guide . 

If you need more than a template, we recommend exploring business planning software, such as LivePlan. It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you include only what you need in your plan and reduces the time you spend on formatting and presenting. 

You’ll also get help building solid financial models that you can trust, without having to worry about getting everything right in a spreadsheet. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. This makes it easy to track your progress and make adjustments as you go.

Business plan FAQ

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investor, and identify areas for growth. Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

The seven steps to writing a business plan include: 1. Write a brief executive summary.  2. Describe your products and services. 3. Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis. 4. Describe your marketing and sales strategy.  5. Outline your organizational structure and management team. 6. Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow. 7. Add any additional documents to your appendix.

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid: 1. Not taking the planning process seriously. 2. Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information. 3. Inconsistent information or simple mistakes. 4. Failing to establish a sound business model. 5. Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan. However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan: – How will your business make money? – Is there a need for your product or service? – Who are your customers? – How are you different from the competition? – How will you reach your customers? – How will you measure success?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.  If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan or a 3-10 page Lean Plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.  Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.  One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business. Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.  However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

The core elements of business planning are the same for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. The main difference between the two is that nonprofits are primarily driven by a specific mission or purpose. While a for-profit organization is typically driven by growth and improved performance. Additionally, nonprofit organizations will need to intently focus on their promotional, partnership, and fundraising strategies. While some of this is present in for-profit businesses, the need to thoroughly outline how and who you will continue to receive funding is far more important as a nonprofit.

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Noah Parsons


Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. You can follow Noah on Twitter .

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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

Brandon Boushy

Woman working on a business plan

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

Three adjoining circles about business opportunity

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

An image showing product service and demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Business plan development

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

SWOT Analysis

Pricing Strategy

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

A notepad with a written executive summary for business plan writing

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

Target market

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

Writing the company philosophy and vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

A man holding an iPad with a cup of coffee on his desk

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:



Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

An iPad with colored pens on a desk

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Business plan SWOT analysis

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

An iPad with graph about pricing strategy

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

A wooden stamp with the words "quality control"

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Organization chart

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

A table showing yearly revenue of a business

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?


Brandon Boushy

Brandon Boushy started his company after years of working in customer service, engineering, and project management. After receiving his MBA, he turned his diverse skills into a business helping other small business owners find resources and strategies that further their business objectives. He focuses on assisting businesses with their marketing, communication, and research needs.

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More From Forbes

Business plan template: a step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs.

What should be in your business plan?

Creating a business plan is a key part of starting any business venture. Even if you’ll never use it in this format for attracting investors and raising capital, it can be vital for helping all entrepreneurs to ask and think through essential questions.

Nowadays business plans are used as an internal roadmap for the execution of the company since pitch decks have taken over when it comes to fundraising required materials.  For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel ( see it here ) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash. Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million ( see it here ).

Don’t skip this part of the process. Though, do not let it become a distraction and slow you down from creating an actual business either.

For key insights on the why, when and how to create a business plan, and emerging alternatives for startups versus small businesses, see my Forbes article on How To Create A Business Plan .

There are many variations of business plans today. Especially, with the rapid growth of lean startups. A few minutes on Google will provide plenty of free business plan template options. The following is adapted from the SCORE Association’s recommended outline of categories, which covers most of the bases for exactly what to include in your business plan.

Executive Summary

This is the most critical part of your business planning. If you never flesh out a full business plan, make sure you create a fantastic executive summary. This brings together all of the key elements of your plan and will often be the make or break document which decides whether commercial lenders or investors will have any interest in seeing the rest of your documentation or pursuing a relationship with you. For additional guidance, you may want to review the Executive Summary Template that I recently covered on Forbes as well.

Company Description

This section provides a further overview of your company now.

Products & Services

List what products and services your company has been formed to create. How are you solving the main problem and are serving the community with your business?

Marketing Plan

This is another section which is an absolute must-have, even if you never develop a fully fledged business plan in its entirety. This holds key information that all financiers and potential investors are going to want to know. Even if you hope to just get away with using a pitch deck to raise the capital you need.

This is also a vital guide for yourself as a founder, and for your growing team as to what needs to be done and how.

Every minute invested in this section can pay great dividends over the longer term.

For further guidance on this section, you may want to review the piece on Forbes with the title How To Create A Marketing Plan . 

Operational Plan

This is your opportunity to organize and demonstrate your understanding of this industry and business.

Management & Organization

This section of your business plan will help you to identify your own needs, and demonstrate to investors and other licensing bodies and agencies that you are the team to get this job done.

It basically shows your management and industry experience and who will do what.

Financial Plan

Provide an honest snapshot of where you are and where you reasonably hope to go, providing you secure the funding you need.

In this section you may also be including startup cost and capitalization requirements, or funding and loan requests.

Startup costs should be thorough, have some additional cushion built in, and focus on development of physical product or intellectual property and growth. Not what you want to pay yourself as a salary.

If fundraising, be sure to include a repayment schedule for any loans, use of funds, runway to follow up fundraising rounds, and the milestones you expect to achieve by then.

Include all other information, references and required documentation here.

This will typically include:

Stay Flexible

Just like your first attempt at coding a website, practicing your pitch, or riding a bike, it’s not going to be perfect. Do your best. Get outside input from an expert. Just don’t wait until you think your business plan is perfectly polished and cannot possible go any further in depth. Otherwise, chances are you will have missed your window of opportunity by a long way.

It is also crucial to understand that nothing in this document is set in stone. Pretty much everything will absolutely change over time. Roles will change, marketing will change, financial projections will change, and your product and service menu can change.

Having raised money for startups, exited them, and after interviewing many of the most successful founders and angel investors on the DealMakers Podcast , I’ve got to experience both the struggles and wins in startup life. Things change rapidly overnight and for this reason you need to adapt quickly to the market and change whatever is required. 

This is a great guide and exercise. It’s a gateway to getting to the next step. Get it done, start taking action and stay flexible.

Creating a business plan remains a valuable part of launching any new business venture. Formats and business plan templates may have evolved, and new documents like pitch decks are becoming even more important.

Though without going through this process many entrepreneurs will find they have huge gaps in their ideas and may fall short when it comes to fielding questions from serious investors. Using this template you will cover most of the bases and will be able to take the next steps with confidence.

Alejandro Cremades

Business Plan Template: Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Own

Business plan template: Step-by-step guide to writing your own

This post was last updated on September 7, 2020.

There’s a difference between deciding it’s a good idea to start a business and actually bringing it to fruition. You will need to take several steps to make it official, such as registering your business and creating a business website . Another quite large leap to truly test your commitment is to write a business plan.

This document will allow you to formulate your ideas into a streamlined and organized process, as well as set goals for your future. With this business plan template guide, you’ll be able to get started on your very own right away.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document used by SMBs, entrepreneurs and other new ventures when starting a business . It serves several purposes, such as attracting potential partners, as well as investors and banks when it comes to raising capital . Most importantly though, you’ll be able to use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, operate and manage your new venture.

Components of a business plan

Executive summary

Company description

Products and services

Market analysis

Marketing and operations plan

Management and organization

Financial projections

01. Executive summary

Before you write your executive summary , you may want to start with a concept statement , a short explanation of what you want to achieve. Your executive summary will then be the strongest component of your business plan. That's not only because it's the first part of the document, but it also serves its own standalone purposes, just like in a business proposal .

We mentioned raising capital above. Your executive summary does the grunt work for that. In order words, it’s a necessary piece of information for getting the attention of investors.

In this section, you should give a high level overview of everything included within. Write a few sentences about each of the components of your business plan - company description, products and services, market analysis and more - while leaving your reader intrigued and wanting to know more. It should be short and engaging, at a maximum two pages long.

Although we have listed this part first, you should write it last. Your executive summary will be placed at the beginning of your business plan, but you won’t know what information to include until you’ve completed the sections below.

02. Company description

The first thing you’ll find yourself writing out is your company description. This piece is pretty straight forward too.

Begin with your business name and the names of your founders. Then, give a background story on your business, as well as the people who started it. Include things like the year and location, your company’s purpose, and your mission statement . Briefly describe your core products or services, but without going into too much information since you’ll want to save that for the next section.

Discuss the development stage of your business at this moment as well as past achievements you’re proud of. You’ll want to draw attention to the competitive advantages that can help your business succeed, such as teaming up with other experts in the industry or offering specialized products or services.

Follow up with your future plans by mentioning your goals, partnered with your plan of action for achieving them. Describe the milestones of these goals in a timeline fashion, thinking in terms of quarters and years. Your current or potential investors and other stakeholders will want to know how you plan to grow your business.

Business plan template: company description

03. Products and services

Here’s where you’ll explain your current and future products and services in depth. You’ll need to provide descriptions and potential names of each offering. Predict any questions that could arise from someone who knows nothing about them or even the related industry. Answer them extensively, making sure to not leave out a single detail.

If you’re still working on your idea, include a proof of concept (POC ) and describe what stage of development you’re in. Next, add diagrams, product images, and other visual components where necessary to explain the product life cycle .

Finish this section by listing your pricing plan, including the cost of the materials and labor, the cost of the final products/services, and the profit you intend to make on each unit.

04. Market analysis

This is one of the most extensive sections of the business plan template, as it has many lengthy parts. You’ll need to conduct market research , draw conclusions, and write out the related findings for the following points:

Industry background: Give a background of the industry your business operates in, whether that’s health and wellness, education, or something else. Answer questions like: “What’s the current status of the industry?” and “How is it expected to change?” Discuss the key business players and their offerings.

Competitor review: List and analyze your top competitors and how you plan to compete with them. Perform a SWOT analysis . This is where you’ll write out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each of these businesses.

Barrier to entry: Explain what makes it difficult for a newcomer to enter the industry. Is it high start up costs? Specific equipment? Patent requirements?

Target market: Here, you will give details about your target market . Describe exactly what your potential customer base looks like within this industry, using your market’s demographics, such as age and occupation. You can also include buyer personas to gain valuable insights into the needs and wants of your ideal customer.

Assess your business: Noting the areas listed above, assess how your business fits into them. What advantages do you have? What does the demand look like for your specific product or service? How will you reach your target audience?

05. Marketing and operations plan

In this section, you’ve got to detail how your business idea will translate into selling and delivering your offerings to potential customers.

Start by building your brand. Establish a brand identity of your own, from the colors and fonts to creating the right online personality for you.

With your brand in place, the next thing to do is explain your advertising and promotion plan, along with your marketing budget. This includes creating a professional website to display and sell your products, and picking the right social media channel for your audience.

The reason you’re thinking this all through ahead of time is because you’ll need to plan how you will fulfill those orders or manage your bookings. You’ll want to explain the labor, supplies, equipment and facility requirements necessary to create and ship orders. If you’re choosing alternative options such as dropshipping , mention those here too.

Business plan template: marketing and operations plan

06. Management and organization

Share with your reader how your business will be structured and who will be the people that make it what it is. This includes everyone from your founders and executive team to all of the other stakeholders.

Stakeholders include Board of Directors and advisors, shareholders, heads of departments and other team members. Even if you haven’t hired all of these people yet, it’s important to show what your venture will eventually look like with all of them on board.

To display all of this, create a visual layout of your stakeholders. A diagram or pyramid of some sort will do the job. Following that, describe the roles of the key players mentioned in your illustration.

07. Financial projections

It’s always important to know how you will be able to sustain your business financially, both for your own sake and for that of potential investors.

In this section, write out the answers to the following kinds of questions:

How much will you need to invest at first?

How much funding are you requesting from investors?

How long until you’ll start earning a profit?

How much profit do you expect to earn in the next year? 3 years? 5 years?

Additionally, you’ll need to be able to manage your finances through budgeting and keeping track of your income and expenses. This is both to understand how much money is coming in and out, and to be able to pay your obligatory taxes.

08. Appendices

For this final section, list any additional information that will help readers understand the full picture of your business. If you referenced any visuals, research data, or links in your business plan, you can include the supporting details here.

Also make sure to place in this section your licenses, trademarks and patents, contracts, articles of incorporation, insurance, and appraisals.

Wix business plan template

Business plan template

Writing a business plan may sound daunting at first, but with the right template, you will feel confident about choosing the right direction for your business idea. To facilitate this process, we recommend using our free business plan template for inspiration:

Download your free Wix business plan template

By Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg

Wix Blog Writer


This Blog was created with  Wix Blog

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

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

Business plans are also crucial for external affairs. If you want to want to take out a loan, bring on a business partner, or more you'll need a solid plan in order. Your plan should be your pitch.

However, writing a business plan isn't easy and not everyone knows exactly what the business plan should outline. What's even more confusing is that no two business plans should look the same. We wrote a complete guide to show what your business plan should detail and how to write it.

How to Write a Traditional Business Plan

Additional Tips

Things to know before you begin writing.

Know your audience. For example, if your business operates in a very niche space, you don't want to use niche and complex language that no one will understand if your plan will be reviewed by lenders or investors who don't have much knowledge of your space.

Also, keep the length of your plan in mind when it comes to your reader. We would always recommend keeping your plan as short as possible, but certain readers might want to see more details while others might want only the high level information. For example, a potential business partner will likely want to see a bit more details than an underwriter evaluating your business. However, don't go overboard with this and write a 50-page plan, as no one will read that.

Pick Your Format (traditional vs. lean startup)

There are now two ways you can write your business plan. The traditional route, and the most common, is likely what you'll be using. The traditional plan contains far more details and should be used for most scenarios. Alternatively, you can explore a lean startup plan , which are onepagers and detail your business only at the highest level. This is most appropriate for businesses that are likely to change quickly or are on a very, very short timeline.

A traditional plan is typically comprised of seven sections that are each crucial for explaining a different angle of your business. The length and detail of your plan will vary with the audience of the plan and how mature your business is. You'll use a business plan to sell your business to investors, qualify your business with for a loan with lenders, and more. Having a solid plan is always useful and can also help keep your actions as a business owner on track.

Step 1: Write an Executive Summary

As with any other piece of writing, this introduction to your plan is the hook. Why should the reader believe in your business? Sell your business and explain why it matters. Additionally, supplement your sell with a high level summary of your plan and operating model. However, don't go over one or two pages.

Feel free to include the following as well:

Step 2: Write a Business Description

This is your first opportunity to really go into detail about your business. What's the opportunity that your business is capitalizing on? What's the target market? How are you standing out from competitors? Highlight how your business is differentiated.

Step 3: Market and Competitive Analysis

Any good business will have done comprehensive analyses of the market that its entering. This doesn't just apply to large corporations, and your reader will likely want to see evidence of this. Here, you can describe the industry and market your business will operate in and highlight the opportunities your business will take advantage of. Did your market research reveal any unique trends? If so, this is the place to show it.

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well? Why are you moving into this space, and what's the weakness to be exploited in the industry? How will competitors logically react? Are you going to take competitors' customers? How?

Step 4: Operational Structure

This now gets into the tangible details of your business. How will your business operate on a day-to-day basis? Your plan should really detail this out.

What's your business's legal structure? Is it a sole proprietorship? Include this as well. We'd recommend putting together an organizational chart if there are multiple stakeholders to not only show who's involved but to also show how everyone brings something to the table.

Step 5: Product Description

Now, you finally get to discuss in detail what you'll be selling or offering. What's your good or service that's for sale? This section will likely be a bit longer than the others because of its importance.

Be sure to describe your product and how it is differentiated from similar ones. How will it be priced, and how does that play in the market compared to competitors?

Also include a marketing or promotions plan here. You could have the best product in the world but it won't matter if no one knows about it. Identify your target market and really detail out how you'll make that market aware of your product. What's the message you want to promote and why does that resonate with your specific product and the target audience? How will you build awareness and retain loyalty?

Step 6: Raise Capital

If you intend for a prospective investor or lender to read this, you'll want to include a section here on your funding request. Be clear with how much you're asking for and why. You don't want to ask for a $100,000 loan or investment without a clear plan as to what exactly that money would be used for. On top of explaining what the funds would be used for, also clearly state the projected ROI.

Step 7: Financial Analysis and Projections

It doesn't matter if you include a request for funding in your plan, you will want to include a financial analysis here. You'll want to do two things here: Paint a picture of your business's performance in the past and show it will grow in the future. Use charts and images to help make the experience easier.

If your business has already been operating for a few years, demonstrate stability through your finances. But if your business is newer and not yet profitable, be clear and realistic with your projections. For example, if your sales have been increasing at a steady 5% every quarter, you don't want to suddenly assume 50% sales growth per quarter for no reason.

Research industry norms and look up how comparable businesses have performed. Include income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements for multiple years if possible. When showing your financial outlook, project your vision out over at least five years. Clearly state the logic behind your projections, and you can also tie this section back to your previous section on raising capital if applicable.

Step 8: Appendix

If you have any remaining pieces of information such as relevant patents, licenses, charts or anything else that wasn't able to fit in organically in the plan elsewhere, feel free to include those here. Don't use this as a space as a document dump. Instead, be absolutely sure that every piece of information that goes here goes toward supporting your business plan.

How to Write a Lean Startup Business Plan

The logic behind lean startup plans is that every business plan can be divided into nine segments. Without going into detail, you can describe each of those segments at a high enough level where they can be listed out on a single page. Compared to the traditional business plan, this allows for far more flexibility in case your business drastically changes quickly. There are dozens of templates to choose from but the most common is listed here .

Here are the basic components you'll need in a lean startup plan:

Customer Segments. Describe your target audience(s) that your business will appeal to. Most businesses will have multiple segments listed here and it's imperative that you properly identify them.

Value Proposition. Your business will potentially appeal to different customer segments in different ways. If that's the case, you should list out the different value propositions for each segment clearly and succinctly. If that isn't the case, you can list out the single value proposition your company will have. If you can't figure out what your value proposition is, that means you don't know what your business's value add is.

Channels. How is your value proposition going to be communicated to your customers? Detail out brand awareness as well as ongoing communication channels with your customers.

Customer Relationships. After you've explained how you'll be communicating to your customers, think about the kind of relationship you'll want to maintain with them. Will communication be ongoing? Will you personally be contacting them or sending automated emails?

Revenue Streams. How will your business make money? At what point in the relationship with your customers do you start to recognize revenue? Most companies will have multiple streams although if your business is just starting out, you may only have one. That's OK, but just be sure to demonstrate you know exactly where your revenue will come from.

Key Resources. You've described how you'll be capturing revenue from your customers, but what will the infrastructure look like that will support it? Supporting resources may include but aren't limited to staff or capital.

Key Activities. What are the absolute necessary activities in your plan for your business to be successful? Detail them out here and show why they're important.

Key Partnerships. As a new business, you likely won't own all of your key resources and won't be able to do all of the key activities yourself. What other entities are you working with? Consider suppliers, vendors and anyone else you're planning on doing business with.

Cost Structure. Now that you understand your business's infrastructure and needs, you can detail out the total projected costs of your business or at least identify the biggest costs you have in your plan right now. What is your plan to ensure you're maximizing the value out of those costs?

Be efficient with your plan: Be sure every single word and image in your plan serves a purpose. You don't want window dressing for the sake of window dressing here. Being concise and getting straight to the point will help make your plan more digestible and easier to understand.

If your plan starts to exceed 20 pages, really proofread tosee if anything should be cut out. Also, follow the advice we mentioned above and be aware of your audience. Don't write a plan that will confuse or bore the reader.

Keep yourself honest: Don't assume a fantasy world when writing your plan. Be honest and realistic. Use industry or sector benchmarks to determine what those realistic measures are, and be wary of inflating projections. This is a very common problem and it doesn't help anyone out.

Accept help: There are so many free resources both online and in person to help with all small-business affairs. Nonprofit organizations like SCORE offer things like free mentoring and can help you write your business plan. If you're a woman or a minority, there are many government sponsored resources like the National Women's Business Council that also provide free consulting.

What needs to be in a business plan?

The exact contents of a business plan will differ plan by plan, but in general, the typical plan should include an executive summary, a business description, a market or competitive analysis, a description of the proposed operational structure, a product description, and a pitch to raise capital if applicable.

Why is a business plan important?

Business plans are efficient ways to explain your business in a comprehensive and broad manner. Lenders may make decisions to lend to you based on your business plan. Investors may decide whether they want to invest in your business based on your plan.

Not only are plans useful to externally communicate details about your business, they're also useful as an internal reference. Plans will help keep your business on track and help align your strategic goals with actions that you make on a daily basis.

How do I write a business plan for a loan?

Most lenders will require a business plan from applicants. A business plan should always take the audience into account and in this case, you'll want to emphasize how your business stands out in the market, why it's likely to be a success, and how your plan involves paying off your loan quickly and on time. As long as a lender is confident that you'd be able to meet your loan repayments, your business plan did its job.

What's the difference between a traditional and a lean plan?

A traditional plan is far more common and will carry a lot more detail than a lean plan. While the two are relatively similar in content and structure, a lean plan only contains the bare minimum level of detail. A lean plan is usually a one-pager and only has the minimum amount of detail to be able to describe the business at the highest level and should only be used when the company is both very new and time is scarce.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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How to Write a Business Plan Template the Correct Way: Ultimate Guide

How to Write a Business Plan Template the Correct Way

Here’s the deal: not many small business owners know how to write a proper business plan, nor do they want to spend hours making one.

Some resort to using business plan templates available online, but not all of them are suitable for all companies or business types.

We’ll talk you through what a business plan is, why they are useful, and how to write your own.

We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of using a business plan template or a business planning tool.

So pull out that comfy chair, and let’s get started – it’s time to really nail your executive summary.

how to write a business plan step by step template

What your business plan must include

All entrepreneurs can benefit from a well-written and structured business plan.

Because a well-written business plan gives any startup business strategic focus and clear structure.

A simple business plan should include at least the following:

Writing a business plan template is not difficult when you know what to include and how to do it best.

how to write a business plan step by step template

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Step 1: Executive summary

This first section provides the reader with a snapshot of your grand plan.

In its simplicity, your executive summary covers the main points of your company as a whole.

This section should be brief, attractive, and comprehensive – think of it as your company’s elevator pitch.

When writing your business plan, you should include at least these in your management summary:

Though this section comes first in most business plan formats, it’s recommended to work on this section last.

That’s because your executive summary is an overview of your entire business plan: it helps the reader decide whether the rest of your business plan is worth reading.

So you want it to be good, right?

A view of an industrial airport by a river

Step 2: Company and industry overview

The description of your company and the field you’re in are next up in your business plan.

Begin with your company description, which has to contain the  structure of your business, the overall organizational structure , and the history of your company.

Mention the key members of your management team and their qualifications, as well as potential shareholders.

Next, go into details about what your field of business is all about:

Include any achievements related to your if necessary.

You want to describe how you view your company in relation to the field, community, or industry it’s a part of.

Don’t forget to define your current company goals in this section of your business plan.

Make sure they are tangible and realistic – and don’t forget to set a deadline for each of them.

But don’t go overboard: keep things brief. You’ll go into more detail about how to achieve your goals in step six.

Step 3: Product and service description

In this part, it’s time to write about the products and/or services your company offers.

To start, illustrate how the product or service was developed – from its early stages until the final form.

Describe how it’s made, how the quality is maintained, how much it costs to produce, and so on. Use visual aids to assist readers.

Finally, explain how the product or service works and how long it lasts.

Highlight its features and elaborate on how it benefits customers. Mention what aspects you hope to improve in the future.

If you’ve sold some units already, include some key customer feedback and potential figures on the sales.

Arial view of a busy marketplace

Step 4: Target market and market analysis

This section of your business plan aims to explain your competitive edge against other companies.

A good business plan does this by showing your understanding of your target audience and competition.

Get started by defining your ideal target audience .

Specify their age, gender, profession, and other demographic indicators. Explain why they might be interested in purchasing your offers.

For your competitors, mention companies involved in the same industry and market. Research their audience and the reasons people choose them.

Go over your competitor’s product or service, reviews, customer service, and other relevant aspects. Present a side-by-side comparison between competitors and your company to highlight the differences.

Make sure to describe things competitors don’t offer the market that you can. Establish the opportunities and strengths you have against them. This will be your  competitive advantage .

For this section, it’s better to use plenty of visual data from your research.

After all, you want to write your business plan so that it’s easy to understand – especially when persuading a potential team of investors.

how to write a business plan step by step template

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Step 5: Sales and marketing strategies

In this section, explain how you’ll attract and retain customers.

Go over your sales strategy and marketing plan. Talk about your pricing, branding, advertising, and other marketing efforts, like packaging and distribution costs.

Always remember to think of your ideal buyer persona when coming up with your marketing plan.

Include digital marketing strategies. You can outline how you’ll maximize your website’s SEO and ads on search engines and social media.

Try visualizing the customer experience. Show how buyers might find your business and be prompted to purchase.

To end the section, write down your sales and marketing budget.

A calendar with a postit note that says make it happen

Step 6: Execution plan

Your execution plan is a list of milestones that you’re aiming to complete while reaching your company’s goals (those that you set in step 2).

Let’s say your goal is to expand your clothing business.

To do that, you plan to add new products. Your milestones could include completing new designs, testing prototypes, creating the final versions of your products, and finally, selling X amount of your new products to buying customers.

For new entrepreneurs and small businesses, milestones can be tasks for setting up the company – such as dealing with legal documents, figuring out how much money you need, renting office space, or recruiting employees.

How many milestones you need will depend on your goals. Don’t forget to map out the resources you’ll need to complete each action – such as the equipment, facilities, and the team members involved.

Don’t forget to describe your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats while reaching milestones.

Step 7: Financial plan

Regardless of the business plan template you’re using, a section for your finances is almost always included in the typical business plan format.

Your financial plan discusses every aspect of your business’s finances.

It covers the budget, your business expenses, and your sales revenue, which will be useful for showing financial projections.

Overall, the plan should demonstrate your company’s growth opportunities and profitability .

If you’re a fresh entrepreneur , use your budget calculations, product or service pricing, and your market research to create your financial projections.

Existing companies can use past data to create forecasts for the next three to five years.

Generally, you want to include:

Write down your funding request if you want to show your plan to investors or lenders. Include the total funding amount, the lending purpose, and lending terms.

If you’re asking for equity, specify the percentage investors will own. If you want to get a loan, explain how you’ll repay them.

Be specific and realistic when creating your financial plan. Make sure to not overestimate your projections.

People looking at documents at a desk

Step 8: Appendix

You’re almost done creating a business plan – well done, champ.

The appendix, or the last section of your business plan, encompasses further information that readers might need to understand your business.

Include any supplementary data from earlier sections in this part of your business plan: think detailed statistics of your market research, or images of your marketing materials, like different versions of your logo .

The appendix is also a place to insert copies of important documents related to the business, such as legal documents. Add some information about the business owners as well, like resumes and credit histories.

This way, your business plan leaves nothing to chance and can help you get funding easier.

What is a business plan and why do you need one?

A business plan is a document that sets up an actionable roadmap for establishing a new business, or further growing an existing company.

It allows you to identify potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that your company will face in your field of business.

This way, your business is prepared to face potential hurdles and knows what to expect from the market.

You might not think so, but both new and existing business owners can benefit from writing a business plan.

It’s usually a requirement for any startup to even dream of setting up a meeting with a potential investor.

And as for existing businesses, a business plan is a useful strategic tool: it will help the management team to keep their eyes on the bigger picture and steering the business towards its initial goals.

Business planning with a business plan template

If you’re not sure how to write a business plan, there’s no shame in using free business plan templates.

Most often, a simple Google search is a great place to get started.

For example, if you’re in the UK, British Business Bank offers free business plan templates in both PDF and .docx formats.

Some companies, like  Law Depot , even provide free business plan customization services.

Business Plan Template by Law Depot

There are also premium programs designed for writing business plans, like  BizPlan .

Paid software usually provides more customization options and resources to help you make your business look amazing on paper.

BizPlan Business Plan Template Software

Different types of business plans

Depending on the size, industry, and current status of your company, the way you write a business plan can differ from your fellow entrepreneur.

Standard business plan

This type of business plan gives the reader a complete picture of the company.

Usually intended for external use, a standard business plan covers everything from an in-depth company description to a breakdown of its products and services, strategies, goals, and finances.

Internal or lean business plan

These types of business plans tend to be meant for internal eyes only.

They are shorter and more focused on sales and marketing strategies, milestone deadlines, and the overall direction of the company.

Typically, a lean business plan glosses over the highlights of the business rather than conducting an in-depth analysis of the company.

Startup business plan

If you’re looking to start a business, you probably won’t have lots of existing data to base your financial forecasts on.

A startup’s business plan follows the business plan format of a standard plan.

Usually, it includes more information on the background of the founders, a detailed market and industry analysis, and a comprehensive breakdown of finances – something that most investors are interested in.

A document with charts on it on a desk

One-page business plan

This simple business plan aims to summarize your business.

Also referred to as a business pitch, a one-page plan is normally intended for external use.

Many businesses have a one-page business plan at hand at the preliminary stages of talking with a new business partner or investor. Usually, a summary of who you are and what you do is useful at this stage of negotiations.

Operational business plan

Most businesses create a business plan that maps out the year ahead.

These annual plans are usually for internal use but might be interesting for external stakeholders, too.

Include operational details, like project deadlines, sales targets, and team responsibilities in this type of plan.

Strategic business plan

The idea behind a strategic business plan is to look at where your startup or business is going, and how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Strategic business plans are usually meant for internal eyes only, and look at your company’s vision, mission, and different milestones your business plans to reach.

Most small businesses benefit from including a SWOT analysis into their strategic plans.

Pros and cons of using a business plan template

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How to Write a Detailed Business Plan, Step-by-Step (Free Templates)

Posted november 14, 2022 by noah parsons.

how to write a business plan step by step

Writing a business plan is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Study after study proves that business planning significantly improves your chances of success by up to 30 percent . That’s because the planning process helps you think about all aspects of your business and how your business will operate and grow.

In fact, writing a business plan is one of the only free things you can do to greatly impact the success and growth of your business. Ready to write your own detailed business plan? Here’s everything you need ( along with a free template ) to create your plan.

Before you write a detailed business plan, start with a one-page business plan

Despite the benefit of planning, it’s easy to procrastinate writing a business plan. Most people would prefer to work hands-on in their business rather than think about business strategy. That’s why, to make things easier, we recommend you start with a simpler and shorter one-page business plan .

With a one-page plan, there’s no need to go into a lot of details or dive deep into financial projections—you just write down the fundamentals of your business and how it works. A one-page plan should cover:


Target market.

A one-page business plan is a great jumping-off point in the planning process. It’ll give you an overview of your business and help you quickly refine your ideas.

If you’re ready to work on your one-page plan, check out our guide to writing a one-page business plan . It has detailed instructions, examples, and even a free downloadable template .

When do you need a more detailed business plan?

A one-page plan doesn’t always capture all the information that you need, however. If that’s the case, then it may be time to expand into a more detailed business plan.

There are several reasons for putting together a detailed business plan:

Flesh out the details 

A one-page business plan is just a summary of your business. If you want to document additional details such as market research, marketing and sales strategies, or product direction—you should expand your plan into a longer, more detailed plan. 

Build a more detailed financial forecast

A one-page plan only includes a summary of your financial projections. A detailed plan includes a full financial forecast, including a profit and loss statement , balance sheet , and cash flow forecast —one of the most important forecasts for any business.

Be prepared for lenders and investors

While investors might not ask to actually read your business plan, they will certainly ask detailed questions about your business. Planning is the only way to be well-prepared for these investor meetings.

Selling your business

If you’re selling your business, a detailed business plan presentation will be part of your sales kit. Potential buyers will want to know the details of how your business works, from marketing details to your product roadmap.

A powerful, data-driven process anyone can use. Explore Growth Planning

How to write a detailed business plan

When you do need to write a detailed business plan, focus on the parts most important to you and your business. If you plan on distributing your plan to outsiders, you should complete every section. But, if your plan is just for internal use, focus on the areas that will help you right now.

For example, if you’re struggling with marketing, spend time working on your target market section and marketing strategy and skip the sections covering the company organization.

Let’s go step-by-step through the sections you should include in your business plan:

1. Executive summary

Yes, the executive summary comes first in your plan, but you should write it last, once you know all the details of your business plan. It is truly just a summary of all the details in your plan, so be careful not to be too repetitive—just summarize and try to keep it to one or two pages at most. If you’ve already put together a one-page business plan, you can use that here instead of writing a new executive summary.

Your executive summary should be able to stand alone as a document because it’s often useful to share just the summary with potential investors. When they’re ready for more detail, they’ll ask for the full business plan.

For existing businesses, write the executive summary for your audience—whether it’s investors, business partners, or employees. Think about what your audience will want to know and just hit the highlights.

The key parts of your plan that you’ll want to highlight in your executive summary are:

2. Opportunity

The “opportunity” section of your business plan is all about the products and services that you are creating. The goal is to explain why your business is exciting and the problems that it solves for people. You’ll want to cover:

Mission statement

A mission statement is a short summary of your overall goals. It’s a short summary of how you hope to improve customers’ lives with your products and services. It’s a summary of the aspirations of your business and the guiding north star for you and your team. 

Problem & solution

Most successful businesses solve a problem for their customers. Their products and services make people’s lives easier or fill an unmet need in the marketplace. In this section, you’ll want to explain the problem that you solve, whom you solve it for, and what your solution is. This is where you go in-depth to describe what you do and how you improve the lives of your customers.

In the previous section, you summarized your target customer. Now you’ll want to describe them in much greater detail. You’ll want to cover things like your target market’s demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) and psychographics (hobbies and other behaviors). Ideally, you can also estimate the size of your target market so you know how many potential customers you might have.

Every business has competition , so don’t leave this section out. You’ll need to explain what other companies are doing to serve your customers or if your customers have other options for solving the problem you are solving. Explain how your approach is different and better than your competitors, whether it’s better features, better pricing, or a better location. Explain why a customer would come to you instead of going to another company. 

3. Execution

This section of your business plan dives into how you’re going to accomplish your goals. While the Opportunity section discussed what you’re doing, you now need to explain the specifics of how you’re going to do it.

Marketing & sales

What marketing tactics do you plan to use to get the word out about your business? You’ll want to explain how you get customers to your door and what the sales process looks like. For businesses that have a sales force, explain how the sales team gets leads and what the process is like for closing a sale.

Depending on the type of business that you are starting, the operations section needs to be customized to meet your needs. If you are building a mail-order business you’ll want to cover how you source your products and how fulfillment will work .

If you’re building a manufacturing business, explain the manufacturing process and the facilities you need to use. This is where you’ll talk about how your business “works,” meaning, you should explain what day-to-day functions and processes are needed to make your business successful.

Milestones & metrics

Until now, your business plan has mostly discussed what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. The milestones and metrics section is all about timing. Your plan should highlight key dates and goals that you intend to hit. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. You should also discuss key metrics: the numbers you will track to determine your success.

Use the Company section of your business plan to explain the overall structure of your business and the team behind it.

Organizational structure

Describe your location, facilities, and anything else about your physical location that is relevant to your business. You’ll also want to explain the legal structure of your business—are you an S-corp, C-corp, or an LLC? What does company ownership look like?

Arguably one of the most important parts of your plan when seeking investment is the “Team” section. This should explain who you are and who else is helping you run the business. Focus on experience and qualifications for building the type of business that you want to build. 

It’s OK if you don’t have a complete team yet. Just highlight the key roles that you need to fill and the type of person you hope to hire for each role.

5. Financial plan and projections

Your business plan has now covered the “what”, the “how”, and the “when” for your business. Now it’s time to talk about money. What revenue do you plan on bringing in and when? What kind of expenses will you have?

Financial Forecasts

Your sales forecast should cover at least the first 12 months of your business and ideally contain educated guesses at the following two years in annual totals. Some investors and lenders might want to see a five-year forecast, but three years is usually enough.

You’ll want to cover sales, expenses, personnel costs, asset purchases, and more. You’ll end up with three key financial statements: An Income Statement (also called Profit and Loss), a Cash Flow Statement , and a Balance Sheet .

If you’re raising money for your business, the Financing section is where you describe how much you need. Whether you’re getting loans or investments, you should highlight what you need, and when you need it. Ideally, you’ll also want to summarize the specific ways that you’ll use the cash once you have it in hand.

6. Appendix 

The final section of your business plan is the appendix. Include detailed financial forecasts here as well as any other key documentation for your business. If you have product schematics, patent information, or any other details that aren’t appropriate for the main body of the plan but need to be included for reference.

Download a business plan template

Are you ready to write your business plan? Get started by downloading our free business plan template . With that, you will be well on your way to a better business strategy, with all of the necessary information expected in a more detailed plan.

If you want to elevate your ability to build a healthy, growing business, you may want to consider LivePlan.

It’s a product that makes planning easy and features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results.

Using your plan to grow your business

Your business plan isn’t just a document to attract investors or close a bank loan. It’s a tool that helps you better manage and grow your business. And you’ll get the most value from your business plan if you use it as part of a growth planning process . 

With growth planning, you’ll easily create and execute your plan, track performance, identify opportunities and issues, and consistently revise your strategy. It’s a flexible process that encourages you to build a plan that fits your needs.  So, whether you stick with a one-page plan or expand into a more detailed business plan—you’ll be ready to start growth planning. 

Ready to try it for yourself? Learn how LivePlan can help you use this modern business planning method to write your plan and consistently grow your business.

Noah Parsons

Noah Parsons

Posted in business plan writing.

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

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

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

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how to write a business plan step by step template

What is a Business Plan? 

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

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

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

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

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

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how to write a business plan step by step template

Understand Your Audience

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

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

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

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

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

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

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

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

how to write a business plan step by step template

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

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

Executive Summary

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

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

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

Company Description

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

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

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

Products & Services

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

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

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

Market Analysis

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

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

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

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

Marketing & Sales

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

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

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

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

Management & Organization

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

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

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

Funding Request

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

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

Financial Projections

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

how to write a business plan step by step template

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

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

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

SWOT Analysis

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

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

how to write a business plan step by step template

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

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

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

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

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Business plan templates take your business to the next level

If you’re starting a new business, or changing or expanding an existing one, it’s critical to have a solid plan to guide your decisions. A Microsoft business plan template can help get you started. Business plan templates offer step-by-step instructions and prefabricated slides for your executive summary, company overview, financial plan, and more. You’ll even find a business plan template for specific industries including business plan templates in Word for healthcare providers, professional services, and retail. Enlist your management team, or for a sole proprietor, trusted family and friends, to contribute to your plan using a checklist business plan template in Excel. Assign tasks and deadlines to keep everyone accountable and on track. There are also free business plan templates to help you determine your business’ legal structure, define your target audience, and map out your marketing plan. Explore all the business plan template options to find what suits your needs.

Step-by-step guide on writing a lean business plan with templates

Step-by-step guide on writing a lean business plan with templates

If you’ve got a good idea and an entrepreneurial spirit, you’ve probably considered starting your own business at some point.

But, even if you’ve got some experience with business operations, actually bringing that idea to life is no simple task.

Traditional business plans can help, but they might be far too complicated if you’re in the early stages of business development or you aren’t intended to seek external funding to start your company.

If that’s the case, a lean business plan is probably a better answer.

In this article, we’ll talk you through the details of a lean business plan, and we’ll show you how to write in this step-by-step guide.

Ready? Let’s get to it.

Before you start your business plan

What is a lean business plan.

Lean business plans tend to be geared toward early-stage businesses that don’t need any kind of outside investment and have no intention to seek financing in order to start their business.

Lean plans are more flexible than traditional business plans. They cover much of the same information — but not all of it — and the format isn’t as strict.

However, there is a key difference to consider.

Traditional business plan

A traditional business plan ( template here ) is primarily a marketing document designed to help an entrepreneur acquire funding.

With a traditional plan, the business owner needs to prove that they’ve considered their business fully and show a potential investor (or banking agent) how they plan to invest the funds to create a successful enterprise.

Lean business plan

A lean business plan is more of a vision document. The plan format doesn’t usually include any kind of financial documentation, and it doesn’t always follow a predetermined template or format.

Instead, this plan is much shorter (often one or two pages) and is primarily designed to help new business owners get their ideas on paper and figure out how to transform them into a viable company.

It’s possible to scale a lean plan into a traditional plan if funding is required, but it’s not the main purpose of this plan.

With all that said, keep in mind that any business plan is still all about helping you make money at the end of the day.

While your lean business plan will probably be shorter than a traditional plan and all accompanying financial documentation, the decisions that you make while planning will have a direct financial impact on your business once you get started.

The key difference is that you’ll be investing (and losing) your own money — so it pays to be prudent, do your market research, and come back with a plan that maximizes your profit while minimizing costs.

Remember: A lean plan isn’t a shortcut to creating an effective business strategy or a viable company.

No matter your bottom line, if you don’t have the necessary financial resources, the company won’t be able to accomplish its goals and may not even be able to keep its doors open.

A lean plan can help you define your vision and determine the best path forward but, like all business plans, it’s only as good as the work you put into it.

Why do you need a lean plan?

Lean business plans, like other types of plans, are most useful when helping you better understand the environment surrounding your business and how your company will need to operate in order to stay competitive in the marketplace.

A lean business plan can help you determine each of the following details:

As you write your plan, you’ll need to evaluate your target marketing, including buyers and brand competitors.

You’ll need to develop strategies for how you’ll stand out, what sales channels make the most sense for your business, and how you need to talk about your products and services in order to generate strong interest from buyers.

Without this information, you risk launching your business into an unknown and unexplored market, which will open you up to massive deficits and competitive exposure as you try to adjust on the fly.

When should you write your lean business plan?

There are a few great times to write any business plan, and a lean business plan is no exception.

Keeping in mind that a lean plan is a business document, you should consider creating this plan in any of the following circumstances:

However, it’s important to note that a lean plan isn’t a static document that needs to be frozen in time.

Unlike a traditional business plan, which often serves as a snapshot of your business operations and planning, a lean plan is flexible enough to evolve quickly and can be updated with greater frequency as your business grows and customer needs evolve.

Businesses commonly discover new or related markets shortly after they first open their doors, necessitating a pivot in products and services.

Update your lean plan accordingly and share it with your leadership team, then execute a new strategy to capture the new opportunity.

Parts of a lean business plan

In this section, we’ll cover the parts of a lean business plan.

While we’ll cover each section in-depth below, one important thing to remember is that your lean plan should be focused on developing your business idea into a viable company.

To do that, you’ll need business partners, a decent understanding of your cost structure, and some insights into what successful businesses in your industry might look like.

These plans are best-fits for early-stage startups (pre-seed), solopreneurs, and similar businesses with no immediate need for funding.

If you’re planning to launch your business as part of a funding-backed enterprise, be prepared to use the information you gather as part of a lean plan into a more traditional plan when the need arises.

01. Identity

The identity section of your document covers your business details, including what your company does and how you identify with your target customers.

It’s often best to think of this as an elevator pitch for your business. Your identity statement doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it should sum up the crux of your business in a few words.

If you find that you can’t do that when formulating your business, you might need to spend more time thinking about what you’re actually trying to do and how you can best serve your intended market.

02. Problem worth solving

Put simply, this section represents an existing problem that you’re getting into business to solve.

What’s driving you to start the business? Maybe you feel like a specific service doesn’t exist or you can offer better pricing or a better experience in a unique market.

Once your business enters the market, what problem will it solve?

03. Solution

If the problem (listed above) is one half of the equation, how you plan to solve it is the other half.

In this section, you’ll want to highlight your answer to that problem by pointing out how your business solves the issue.

While the details are obviously more complex than what you can list in a lean plan, this solution should encapsulate how your business stands apart from everyone else.

04. Target market

In this section, you’ll want to list your ideal customers for your business. You can do this using a number or bulleted list, and it doesn’t have to be particularly complicated.

Because a lean plan isn’t as in-depth as a traditional business plan, it might be tempting to add any potential customer to this list.

Further reading: How to find your target market

However, it’s best if you take a little time and do some additional market research to ensure the customer you want exists in quantities large enough to sustain your business.

05. Competition

No matter how unique your business or idea, you’ll always have competitors.

Take a look around (both locally and online!) and see who might offer services that are similar or competitive to yours.

Keep in mind that, while pricing and cost aren’t everything, they play a large role in the marketplace.

Consider that as one factor among many while trying to assess your competition.

06. Sales сhannels

Depending on the nature of your business, your sales channels will vary.

Do you plan to sell products online-only, or are you opening a retail store for products? Do you even sell a physical product? Will services be rendered remotely or in person?

07. Marketing activities

One of the most important aspects of your business deals with how you’re planning to inform your customers about your business and the services you offer.

Raising customer awareness and generating leads is one of the most important things that a business can do, but marketing activities can also become a major cost center for the business.

Even though a lean plan is designed to help clarify the bigger picture, it’s important to do your research before you decide on your planned marketing tactics.

08. Revenue streams

We said it before, but it bears repeating: At the end of the day, it’s all about the money. You’ll need cash flow to keep your business afloat.

In this section, you’ll want to cover how you plan to generate that revenue. What products or services do you plan to sell? What will be your flagship products?

In the example below, we’ve listed a flagship product or service for each of our imaginary businesses. However, you can list multiple products or services for your own business as bullet points in this section.

09. Expenses

To keep your business running, you’ll need to invest some of your revenue back into the company to cover operating expenses.

Further reading: 12 Major Business Expenses (and How to Reduce Them)

In this section, you’ll want to highlight those primary cost centers. If you’re still in the planning process for your business, you may not have any metrics for your own operation.

In that case, doing your research can help you better determine what major expenses you’re likely to encounter as you get your business off the ground.

10. Milestones

Now that you’ve got most of the basics out of the way, you’ll need to come up with logical next steps to get your business operations underway.

To do this, you’ll create milestones to meet your business needs. While these milestones can be quite broad and may involve many subtasks, they still need to have some specificity so that you can plan for the future.

11. Team and key roles

Some businesses can be done alone, but most are a team effort. In this section, you’ll want to list all of the key players and roles that you need in order for your business to function.

Keep in mind that, as the business owner, the expertise and knowledge of your staff are some of your most valuable assets. Depending on your niche and your specialty, replacing a key employee can be a major challenge.

While building out your list, consider what steps you’ll need to take when a key player exits your business.

12. Partners and resources

No business can thrive on its own.

Whether you need help with your marketing strategy or you need to hand over your books to an accountant at the end of the year, you’ll need partners to help you navigate murkier waters.

In this section, list any major partners and key resources that you’ll need in order to continue operating with your competitive advantage.

Better business planning with PandaDoc

While writing a business plan might feel like a monumental task, it’s often the first major step when starting your business.

PandaDoc can help you do more with your business plan by offering advanced layout, formatting, and collaboration tools.

Grab a free business plan template from the template library and see the PandaDoc editor in action by signing up for a free 14-day trial .

Originally published Oct 17, 2017, updated Jun 21, 202 2

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between a lean business plan and a formal business plan.

A detailed business plan is much longer and is typically used whenever you need financing.

When you’re creating a plan for your own use, or when you’re planning to self-fund and aren’t seeking investors, a lean plan can be the better way to get started.

That being said, you can always scale up your lean plan into a traditional business plan, if you decide that funding or additional information is needed.

None of the work that goes into your lean plan needs to be wasted if you decide that your situation demands something a little more formal somewhere down the line.

Is a business plan required to start a business?

A business plan definitely isn’t required to open your business, especially if you aren’t seeking a loan.  However, good planning can help you achieve your goals faster and with lower overall costs.

A business plan, whether you use a one-page business plan like the lean plan here or a traditional plan, forces you to formalize your idea and conduct market research that will help to further define your brand.

Often, creating a workable plan requires you to determine key metrics and ideal customer segments.  Formal plans may even ask for sales forecasts or financial forecasts to help lenders better understand your projected profits.

You won’t see as much of that with a lean plan, though the numbers-driven details should definitely play a role in your regular review once the business is up and running.

Do I have to have everything done before I start my business?

No, and you probably won’t.

No matter how well you prepare, no business plan will ever be perfect, and you’ll always encounter some unexpected problem that no one anticipated. A business plan can help you predict some of those problems, but you won’t be able to plan for scenarios where a distributor has trouble or a new competitor opens its doors.

At some point, you’ll have to stop writing and start operating your business. Set a personal deadline to stop planning and start working.

Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

How long should my business plan be?

This depends on your plan and the objective of the plan itself.

Lean business plans like the one listed here are often created using a single page or a few pages (at most). Even if you want to follow a more traditional route, a personal plan probably shouldn’t run more than around 10 pages.

That’s different from a funded startup, which can be closer to 30 pages, once the market analysis and all financial details are accounted for. These plans venture strongly into VC and investment funding, which often necessitates higher investments and a great amount of due diligence. In these scenarios, you might also be looking at a pitch rather than a plan.

For more traditional businesses or existing businesses seeking funding from a small business loan officer, somewhere between 7 and 15 pages is probably sufficient for your needs.

Can I change my business plan after I’ve written it?

Certainly. In fact, this is expected.

A business plan is best viewed as a living document that should grow and evolve with your company. Markets shift. Public interest goes in new directions. New competitors and business opportunities may arise.

As your business grows, you’ll need to shift your focus or pivot your business model to accommodate for those changes. Your business plan should evolve with you in order to best reflect the position that your organization needs to take in order to remain profitable.

Do investors really care about a business plan?

Yes, although it can depend on who you’re speaking to and how you’re trying to secure funding.

If you’re trying to get a loan from a bank, a business plan is almost mandatory. A small business loan officer will evaluate the validity of your plan and may come back to you with questions before authorizing your loan.

On the other hand, a VC firm or an angel investor may expect a pitch, rather than a business plan, especially if you’re in a pre-seed round and have no cash flow or financials that they can actively evaluate. They’ll also be interested in anything else you can use to make your case, like intellectual property (patents, inventions, etc.) that make your business model unique and defensible.

In either case, your potential investors want to know that you’ve done your research and that they aren’t throwing away their investment. Even if you need to pitch, starting with a business plan can help you figure out how to address these pressing questions.

Should I hire someone to write my business plan?

It might be tempting to hire a consultant, strategist, or writer to help you create your business plan, but this is something you should do by yourself or with the help of your business partners.

Why?  Because, as the business owner, the knowledge that you’ll gain from the research is invaluable to the long-term success of your company. It’s not something that you should outsource.

Of course, we aren’t saying that you should avoid shortcuts. Use a lean business plan template or a traditional business plan template , if that helps you kickstart your creative process. After the plan is written, you can even bring in writers, editors, and graphic designers to make it look great.

Keep in mind as well that nobody knows everything. While writing your business plan, you’ll probably spot gaps in your own knowledge in key areas of your business operations.

Surround yourself with experienced advisors and mentors that you trust so that you can fill those knowledge gaps. If you aren’t sure where to find them, resources like SCORE or the Small Business Administration (US) and similar websites can help you get started. You may also need to hire mentors and specific talent in order to succeed.

How will I know what to write in my business plan?

Most business plans follow a template or a process. Pick one you like and that makes sense for your business, then follow it.

Keep in mind that length isn’t everything when it comes to business plans.

You don’t always need a 30+ page document to get a loan from the bank, and supporting documentation around financing and past success may be just as important to lenders and investors as good planning skills.

Do I have to follow a specific format?

No, although you’ll want to make sure that all of the basic information is covered if you choose to deviate from any standard format.

Some readers may be expecting a specific format or a document that’s styled similarly to other business plans that they’ve seen before.

The more you stray from the accepted format, the harder your plan will be to interpret, which could cause confusion and complicate the lending or investing process.

PandDoc is not a law firm, or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. This page is not intended to and does not provide legal advice. Should you have legal questions on the validity of e-signatures or digital signatures and the enforceability thereof, please consult with an attorney or law firm. Use of PandaDocs services are governed by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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Mapping Your Success: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Business Plan in 2023

Starting a new business can be a thrilling experience, but it can also be nerve-wracking. One of the most critical steps in building a successful startup is writing a business plan. A business plan is a roadmap that outlines the goals, strategies, and financial projections of a new business. Although writing a business plan may seem daunting, it is an…

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how to write a business plan step by step template

Write a business plan

Download free business plan templates and find help and advice on how to write your business plan.

Business plan templates

Download a free business plan template on The Prince’s Trust website.

You can also download a free cash flow forecast template or a business plan template on the Start Up Loans website to help you manage your finances.

Business plan examples

Read example business plans on the Bplans website.

How to write a business plan

Get detailed information about how to write a business plan on the Start Up Donut website.

Why you need a business plan

A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.

A business plan helps you to:

You’ll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank. Read about the finance options available for businesses on the Business Finance Guide website.

It can also help to convince customers, suppliers and potential employees to support you.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Step by Step

how to write a business plan step by step template

01 Mar How to Write a Business Plan: Step by Step

How to write a business plan? We have got you covered. To write a business plan, start by defining your business idea and conducting market research to identify your target audience, competition, and industry trends.

how to write a business plan

Use this information to create a company overview, including your business model , products or services, location, and legal structure.

Develop marketing and sales strategies, operational and management plans, and financial projections . Include a summary of your plan and funding needs.

Revise and refine your plan based on feedback and new information. A well-written business plan will help you stay focused on your goals, secure funding, and successfully launch and grow your business.

What are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?

There is no single “correct” way to structure a business plan, but here is an example of a common seven-step process:

1. Executive Summary

Provide a brief overview of your business, including the problem you’re solving, your target market, your competitive advantage, and your financial projections.

2. Company Description

Detail your business model, products or services, location, legal structure, and any relevant industry information.

3. Market Analysis

Conduct market research to identify your target market , competition, and industry trends.

4. Marketing and Sales

Outline your marketing and sales strategies, including how you plan to reach your target market, attract customers, and close sales.

5. Operations and Management

Detail your operational and management strategies, including how you will run your business, hire and manage employees, and handle day-to-day operations.

6. Financials

Create financial projections, including your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Identify your funding needs and how you plan to use the funds.

7. Conclusion

Summarize your business plan, emphasizing your unique value proposition and growth potential.

What are Examples of Business Plans?

What are Examples of Business Plans?

There are countless examples of business plans, as they can vary widely depending on the type of business, industry, and goals of the entrepreneur or company. Here are a few examples:

1. Startup Business Plan

A business plan for a new company that outlines the business idea, market opportunity, marketing and sales strategies, operations and management plans, and financial projections.

2. Expansion Business Plan

A business plan for an existing company that outlines plans for expanding the business, including new products or services, new markets, or additional locations.

3. Non-Profit Business Plan

A business plan for a non-profit organization that outlines the mission, goals, and strategies for achieving social or community-oriented objectives.

4. Restaurant Business Plan

A business plan for a restaurant that outlines the concept, menu, marketing and sales strategies, operations and management plans, and financial projections.

5. E-Commerce Business Plan

A business plan for an online retailer that outlines the business model, marketing and sales strategies, technology infrastructure, and financial projections.

6. Franchise Business Plan

A business plan for a franchise operation that outlines the business model, marketing and sales strategies , operations and management plans, and financial projections for potential franchisees.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other types of business plans that can be tailored to the specific needs and goals of a particular business.

How Many Pages is a Business Plan?

The length of a business plan can vary depending on the complexity of the business and the intended audience. However, a typical business plan is usually between 15 and 30 pages long, excluding any supporting documents such as financial projections, market research, or legal agreements.

A lean startup business plan may be shorter, usually around 10 pages or less, while a comprehensive business plan for a larger or more complex business may be closer to 50 pages.

Ultimately, the length of a business plan should be determined by the amount of information necessary to clearly and effectively communicate the business idea , strategies, and financial projections to potential investors, lenders, or other stakeholders. It is important to prioritize clarity and conciseness over length.

How Long Does it Take to Write a Full Business Plan?

The amount of time it takes to write a full business plan can vary widely depending on the size and complexity of the business, as well as the amount of research and analysis required.

A simple business plan for a small business or startup can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete, while a more comprehensive plan for a larger or more complex business can take several months.

Factors that can impact the amount of time required to write a business plan include the amount of market research required, the number of stakeholders involved in the planning process, and the level of detail needed in the financial projections and operational plans .

It is important to invest the necessary time and effort to create a thorough and well-researched business plan, as it can be a critical tool for securing funding, attracting customers, and guiding the growth and development of the business.

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