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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step
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.
How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)
Updated: Aug 20, 2022, 2:21am
Table of Contents
Brainstorm an executive summary, create a company description, brainstorm your business goals, describe your services or products, conduct market research, create financial plans, bottom line, frequently asked questions.
Every business starts with a vision, which is distilled and communicated through a business plan. In addition to your high-level hopes and dreams, a strong business plan outlines short-term and long-term goals, budget and whatever else you might need to get started. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to write a business plan that you can stick to and help guide your operations as you get started.
Drafting the Summary
An executive summary is an extremely important first step in your business. You have to be able to put the basic facts of your business in an elevator pitch-style sentence to grab investors’ attention and keep their interest. This should communicate your business’s name, what the products or services you’re selling are and what marketplace you’re entering.
Ask for Help
When drafting the executive summary, you should have a few different options. Enlist a few thought partners to review your executive summary possibilities to determine which one is best.
After you have the executive summary in place, you can work on the company description, which contains more specific information. In the description, you’ll need to include your business’s registered name , your business address and any key employees involved in the business.
The business description should also include the structure of your business, such as sole proprietorship , limited liability company (LLC) , partnership or corporation. This is the time to specify how much of an ownership stake everyone has in the company. Finally, include a section that outlines the history of the company and how it has evolved over time.
Wherever you are on the business journey, you return to your goals and assess where you are in meeting your in-progress targets and setting new goals to work toward.
Goals can cover a variety of sections of your business. Financial and profit goals are a given for when you’re establishing your business, but there are other goals to take into account as well with regard to brand awareness and growth. For example, you might want to hit a certain number of followers across social channels or raise your engagement rates.
Another goal could be to attract new investors or find grants if you’re a nonprofit business. If you’re looking to grow, you’ll want to set revenue targets to make that happen as well.
Goals unrelated to traceable numbers are important as well. These can include seeing your business’s advertisement reach the general public or receiving a terrific client review. These goals are important for the direction you take your business and the direction you want it to go in the future.
The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you’re offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are providing something necessary or entirely new. If you have any patents or trademarks, this is where you can include those too.
If you have any visual aids, they should be included here as well. This would also be a good place to include pricing strategy and explain your materials.
This is the part of the business plan where you can explain your expertise and different approach in greater depth. Show how what you’re offering is vital to the market and fills an important gap.
You can also situate your business in your industry and compare it to other ones and how you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Other than financial goals, you want to have a budget and set your planned weekly, monthly and annual spending. There are several different costs to consider, such as operational costs.
Business Operations Costs
Rent for your business is the first big cost to factor into your budget. If your business is remote, the cost that replaces rent will be the software that maintains your virtual operations.
Marketing and sales costs should be next on your list. Devoting money to making sure people know about your business is as important as making sure it functions.
Although you can’t anticipate disasters, there are likely to be unanticipated costs that come up at some point in your business’s existence. It’s important to factor these possible costs into your financial plans so you’re not caught totally unaware.
Business plans are important for businesses of all sizes so that you can define where your business is and where you want it to go. Growing your business requires a vision, and giving yourself a roadmap in the form of a business plan will set you up for success.
How do I write a simple business plan?
When you’re working on a business plan, make sure you have as much information as possible so that you can simplify it to the most relevant information. A simple business plan still needs all of the parts included in this article, but you can be very clear and direct.
What are some common mistakes in a business plan?
The most common mistakes in a business plan are common writing issues like grammar errors or misspellings. It’s important to be clear in your sentence structure and proofread your business plan before sending it to any investors or partners.
What basic items should be included in a business plan?
When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business, an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.
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Julia is a writer in New York and started covering tech and business during the pandemic. She also covers books and the publishing industry.
Kelly is an SMB Editor specializing in starting and marketing new ventures. Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Additionally, she manages a column at Inc. Magazine.
How to write a business plan in 7 steps
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:
- Executive summary
- Products & services
- Market analysis
- Marketing & sales
- Company organization and management team
- Financial projections
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:
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 Amazon.com, 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:
- Sole proprietor
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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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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:
- Product goals and deadlines for each month
- Monthly financials for the first two years
- Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
- Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .
Business Plan Steps
The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:
- Executive summary
- Description of business
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Description of organizational management
- Description of product or services
- Marketing plan
- Sales strategy
- Funding details (or request for funding)
- Financial projections
If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.
How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business
In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.
Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:
Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?
There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans
A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.
In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.
Step 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
See our roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.
Step 2: Description of Business
The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
- What business are we in?
- What does our business do?
Step 3: Market Analysis
In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What does that customer value?
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:
- Who is the competition?
- What do they do best?
- What is our unique value proposition?
Step 5: Description of Organizational Management
In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.
Step 6: Description of Products or Services
In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.
Questions to answer in this section are as follows:
- What is the product or service?
- How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?
Step 7: Marketing Plan
In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:
- Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
- What channels will you use to reach your target market?
- What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
- If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
- How will you measure success?
Step 8: Sales Plan
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts.
Start by answering the following questions:
- What is the sales strategy?
- What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
- What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
- What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
- What are the metrics of success?
Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)
This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
- How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
- What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?
Step 10: Financial Projections
Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years.
While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:
- How and when will the company first generate a profit?
- How will the company maintain profit thereafter?
Business Plan Template
Download Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet
This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.
For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy.
If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.
How to Write a Simple Business Plan
A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .
- Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company.
- Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision.
- Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
- Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
- Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
- Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
- Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
- Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
- Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting.
- Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.
Simple Business Plan Template
Download Simple Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Smartsheet
Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.
Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates .
How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup
A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.
While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:
- Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
- List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
- Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
- Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
- Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.).
- Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
- Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
- Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.
Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.
See our wide variety of startup business plan templates for more options.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.
In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.
Download free financial templates to support your business plan.
Tips for Writing a Business Plan
Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.
- Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
- Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
- Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
- Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
- Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”
Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.
Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.
“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”
Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”
Resources for Writing a Business Plan
While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.
Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.
How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business
A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships.
Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.
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- What is strategic planning? 5 steps and ...
What is strategic planning? 5 steps and processes
A strategic plan helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. It includes your company’s vision and mission statements, goals, and the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals. In this article we describe how a strategic plan compares to other project and business tools, plus four steps to create a successful strategic plan for your company.
Strategic planning is when business leaders map out their vision for the organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. Strategic plans inform your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals. So if you work for a small company or startup, you could likely benefit from creating a strategic plan. When you have a clear sense of where your organization is going, you’re able to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact.
The strategic planning process doesn’t just help you identify where you need to go—during the process, you’ll also create a document you can share with employees and stakeholders so they stay informed. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to get started developing a strategic plan.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a tool to define your organization’s goals and what actions you will take to achieve them. Typically, a strategic plan will include your company’s vision and mission statements, your long-term goals (as well as short-term, yearly objectives), and an action plan of the steps you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
Your strategic plan document should include:
Your company’s mission statement
Your company’s goals
A plan of action to achieve those goals
Your approach to achieving your goals
The tactics you’ll use to meet your goals
An effective strategic plan can give your organization clarity and focus. This level of clarity isn’t always a given—according to our research, only 16% of knowledge workers say their company is effective at setting and communicating company goals. By investing time into strategy formulation, you can build out a three- to five-year vision for the future of your company. This strategy will then inform your yearly and quarterly company goals.
Do I need a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics. Here’s how a strategic plan compares to other project management and business tools.
Strategic plan vs. business plan
A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.
You should create a business plan when you’re:
Just starting your business
Significantly restructuring your business
If your business is already established, consider creating a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.
Key takeaway: A business plan works for new businesses or large organizational overhauls. Strategic plans are better for established businesses.
Strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements
Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.
As a result, you should already have your mission and vision statements drafted before you create a strategic plan. Ideally, this is something you created during the business planning phase or shortly after your company started. If you don’t have a mission or vision statement, take some time to create those now. A mission statement states your company’s purpose and it addresses what problem your organization is trying to solve. A vision statement states, in very broad strokes, how you’re going to get there.
A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose
A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose
A strategic plan should include your mission and vision statements, but it should also be more specific than that. Your mission and vision statements could, theoretically, remain the same throughout your company’s entire lifespan. A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:
Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.”
Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.”
Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners.
Key takeaway: A strategic plan draws inspiration from your mission and vision statements.
Strategic plan vs. company objectives
Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time.
Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.
Key takeaway: Company objectives are broad, evergreen goals, while a strategic plan is a specific plan of action.
Strategic plan vs. business case
A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business.
You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.
Key takeaway: A business case tackles one initiative or investment, while a strategic plan maps out years of overall growth for your company.
Strategic plan vs. project plan
A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan.
A project plan has seven parts:
Stakeholders and roles
Scope and budget
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedule
Key takeaway: You may build project plans to map out parts of your strategic plan.
When should I create a strategic plan?
You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed. That being said, if your organization moves quickly, consider creating one every two to three years instead. Small businesses may need to create strategic plans more often, as their needs change.
Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets.
What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?
The strategic planning process should be run by a small team of key stakeholders who will be in charge of building your strategic plan.
Your group of strategic planners, sometimes called the management committee, should be a small team of five to 10 key stakeholders and decision-makers for the company. They won’t be the only people involved—but they will be the people driving the work.
Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the strategic planning process.
Step 1: Determine where you are
Before you can get started with strategy development and define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders—like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:
Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future
Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services
Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether in the product, business practices, or company culture
A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process).
To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:
What does your organization currently do well?
What separates you from your competitors?
What are your most valuable internal resources?
What tangible assets do you have?
What is your biggest strength?
What does your organization do poorly?
What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?
What do your competitors do better than you?
What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?
What processes or products need improvement?
What opportunities does your organization have?
How can you leverage your unique company strengths?
Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?
How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?
Is there an emerging need for your product or service?
What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?
Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?
Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?
Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company?
Step 2: Identify your goals and objectives
This is where the magic happens. To develop your strategy, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your original business documents—these are your final destination.
To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” This can help you figure out exactly which path you need to take.
During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents to ensure your strategic plan is moving your company in the right direction like:
Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose
Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision
Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company
Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market
Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years
Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in
Step 3: Develop your plan
Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Your plan will take your position and strategy into account to define your organization-wide plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your strategic plan should be created as the quarters and years go on.
As you build your strategic plan, you should define:
Your company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.
Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals .
Related key results and KPIs for that first year. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable.
Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.
A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.
Step 4: Execute your plan
After all that buildup, it’s time to put your plan into action. New strategy execution involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success.
Map your processes with key performance indicators, which will gauge the success of your plan. KPIs will establish which parts of your plan you want achieved in what time frame.
A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch:
Align tasks with job descriptions to make sure people are equipped to get their jobs done
Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process
Fully commit to your plan
Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed
At this point, you should have created and implemented your new strategic framework. The final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.
Share your strategic plan —this isn’t a document to hide away. Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to it so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and your overall strategic plan. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management tool .
Update your plan regularly (quarterly and annually). Make sure you’re using your strategic plan to inform your shorter-term goals. Your strategic plan also isn’t set in stone. You’ll likely need to update the plan if your company decides to change directions or make new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan to ensure you’re building your organization in the best direction possible for the next few years.
Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever—even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.
The benefits of strategic planning
Strategic planning can help with goal-setting by allowing you to explain how your company will move towards your mission and vision statements in the next three to five years. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).
When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:
Align everyone around a shared purpose
Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go
Define long-term goals, and then set shorter-term goals to support them
Assess your current situation and any opportunities—or threats
Help your business be more durable because you’re thinking long-term
Increase motivation and engagement
Sticking to the strategic plan
To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done.
With clear priorities, team members can focus on the initiatives that are making the biggest impact for the company—and they’ll likely be more engaged while doing so.
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- Project Management
How to Create the Ultimate Work Plan
by DP Taylor | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 - First published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
If you struggle with project management, you're not alone. A recent survey found that only 58% of organizations fully understand the value of project management, which is a direct reason why half of all projects fail outright.
The success or failure of a project depends on what happens during the planning phase. All the tips and work hacks in the world aren't going to help your project be successful if you don’t put in the necessary work early on.
You need a solid, thorough work plan, not just to ensure that your project succeeds, but so that it accomplishes the right goals. This step-by-step guide will help you craft one of your own that will maximize your chances of success.
Overview: What is a work plan?
A work plan is a document that outlines all of the steps to take over the course of a project, breaking them down into as much detail as possible and assigning individual activities to certain departments or people.
Also called a project management plan, a work plan outline spells out all of the deliverables, tasks, milestones, funding, resources, and any other necessary information. Put another way, a work plan describes how a project is going to get done.
How to create the ultimate work plan
A well-thought-out working plan is the difference between success and failure for a project. That’s why you must get it right the first time. Here are six simple steps you should take when creating a work plan.
Step 1: Set goals
Every project needs a vision -- it's a waste of time to spell out the "how" if you haven't figured out the "why." Set some ambitious but achievable goals for your project; these will govern every subsequent step, and will give your team motivation to execute the plan.
You should create these goals with the overall vision of the company in mind. After all, if your goals are in conflict with a company’s overall direction, the project will be a failure in the eyes of company leadership even if it is successful by your standards.
Quick tip: Be specific. The biggest mistake you can make when setting goals is to be vague, like "increase our brand awareness." How would you know whether you've achieved this goal? Instead, set a goal that includes actual numbers, if possible, like "increase referrals by 20% by the end of the third quarter."
Step 2: Lay out objectives and deliverables
With goals defined, it's time to spell out what kind of objectives and deliverables your team should push for to achieve those goals. For example, if your goal was to achieve a 20% increase in referrals over the next quarter, a good objective might be "contact 100 customers per week for referrals" or "launch a reward program."
These deliverables are the specific actions you will take to achieve the broader goals you set earlier. Remember to attach deadlines to each objective.
Quick tip: Create rewards for your team if they achieve objectives. These incentives will improve productivity and make your team feel appreciated. Offer a cash bonus or an extra vacation day, for example.
Step 3: List resources
Now that you know what you want to achieve and how you're going to achieve it, it's time to identify what resources it will take to get you there. If the goals are the destination, and the objectives are the engine, the resources are the gas in your tank.
When people think of resources, they often think of funding, but it also refers to equipment, materials, space, and labor. It's anything that is limited and can be used up by a project. List every single resource you can think of, and attach it to each objective.
Quick tip: Brainstorm necessary resources with your team. Chances are, if you try to do it yourself, you're going to forget a couple of things that should be listed. By having a conversation with the team, they are likely to spot a few other resources the project will need.
Step 4: Identify obstacles
No plan ever goes off without a hitch. You must identify potential obstacles that could prevent the success of the project, as well as leave some buffer to account for any obstacles you can't foresee.
An example of an obstacle in the case of a company trying to increase referrals by 20% could be lower-than-expected enrollment in a rewards program. Or, it could be an unforeseen event that forces your company to shift manpower resources away from your project.
Quick tip: Create a backup plan for each scenario. For example, if the rewards program clearly isn't working, you should have identified a couple of alternative ways of increasing referrals that you could immediately shift resources to.
Step 5: Create a step-by-step plan
Now that you have all the pieces, it's time to put everything together by creating a step-by-step work plan and project schedule . You have already laid out the deliverables in the second step, but you must break them down further into smaller and smaller steps here.
For example, if you're creating a rewards program, some steps that you would take to get to that objective could be to conduct a survey of current members to figure out what rewards they'd be most interested in, research the value of a referral to determine how much you should spend on each reward, draw up a rewards program structure, design a web page for the rewards program, and so on.
Quick tip: Delegate roles and responsibilities to members of the team for each step in the work plan. If you don't do this, a step might not get done because no one knows who was supposed to complete it, resulting in delays to the project. This also helps you with workload management, so some people aren’t doing all the work while the rest of the team contributes relatively little.
Step 6: Execute and evaluate
Go ahead and begin executing the work plan. Once the project is underway, evaluate how it's going on a regular basis -- perhaps every week for a six-month project. Chances are, you will encounter some issues that will require an adjustment to the work plan. Don't worry -- that's what the fourth step was for.
If you run into one of the obstacles you identified, execute the backup plan and adjust the work plan accordingly. If you've done the proper project planning , you should be flexible enough to do this.
Quick tip: Use software to track projects and see how they’re performing. It's next to impossible to collect all the necessary data manually, so take advantage of the powerful software tools out there to do the data-gathering for you, and then generate a detailed report that will give you valuable insights. This also makes it easier to remotely manage projects you can’t always be present for.
The best project management software for work planning
Project management software has been a godsend for companies in recent years. Many platforms and organization apps out there make it easy to draw up a work plan and start executing it, all while tracking the data that will help you perfect it. Here are three top solutions you should consider trying.
Trello 's unique format makes it ideally suited for laying out a project plan. It has a series of columns, and you create individual tasks that go within those columns.
Trello’s columns serve as a visual representation of project tasks and their status. Image source: Author
When the first phase of a task is completed, you drag and drop the task into the next column. These tasks can be tagged with multiple people, which helps ensure that everyone with a stake in the task knows where it stands.
Podio makes it easy to create tasks by simply hitting the T button on your keyboard, which brings up a new task window. This task-creation system is good for simple projects.
Podio lets you monitor the activity of your team. Image source: Author
It also features a shared team calendar that shows where tasks and milestones stand, and a time-tracking function that shows how many hours were planned for a task compared to the actual time spent on it.
Monday.com offers lots of project management tools that will help you with work planning. The software uses what it refers to as board pulses, which are tasks with multiple columns that help you track the progress of the project.
The task list on monday.com visually depicts the status of all activities. Image source: Author
This software also features a shared team calendar, and a resource management feature so you can track resources.
Give work plans a chance
If you’ve never created a work plan before, now’s the time to give it a chance. Identify a simple project in the future and create a simple work plan using the steps above. Then use time blocking to set aside a couple of hours per week to it.
Evaluate how well the work plan helped you accomplish the project compared to other activities you’ve been working on.
Don’t forget to choose software to help you manage the work plan. Check out some of the many project management software options The Ascent has reviewed to see if any might work for you.
Some of them are free for individual users, and even the paid versions offer free trials that should give you enough time to figure out if a particular platform is worth the investment.
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What Is a Work Plan? How to Make a Work Plan In 7 Steps
Before you can accomplish your project goals, you need to plan how to reach them. A work plan creates a clear path project teams can follow to reach their desired goals and objectives. Along that path will be resources, constraints and other work management elements that need to be described in your work plan.
What Is a Work Plan?
As its name suggests, a work plan is an action plan that helps project teams achieve their goals. Work plans factor in key project planning elements such as tasks, milestones, deliverables, resources, budgetary requirements and a timeline to weave it all together.
The work plan won’t be written and initiated by a single person and it should be submitted to board members and stakeholders for approval. Once approved, you can continue building out the rest of your work plan.
If you build your work plan in project management software like ProjectManager , then it’s easy to continue to iterate on your plan and make improvements over time. You can use robust project planning tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, project dashboards and much more. Get started today for free.
Why Do You Need a Work Plan?
As we mentioned, your work plan acts as your roadmap for the entire project execution. Not only will it keep you and your team organized, but it’ll ensure that you get buy-in from key stakeholders, related departments, relevant accountability/risk leaders and more.
Additionally, it helps manage expectations on both the stakeholder level as well as on the managerial and team member level—everyone that starts off on the right foot has a better chance of landing on the right foot, too.
Work plans guide project teams in a similar way project plans do. However, there’s a big difference between these two important project management documents.
Work Plan vs. Project Plan
Work plans are not as comprehensive as project plans , which have a wider scope and involve more components. The main difference between them is that project plans are created from a high-level view and address every aspect of project management. On the other hand, work plans focus on helping project teams achieve smaller objectives.
How to Make a Work Plan in 7 Steps
While work plans might take many forms, here are some simple work planning steps you can follow to make one.
1. Set Goals & Objectives
Before anything, it’s important to write down the goals and objectives that’ll be achieved through your work plan. These will describe the purpose of your plan. It’s important to use SMART goals : create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related. This should help you start your plan off on the right foot.
Your goals might sound like your purpose, but they’re more specific in that they’re more long-term oriented — i.e., your team learned more about the process of launching a bug fix or how to respond more directly to customer or market feedback.
Similarly, your project objectives should be measurable. For example, the objective of this project after launch is to create an increase of xx% of active monthly subscribers, or a certain dollar amount in revenue generated.
2. Define the Scope of Your Work Plan
Once you’ve identified your work plan goals, you should use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to identify all the tasks that must be executed to achieve them, which is your project scope. By breaking down your project scope, you can start assembling a team, estimating costs, creating a budget and drafting a project schedule.
3. Estimate What Resources Are Needed
When you break down your project scope using a WBS, you can better estimate what resources are needed for each task in your work plan. Make sure to include different types of project resources, such as human resources, raw materials, machinery, subcontractors or anything else that you might need for the execution of your work plan.
4. Assign Roles & Responsibilities
Now, assemble a project team and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each member. Communicate with them and make sure they understand what their job is and how they can collaborate with each other.
5. Estimate Costs & Create a Budget
Once you have a clear idea of what resources are needed for your work plan, it’s time to estimate their costs and create a budget . To do so, simply establish a measurement unit for your labor, materials and other resources to then assign a price to them.
6. Create a Project Schedule
There are different tools and techniques you can use to create a project schedule for your work plan. In fact, most project managers use Gantt charts, project calendars, kanban boards
7. List Any Risks, Constraints and Assumptions
Remember that your work plan is the action plan that’ll guide your project, so the more details you have about constraints and potential risks, the better your team will perform their tasks to produce deliverables and achieve the goals and objectives.
Maybe some of your team members take a few sick days during this period of time; maybe unexpected tasks have to be executed; maybe some of your tools crash that requires more money pulled from the budget. Whatever your project constraints may be, factor in anything that might feel like a risk that can lead to a full-blown constraint, which may affect the completion of deliverables or even the goals and objectives of your project.
Work Plan Example
Here’s a basic example to better illustrate how a work plan works. Let’s imagine you’re a business owner who wants to increase your production output by 25 percent by acquiring new machinery and hiring more production employees. While this project doesn’t involve producing tangible deliverables, you’ll still need a work plan.
Goals & Objectives It’s important to define one primary goal and then some smaller, more specific objectives needed for the completion of that goal.
Main Work Plan Goal Increase production output by 25 percent.
Work Plan Objectives
- Improve the company’s production capacity by acquiring new machinery
- Fill skill gaps in the production planning team
- Make sure machinery is well-maintained
Scope of the Work Plan Now, you should list individual activities that must be completed in order to achieve your goal and objectives. Here’s a simple breakdown of activities.
- Inspect the production line
- Perform preventive maintenance
- Optimize plant layout
- Acquire new machinery
- Assess the current team
- Hire new personnel
Resources/Roles & Responsibilities In this case, you’ll need a production manager, HR manager and maintenance team. They’re responsible for executing the tasks listed above.
Work Plan Budget Your budget should cover both the labor costs as well as the cost of the new equipment. Your labor costs will be the salaries of the production manager, HR manager and maintenance team.
Work Plan Schedule Define a timeframe for the analysis of your production line, the procurement of new machinery, preventive maintenance and hiring.
Risk, Assumptions & Constraints Think about any risks, assumptions or constraints that might affect your work plan. The best place to start is the triple constraint of time, budget and resources.
Work Plan Template
Our work plan template can help you document the steps explained above. Be sure to constantly monitor your template and update it as changes occur in your planning process. Or, if you’re looking for more dynamic project planning tools, you can use Gantt charts.
A work plan template can help you organize your thoughts, but in order to create your action plan and execute it, you’ll need dynamic project management software to help you throughout the planning, execution and monitoring phases.
Creating a Work Plan With Project Management Software
To learn more about how project management tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and project dashboards can help you make the perfect work plan, watch the short video below. We’ll quickly show you all the ways that project planning software can improve your planning, execution and reporting—so you can make that work plan with confidence.
ProjectManager Can Help You With Your Work Plan
Getting every detail of a work plan sorted is no easy task—from managing your team to managing your stakeholders. It requires a delicate balance of understanding your project timeline, the tasks that make up the project scope, potential risks, balancing a budget and allocating resources. Not to mention, you’ll have to do this while keeping the customers’ ultimate needs and the project goals and objectives in mind.
With ProjectManager , our online Gantt charts let you schedule your entire project timeline, assign tasks, create dependencies and oversee tracking. Additionally, we have team collaboration features that allow your staff and managers to comment on tasks, attach necessary files, and interact with each other no matter where they’re located.
ProjectManager also features resource management tools that let you balance the hours worked across your team. This helps ensure that your time, tools and resources are balanced no matter what.
Related Work Management Content
- What Is Work Management? Creating a Work Management System
- Best Work Management Software of 2023 for Remote Teams
- What is a Statement of Work? Definition & Examples
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Creating a work plan and don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered. With ProjectManager , you’ll get access to online software that helps you to better track your work plan from milestone to milestone. Start your free 30-day trial with ProjectManager today.
- Project Plan Template
- What Is the Project Life Cycle?
- Sample Project Plan For Your Next Project
- The Quality Management Plan in Project Management
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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)
- 2 years ago
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:
- Finding customers
- Plans for developing a team
- Legal structures
- Key milestones you are pursuing
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:
- What am I good at?
- What would I enjoy doing?
- What can I get paid for?”
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
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 presearch.org 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:
- Other Interests
- Marital Status
- Do they have kids?
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
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:
- Business Plan Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Description of Products and Services
- Competitor Data
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Expenses Strategy
- Distribution Channel Assessment
- Operational Plan
- Management and Organizational Strategy
- Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections
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:
- Professionally designed logo
- Company name
- Mission or Vision Statement
- Contact Info
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
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:
- An introduction to you and your business.
- What your business is about.
- A call to action
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:
- Introduction of yourself and company.
- An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
- An introduction to your products or services.
- Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
- Where you are in the business life cycle
- Request and why you need it.
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:
- Marketing and sales processes
- Financial statements
- Organizational structure
- Market analysis
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:
- Mission statement
- Philosophy and vision
- Company goals
- Legal structure
Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.
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
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:
- Prioritize communication.
- Never stop learning.
- Be transparent.
- Start small and grow incrementally.
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.
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).
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:
- What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
- How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
- What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?
Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:
- Trade Associations
- Federal Reserve
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:
- Sole proprietorships
- Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
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.
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 .
There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com 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:
- Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
- Intellectual property
- Your supply chain
- Cost and pricing structure
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:
- How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
- How do you let them know they need a product?
- How do you communicate the message?
- How will you do transactions?
- How much will you be selling it for?
- How many do you think you’ll sell and why?
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 .
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:
- Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
- Increase sales to current customers
- Reducing costs through bulk ordering
- Finding ways to reduce inventory
- And other areas you can improve
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.
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.
You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:
- Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
- Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
- Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
- Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
- Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.
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 .
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:
- Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
- Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
- Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
- Freemium services – Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.
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.
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:
- Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
- Any chemicals or treatments needed
- Repair parts for sprinkler systems
- Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
- Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.
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:
- Raw materials
- Shipping of raw materials
- Converting of raw materials to thread
- Shipping thread to produce garments
- Garment producer
- Shipping to company
- Company storage
- Shipping to retail stores
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:
- Legal environment
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.
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:
- International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
- AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
- The Joint Commission – Healthcare
- ASHRAE – HVAC best practices
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.
- The size of your location
- The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
- Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
- Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
- Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
- Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .
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:
- Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
- Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
- The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
- Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
- Any special regulations affecting your industry
- Bonding requirements, if applicable
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:
- What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
- What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
- How many employees will you need?
- Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
- What is each position’s job description?
- What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
- How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?
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:
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:
- Higher Revenue if expanding business
- Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
- Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
- Changes in expenses
- Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
- Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet
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.
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:
- Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
- Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
- Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
- Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product
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:
- How much to get started?
- What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
- How will the money be spent?
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.
- Sample plan
It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:
- Wise Plans – Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
- Optimus Business Plans – Another business plan writing company.
- Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.
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:
- The definition of a business plan
- Coming up with a business idea
- Performing market research
- The critical components of a business plan
- An example business plan
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 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.
- August 3, 2022
Free Business Plan Template (With Examples)
- May 3, 2022
How to Get a Business License (In 3 Steps)
- April 21, 2022
Market Validation: 7 Steps to Validate Your Business Idea
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How to Write a Work Plan
Last Updated: September 10, 2022 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Sydney Axelrod . Sydney Axelrod is a certified life coach and the owner of Sydney Axelrod LLC, a life coaching business focused on professional and personal development. Through one-on-one coaching, digital courses, and group workshops, Sydney works with clients to discover their purpose, navigate life transitions, and set and accomplish goals. Sydney has over 1,000 hours of relevant coaching certifications and holds a BBA in Marketing and Finance from Emory University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 40 testimonials and 87% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,663,634 times.
A work plan is an outline of a set of goals and processes by which a team and/or person can accomplish those goals, and offering the reader a better understanding of the scope of the project. Work plans, whether used in professional or academic life, help you stay organized while working on projects.  X Research source Through work plans, you break down a process into small, achievable tasks and identify the things you want to accomplish. Learn how to write a work plan so that you can be prepared for upcoming projects.
Mapping out Your Work Plan
- In the workplace, work plans help your supervisor know what projects you will be working on over the next several months. These often come right after an annual performance review or as teams undertake large projects. Work plans can also be the result of strategic planning sessions your organization holds at the beginning of a new calendar or fiscal year.
- In the academic world, work plans can help students create a schedule for a large project. They can also help teachers plan their course material for the semester.
- For a personal project, work plans will help you delineate what you intend to do, how you intend to do it, and by what date you intend to have it done. Personal work plans, while not strictly necessary, will help the individual keep track of his/her goals and progress.
- The introduction should be short and engaging. Remind your superiors why you are creating this work plan. Introduce the specific project(s) you will be working on during this time period.
- The background should highlight the reasons you are creating this work plan. For example, recite details or statistics from recent reports, identify problems that need to be addressed, or build off of recommendations or feedback you received during previous work projects.
- Goals should focus on the big picture of your project. List the desired ultimate outcome of your work plan. Keep it broad; for example, make your goal be to complete a research paper or to learn more about writing.
- Objectives should be specific and tangible. In other words, you should be able to check these off your list when you accomplish them. For example, finding people to interview for your research paper would make a good objective.
- Many work plans break down objectives into short- , middle- , and long-term objectives if they vary significantly. For example, a company's short-term goal to increase viewership 30% in three months may vary significantly from its long-term goal to strengthen brand visibility in social media outlets over the next year.  X Research source
- Objectives are generally written in the active voice and use action verbs with specific meanings (e.g. "plan," "write," "increase," and "measure") instead of verbs with vaguer meanings (e.g. "examine," "understand," "know," etc.).  X Research source
- Specific . What exactly are we going to do for whom? Lay out what population you are going to serve and any specific actions you will use to help that population.
- Remember that a baseline number needs to be established to quantify change. If you don't know the incidence rate of HIV/AIDS among South African newborns, it's going to be impossible to reliably say that you decreased incidence rates by 20%.
- In some cases, an expert or authority may need to be consulted to figure out if your work plan objectives are achievable.
- Relevant . Will this objective have an effect on the desired goal or strategy? Although it's probably important for overall health, does measuring the height and weight of high-schoolers directly lead to change in mental health procedures? Make sure your objectives and methods have a clear, intuitive relationship.
- Time bound . When will this objective be accomplished, and/or when will we know we are done? Specify a hard end date for the project. Stipulate which, if any, outcomes would cause your project to come to a premature end, with all outcomes having been achieved.
- At the workplace, resources can include things like financial budget, personnel, consultants, buildings or rooms, and books. A detailed budget may appear in an appendix if your work plan is more formal.
- In the academic arena, resources may include access to different libraries; research materials like books, newspapers, and journals; computer and Internet access; and professors or other individuals who can help you if you have questions.
- List specific action steps. Identify what needs to happen each day or week for you to complete your objectives.  X Trustworthy Source Kansas University Center for Community Health and Development Community-based research center focused on supporting public health development and education Go to source Also, list steps other people on your team will need to take. Consider using project management software or a personal calendar to keep this information organized.
- Create a schedule. Though you can create a tentative work schedule, realize that unexpected things happen and you need to build space into your schedule to prevent falling behind.
Sample Plan and List of Things to Include
- Identify milestones if your project is especially large. Milestones are points throughout the project that highlight meeting certain objectives. They can also serve as a point of reflection, allowing you to look at here you are in the process and make sure you are still on track with the work plan.  X Research source ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Make your work plan work for you. Work plans can be as detailed or as broad as you would like or need them to be. They can be written on a piece of paper or created on professional software, using graphics and colors. Use what is most natural and effective for you. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://www.insightful.io/blog/how-can-strategic-planning-improve-your-productivity
- ↑ http://cec.vcn.bc.ca/cmp/modules/pm-pln.htm
- ↑ https://www.betterup.com/blog/how-to-create-a-work-plan
- ↑ Sydney Axelrod. Certified Life Coach. Expert Interview. 30 June 2020.
- ↑ https://smallbusiness.co.uk/short-mediumand-longterm-objectives-27759/
- ↑ http://rootedinrelationships.org/file_download/inline/1301eeee-df67-48b0-8445-f7daed9331b8
- ↑ SMART" objectives
- ↑ https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/make-work-plan
- ↑ https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/structure/strategic-planning/identify-action-steps/main
- ↑ https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/milestones-project-management
About This Article
To write a work plan, start by defining a specific, measurable goal that you want to accomplish, like increasing sales by 50% by the end of the year. Then, list the resources that are available to help everyone involved accomplish the goal. You'll also want to mention any constraints or obstacles that might get in the way and how you plan on dealing with them. Also, make sure you clearly explain to everyone involved what they're accountable for. Finally, come up with a strategy for how you and your team are going to be successful. To learn more about how to break your plan into short-term and long-term goals, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just beginning to think about starting a business , demands come at you fast. Amidst the rush of to-do lists and meetings, determining how to write a business plan—much less following a business plan template—often feels time-consuming and intimidating.
But nearly 70% of business owners who have been there and done that recommend writing a business plan before you start a business, according to a recent QuickBooks survey . After all, when done right, business plans have enormous payoffs.
And yet, more than 10% of prospective business owners said they do not intend to write a business plan. Another 10% aren’t sure if they need a plan.
It’s more than the old cliche: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. In fact, a wealth of data now exists on the difference a written business plan makes, especially for small or growing companies.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to write a successful business plan, step-by-step, and turn your idea into a reality. Even better, if you’re pressed for time, we’ve compiled the 10 steps and examples into a downloadable (PDF) template . The 10 steps to write a business plan are:
- Create an executive summary
- Compose your company description
- Summarize market research and potential
- Conduct competitive analysis
- Describe your product or service
- Develop a marketing and sales strategy
- Compile your business financials
- Describe your organization and management
- Explain your funding request
- Compile an appendix for official documents
But, first things first.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a comprehensive road map for your small business’s growth and development. It communicates who you are, what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it. It also helps you attract talent and investors.
But remember that a business idea or business concept is not a plan.
Investors want to know you have:
- Product-market fit: Have you done the research to determine the demand for your product or service?
- A solid team in place: Do you have the people you need to support your goals and objectives?
- Scalability: Can you grow sales volume without proportional growth in headcount and fixed costs?
A templated business plan gives investors a blueprint of what to expect from your company and tells them about you as an entrepreneur.
Why do you need a business plan?
You need a business plan because the majority of venture capitalists (VCs) and all banking institutions will not invest in a startup or small business without a solid, written plan. Not only does a business plan help you focus on concrete objectives, but it gives outside parties reassurance that you’ve thought ahead.
In 2018, entrepreneurial resource center Bplans worked with the University of Oregon to compile and analyze research around the benefits of business planning . Here’s what they found:
- Businesses with a business plan grow 30% faster than those without.
- Owners with business plans are twice as likely to grow, get investments, or secure loans than those without.
- Entrepreneurs with a business plan have a 129% increased likelihood of growing beyond the startup phase and a 260% increased likelihood of growing from “idea” to “new business.”
Perhaps the strongest evidence comes from the Journal of Business Venturing’s 2010 meta-analysis of 46 separate studies on 11,046 organizations: Its findings confirm that “business planning increases the performance of both new and established small firms.”
When do you need a business plan?
Before you leave a nine-to-five income, your business plan can tell you if you’re ready. Over the long term, it’ll keep you focused on what needs to be accomplished.
It’s also smart to write a business plan when you’re:
- Seeking funding, investments, or loans
- Searching for a new partner or co-founder
- Attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent
- Experiencing slow growth and need a change
Feel confident from day one
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How to write a business plan in 10 steps
Start with a clear picture of the audience your plan will address. Is it a room full of angel investors? Your local bank’s venture funding department? Or is it you, your leaders, and your employees?
Defining your audience helps you determine the language you’ll need to propose your ideas as well as the depth to which you need to go to help readers conduct due diligence.
Now, let’s dive into the 10 key elements of your business plan.
1. Create an executive summary
Even though it appears first in the plan, write your executive summary last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.
What is an executive summary?
The executive summary lays out all the vital information about your business within a relatively short space. An executive summary is typically one page or less. It’s a high-level look at everything and summarizes the other sections of your plan. In short, it’s an overview of your business.
How do I write an executive summary?
Below, you’ll find an example from a fictional business, Laura’s Landscapers. (We’ll use that same company throughout this guide to make each step practical and easy to replicate.)
This executive summary focuses on what’s often called the value proposition or unique selling point: an extended motto aimed at customers, investors, and employees.
You can follow a straightforward “problem, solution” format, or a fill-in-the-blanks framework:
- For [target customers]
- Who are dissatisfied with [current solutions]
- Our [product or service] solves [key customer problems]
- Unlike [competing product], we have [differentiating key features]
This framework isn’t meant to be rigid, but instead to serve as a jumping-off point.
Example of an executive summary
Market research indicates that an increasing number of wealthy consumers in Richmond are interested in landscape architecture based on sustainable design. However, high-end firms in the area are scarce. Currently, only two exist—neither of which focus on eco-friendly planning nor are certified by green organizations.
Laura’s Landscapers provides a premium, sustainable service for customers with disposable incomes, large yards, and a love of nature.
2. Compose your company description
Within a business plan, your company description contains three elements:
- Mission statement
These elements give context to the bigger picture in your business plan, letting investors know the purpose behind your company so the goals make sense as well.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement is your business’s reason for existing. It’s more than what you do or what you sell, it’s about why exactly you do what you do. Effective mission statements should be:
- Inspirational to make others believe in your vision
- Emotional to captivate readers and grab their interest
Throughout every part of your plan, less is more. Nowhere is that truer than your mission statement. Think about what motivates you, what causes and experiences led you to start the business, the problems you solve, the wider social issues you care about, and more.
Tip: Review your mission statement often to make sure it matches your company’s purpose as it evolves. A statement that doesn’t fit your core values or what you actually do can undermine your marketing efforts and credibility.
How do you describe a company’s history?
Don’t worry about making your company history a dense narrative. Instead, write it like you would a profile:
- Founding date
- Major milestones
- Number of employees
- Executive leadership roles
- Flagship products or services
Then, translate that list into a few short paragraphs (like the example below).
Why do business objectives matter?
Business objectives give you clear goals to focus on, like the North Star. These goals must be SMART, which stands for:
They must also be tied to key results. When your objectives aren’t clearly defined, it’s hard for employees and team members to work toward a common purpose. What’s worse, fuzzy goals won’t inspire confidence from investors, nor will they have a profitable impact on your business.
Example of a company description
Laura’s Landscapers’ mission is to change the face of our city through sustainable landscaping and help you create the outdoor living space of your dreams.
Founded in 2021 by sisters Laura and Raquel Smith, we have over 25 years of combined landscape architecture experience. Our four employees work in teams of two and have already completed 10 projects for some of Richmond’s most influential business and community leaders.
Our objectives over the next three years are to:
- Solidify a glowing reputation as a service-based business that always exceeds customers’ expectations and honors the environment
- Complete at least 18 projects during year one, 24 in year two, and 36 in year three generated through word of mouth, referrals, and home shows
- Increase revenue from $360,000 in FY2021 to $972,000 in FY2023 based upon 10 completed projects in the last nine months
3. Summarize market research and potential
The next step is to outline your ideal potential customer as well as the actual and potential size of your market. Target markets—also known as personas—identify demographic information like:
By getting specific, you’ll illustrate expertise and generate confidence. If your target market is too broad, it can be a red flag for investors.
- Example: If your product is perfect for people with money to hire landscape architects, listing “anyone with a garden” as your target market might not go over so well.
The same is true with your market analysis when you estimate its size and monetary value. In addition to big numbers that encompass the total market, drill down into your business’s addressable market—meaning, local numbers or numbers that apply the grand total to your specific segments. You may even map your customer’s journey to get a better understanding of their wants and needs.
Example of market research and potential
Laura’s Landscapers’ ideal customer is a wealthy baby boomer, a member of Gen X, or a millennial between the ages of 35 and 65 with a high disposable income. He or she—though primarily, she—is a homeowner. They’re a working professional or have recently retired. In love with the outdoors, they want to enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature in their own backyard, but don’t have the time or skill to do it for themselves.
Market research shows the opportunity for Laura’s Landscapers has never been better:
- In the U.S., total revenue for landscaping services increased from $69.8 billion in 2013 to $99 billion in 2019. ( 1 )
- Among landscaping contractors, designing and building is the second fastest growing service offering. ( 2 )
- What’s more, landscape design and construction is the number one “new service” existing companies plan to add over the next year. ( 3 )
In Richmond, leading indicators for interest in green, eco-friendly, and sustainable landscaping have all increased exponentially over the last five years:
- Online search volume for those terms is up 467%
- 10 new community organizations have been formed
- 73 high-profile projects have been covered by local media
- And currently 13% of Richmond’s residents have a household income of $125,000 or more (compared to the U.S. average of 5%)
4. Conduct competitive analysis
Competitive research begins with identifying other companies that currently sell in the market you’re looking to enter. The idea of carving out enough time to learn about every potential competitor you have may sound overwhelming, but it can be extremely useful.
Answer these additional questions after you’ve identified your most significant competitors:
- Where do they invest in advertising?
- What kind of press coverage do they get?
- How good is their customer service?
- What are their sales and pricing strategies?
- How do they rank on third-party rating platforms?
Spend some time thinking about what sets you apart. If your idea is truly novel, be prepared to explain the customer pain points you see your business solving. If your business doesn’t have any direct competition, research other companies that provide a similar product or service.
Next, create a table or spreadsheet listing your competitors to include in your plan, often referred to as a competitor analysis table.
Example of competitive analysis
Within Richmond’s residential landscaping market, there are only two high-end architectural competitors: (1) Yukie’s Yards and (2) Dante’s Landscape Design. All other businesses focus solely on either industrial projects or residential maintenance.
- Average cost per project: $12,000
- Ongoing maintenance fee: $200 per month
- Google My Business: 3.1 stars from 163 reviews
- Environmental certifications: None
- Primary marketing channels: Google Ads
Dante’s Landscape Design
- Average cost per project: $35,000
- Ongoing maintenance fee: $500 per month
- Google My Business: 3.7 stars from 57 reviews
- Primary marketing channels: Home shows
5. Describe your product or service
This section describes the benefits, production process, and life cycle of your products or services, and how what your business offers is better than your competitors.
When describing benefits, focus on:
- Unique features
- Translating features into benefits
- Emotional and practical payoffs to your customers
- Intellectual property rights or any patents that protect differentiation
For the production process, answer how you:
- Create existing and new products or services
- Source raw materials or components
- Assemble them through manufacturing
- Maintain quality control and quality assurance
- Receive and deliver them (supply chain logistics)
- Manage your daily operations, like bookkeeping and inventory
Within the product life cycle portion, map elements like:
- Time between purchases
- Up-sells, cross-sells, and down-sells
- Future plans for research and development
Example of product or service description
Laura’s Landscapers’ service—our competitive advantage—is differentiated by three core features.
First, throughout their careers, Laura and Raquel Smith have worked at and with Richmond’s three leading industrial landscaping firms. This gives us unique access to the residents who are most likely to use our service.
Second, we’re the only firm certified green by the Richmond Homeowners Association, the National Preservation Society, and Business Leaders for Greener Richmond.
Third, of our 10 completed projects, seven have rated us a 5 out of 5 on Google My Business and our price points for those projects place us in a healthy middle ground between our two other competitors.
- Average cost per project: $20,000
- Ongoing maintenance fee: $250 per month
- Google My Business: 5 stars from 7 reviews
- Environmental certifications: Three (see Appendix)
- Primary marketing channels: Word of mouth, referrals, and home shows
6. Develop a marketing and sales strategy
Your marketing strategy or marketing plan can be the difference between selling so much that growth explodes or getting no business at all. Growth strategies are a critical part of your business plan.
You should briefly reiterate topics such as your:
- Value proposition
- Ideal target markets
- Existing customer segments
Then, add your:
- Launch plan to attract new business
- Growth tactics for established businesses to expand
- Retention strategies like customer loyalty or referral programs
- Advertising and promotion channels such as search engines, social media, print, television, YouTube, and word of mouth
You can also use this section of your business plan to reinforce your strengths and what differentiates you from the competition. Be sure to show what you’ve already done, what you plan to do given your existing resources, and what results you expect from your efforts.
Example of marketing and sales strategy
Laura’s Landscapers’ marketing and sales strategy will leverage, in order of importance:
- Word of mouth
- Reviews and ratings
- Local Google Ads
- Social media
- Direct mail
Reputation is the number one purchase influencer in high-end landscape design. As such, channels 1-4 will continue to be our top priority.
Our social media strategy will involve YouTube videos of the design process as well as multiple Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards showcasing professional photography. Lastly, our direct mail campaigns will send carbon-neutral, glossy brochures to houses in wealthy neighborhoods.
7. Compile your business financials
If you’re just starting out, your business may not yet have financial data , financial statements, or comprehensive reporting. However, you’ll still need to prepare a budget and a financial plan.
If your company has been around for a while and you’re seeking investors, be sure to include:
- Income statements
- Profit and loss statements
- Cash flow statements
- Balance sheets
Other figures that can be included are:
- How much of your revenue you retain as your net income
- Your ratio of liquidity to debt repayment ability
- How often you collect on your invoices
Ideally, you should provide at least three years’ worth of reporting. Make sure your figures are accurate and don’t provide any profit or loss projections before carefully going over your past statements for justification.
Avoid underestimating business costs
Costs, profit margins, and sale prices are closely linked, and many business owners set sale prices without accounting for all costs. New business owners are particularly at risk for this mistake. The cost of your product or service must include all of your costs, including overhead. If it doesn’t, you can’t determine a sale price to generate the profit level you desire.
Underestimating costs can catch you off guard and eat away at your business over time.
- Example: Insurance premiums tend to go up annually for most forms of coverage, and that’s especially true with business insurance. If an employee gets injured, Laura’s Landscapers’ workmen’s compensation insurance to cover this risk will increase.
Example of business financials
Given the high degree of specificity required to accurately represent your business’s financials, rather than create a fictional line item example for Laura’s Landscapers, we suggest using one of our free Excel templates and entering your own data:
- For new businesses: Start up budget template
- For existing businesses: Income statement template
Once you’ve completed either one, then create a big picture representation to include here as well as in your objectives in step two.
In the case of Laura’s Landscapers, this big picture would involve steadily increasing the number of annual projects and cost per project to offset lower margins:
Current revenue for FY2022: $200,000
- 10 completed projects
- ~$20,000 per project
- 15% profit margins
- $30,000 net
FY2022 projections: $360,000
- 18 completed projects
- $54,000 net
FY2023 projections: $552,000
- 24 completed projects
- ~$23,000 per project
- 12% profit margins
- $66,240 net
FY2024 projections: $972,000
- 36 completed projects
- ~$27,000 per project
- 10% profit margins
- $97,200 net
8. Describe your organization and management
Your business is only as good as the team that runs it. Identify your team members and explain why they can either turn your business idea into a reality or continue to grow it. Highlight expertise and qualifications throughout —this section of your business plan should show off your management team superstars.
You should also note:
- Roles you still need to hire to grow your company
- The cost of hiring experts to assist operations
To make informed business decisions, you may need to budget for a bookkeeper , a CPA, and an attorney. CPAs can help you review your monthly accounting transactions and prepare your annual tax return. An attorney can help with client agreements, investor contracts (like shareholder agreements), and with any legal disputes that may arise.
Ask your business contacts for referrals (and their fees), and be sure to include those costs in your business plan.
Example of organization and management
Laura Smith, Co-founder and CEO
- Professional background
- Awards and honors
- Notable clients
Raquel Smith, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer
Laura’s Landscapers’ creative crews
- Cumulative years of experience
9. Explain your funding request
When outlining how much money your small business needs, try to be as realistic as possible. You can provide a range of numbers if you don’t want to pinpoint an exact number. However, include a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.
Since a new business doesn’t have a track record of generating profits, it’s likely that you’ll sell equity to raise capital in the early years of operation. Equity means ownership—when you sell equity to raise capital, you are selling a portion of your company.
- Remember: An equity owner may expect to have a voice in company decisions, even if they do not own a majority interest in the business.
Most small business equity sales are private transactions. The investor may also expect to be paid a dividend, which is a share of company profits, and they’ll want to know how they can sell their ownership interest. Additionally, you can raise capital by borrowing money, but you’ll have to repay creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on the debt.
If you look at the capital structure of any large company, you’ll see that most firms issue both equity and debt. When drafting your business plan, decide if you’re willing to accept the trade-off of giving up total control and profits before you sell equity in your business.
- Tip: Put together a timeline so your potential investors have an idea of what to expect. Some customers may not pay for 30 days or longer, which means the business needs a cash balance to operate.
The founder can access cash by contributing their own money into the business by securing a line of credit (LOC) at a bank or applying for QuickBooks Capital . If you raise cash through a LOC or some other type of loan, it needs to be paid off ASAP to reduce the interest cost on debt.
Example of a funding request
Laura’s Landscapers has already purchased all necessary permits, software, and equipment to serve our existing customers. Once scaled to $972,000 in annual revenue—over the next three years and at a 10% profit margin—our primary ongoing annual expenses (not including taxes) will total $874,800.
While already profitable, we are requesting $100,000 in the form of either a business loan or in exchange for equity to purchase equipment necessary to outfit two additional creative crews.
10. Compile an appendix for official documents
Finally, assemble a well-organized appendix for anything and everything readers will need to supplement the information in your plan. Consider any info that:
- Helps investors conduct due diligence
- Gives context and easy access to you or your employees
Useful details to cover in an appendix include:
- Deeds, local permits, and legal documents
- Certifications that bolster your credibility
- Business registries and professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
- Patents and intellectual properties
- Industry associations and memberships
- State and federal identification numbers or codes
- Key customer contracts and purchase orders
Your appendix should be a living section of the business plan, whether the plan is a document for internal reference only or an external call for investors.
- Tip: As you include documents in the appendix, create a miniature table of contents and footnotes throughout the rest of the plan linking to or calling attention to them.
How to make a business plan that stands out
Investors have little patience for poorly written documents. You want your business plan to be as attractive and readable as possible.
- Keep it brief. A typical business plan can range from 10 to 20 pages. As long as you cover the essentials, less is more.
- Make it easy to read. Divide your document into distinct sections, so that investors can quickly flip between key pieces of information.
- Know your margins. List every cost your business incurs, and make sure that you’re assigning those costs to each product or service that you sell.
- Proofread. Double-check for typos and grammatical errors. Then, triple-check. Otherwise, you might risk your credibility.
- Invest in quality design and printing. Proper layout, branding, and decent printing or bookbinding give your business plan a professional feel.
- Be prepared in advance. Have everything ready to go at least two weeks ahead so you have time to make revisions in case of a last-minute change.
3 tips to update your business plan
It’s a good idea to periodically revisit your business plan, especially if you are looking to expand. Conducting new research and updating your plan could also provide answers when you hit difficult questions.
Mid-year is a good time to refocus and revise your original plans because it gives you the opportunity to refocus any goals for the second half of the year. Below are three ways to update your plan.
1. Refocus your productivity
When you wrote your original business plan, you likely identified your specific business and personal goals. Take some time now to assess if you’ve hit your targets.
- Example: If you planned to launch a new tips and trends video series and it hasn’t happened yet, what’s stopping you? Put a timeline together and set a launch date.
If you only want to work a set number of hours per week, you must identify the products and services that deliver the returns you need to make that a reality. Doing so helps you refocus your productivity on the most lucrative profit streams.
Also, use what you’ve achieved and the hard lessons you’ve learned to help you re-evaluate what is and isn’t working.
2. Realign with your goals
Do a gut check to determine whether all of your hard work is still aligned with your original goals and your mission statement. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are my goals still relevant?
- Am I still focused on the big picture?
- Where do I want to be a year from now?
- Will my existing plan still take me where I want to go?
These questions may be tough to answer at first glance, but they reveal your ties to your goals and what most likely needs to change to achieve new wins.
3. Repurpose your offerings
If your time has become more focused on small projects rather than tangible growth and building a valuable client list, consider packaging your existing products or services differently. Can you bundle a few things together?
- Example: Laura’s Landscapers might be able to offer a special pool and patio package. Doing so might help them bring in fewer yet higher-paying projects. Perhaps they can offer a maintenance package as well to keep that customer long term.
You must deliberately manage your revenue streams, and that might require shuffling things around a little to focus on what is working for you.
Business plan template
Even if you don’t plan on seeking investments early on, there are other important reasons to use a business plan template to write a great business plan:
- Clarifies what you’re trying to accomplish
- Identifies opportunities to understand your market, like demographics and behaviors
- Establishes the role of each team member
- Gives team members a benchmark to reference and stay on track
- Helps catch errors to make sure financial projections are accurate
- You’ll see the holes and blind spots that could cause future issues
Download the following template to build your business plan from the ground up, considering all the important questions that will help your investors and employees.
The old cliche is still true today: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Your business plan is crucial to the growth of your business, from giving direction, motivation, and context to employees, to providing thoughtful reassurance and risk mitigation to financers. Before you get your small business up and running , put down a plan that instills confidence and sets you up for success.
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How to write a business plan in seven simple steps
When written effectively, a business plan can help raise capital, inform decisions, and draw new talent.
Companies of all sizes have one thing in common: They all began as small businesses. Starting small is the corner for those just getting off the ground. Learn about how to make that first hire, deal with all things administrative, and set yourself up for success.
Writing a business plan is often the first step in transforming your business from an idea into something tangible . As you write, your thoughts begin to solidify into strategy, and a path forward starts to emerge. But a business plan is not only the realm of startups; established companies can also benefit from revisiting and rewriting theirs. In any case, the formal documentation can provide the clarity needed to motivate staff , woo investors, or inform future decisions.
No matter your industry or the size of your team, the task of writing a business plan—a document filled with so much detail and documentation—can feel daunting. Don’t let that stop you, however; there are easy steps to getting started.
What is a business plan and why does it matter?
A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction. It typically includes extensive market research, competitor analysis, financial documentation, and an overview of your business and marketing strategy. When written effectively, a business plan can help prescribe action and keep business owners on track to meeting business goals.
Who needs a business plan?
A business plan can be particularly helpful during a company’s initial growth and serve as a guiding force amid the uncertainty, distractions, and at-times rapid developments involved in starting a business . For enterprise companies, a business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides decision-making and facilitates intentional growth.
“You should have a game plan for every major commitment you’ll have, from early-stage founder agreements to onboarding legal professionals,” says Colin Keogh, CEO of the Rapid Foundation—a company that brings technology and training to communities in need—and a WeWork Labs mentor in the UK . “You can’t go out on funding rounds or take part in accelerators without any planning.”
How to make a business plan and seven components every plan needs
While there is no set format for writing a business plan, there are several elements that are typically included. Here’s what’s important to consider when writing your business plan.
1. Executive summary
No longer than half a page, the executive summary should briefly introduce your business and describe the purpose of the business plan. Are you writing the plan to attract capital? If so, specify how much money you hope to raise, and how you’re going to repay the loan. If you’re writing the plan to align your team and provide direction, explain at a high level what you hope to achieve with this alignment, as well as the size and state of your existing team.
The executive summary should explain what your business does, and provide an introductory overview of your financial health and major achievements to date.
2. Company description
To properly introduce your company, it’s important to also describe the wider industry. What is the financial worth of your market? Are there market trends that will affect the success of your company? What is the state of the industry and its future potential? Use data to support your claims and be sure to include the full gamut of information—both positive and negative—to provide investors and your employees a complete and accurate portrayal of your company’s milieu.
Go on to describe your company and what it provides your customers. Are you a sole proprietor , LLC, partnership, or corporation? Are you an established company or a budding startup? What does your leadership team look like and how many employees do you have? This section should provide both historical and future context around your business, including its founding story, mission statement , and vision for the future.
It’s essential to showcase your point of difference in your company description, as well as any advantages you may have in terms of expert talent or leading technology. This is typically one of the first pieces of the plan to be written.
3. Market analysis and opportunity
Research is key in completing a business plan and, ideally, more time should be spent on research and analysis than writing the plan itself. Understanding the size, growth, history, future potential, and current risks inherent to the wider market is essential for the success of your business, and these considerations should be described here.
In addition to this, it’s important to include research into the target demographic of your product or service. This might be in the form of fictional customer personas, or a broader overview of the income, location, age, gender, and buying habits of your existing and potential customers.
Though the research should be objective, the analysis in this section is a good place to reiterate your point of difference and the ways you plan to capture the market and surpass your competition.
4. Competitive analysis
Beyond explaining the elements that differentiate you from your competition, it’s important to provide an in-depth analysis of your competitors themselves.
This research should delve into the operations, financials, history, leadership, and distribution channels of your direct and indirect competitors. It should explore the value propositions of these competitors, and explain the ways you can compete with, or exploit, their strengths and weaknesses.
5. Execution plan: operations, development, management
This segment provides details around how you’re going to do the work necessary to fulfill this plan. It should include information about your organizational structure and the everyday operations of your team, contractors, and physical and digital assets.
Consider including your company’s organizational chart, as well as more in-depth information on the leadership team: Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What do they bring to the table? Potentially include the résumés of key people on your team.
For startups, your execution plan should include how long it will take to begin operations, and then how much longer to reach profitability. For established companies, it’s a good idea to outline how long it will take to execute your plan, and the ways in which you will change existing operations.
If applicable, it’s also beneficial to include your strategy for hiring new team members and scaling into different markets.
6. Marketing plan
It’s essential to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place as you scale operations or kick off a new strategy—and this should be shared with your stakeholders and employees. This segment of your business plan should show how you’re going to promote your business, attract customers, and retain existing clients.
Include brand messaging, marketing assets, and the timeline and budget for engaging consumers across different channels. Potentially include a marketing SWOT analysis into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate the way your competitors market themselves, and how your target audience responds—or doesn’t respond—to these messages.
7. Financial history and projections
It’s essential to disclose all finances involved in running your company within your business plan. This is so your shareholders properly understand how you’re projected to perform going forward, and the progress you’ve made so far.
You should include your income statement, which outlines annual net profits or losses; a cash flow statement, which shows how much money you need to launch or scale operations; and a balance sheet that shows financial liabilities and assets.
“An income statement is the measure of your financial results for a certain period and the most accurate report of business activities during that time, [whereas a balance sheet] presents your assets, liabilities, and equity,” Amit Perry, a corporate finance expert, explained at a WeWork Labs educational session in Israel.
It’s crucial to understand the terms correctly so you know how to present your finances when you’re speaking to investors. Amit Perry, CEO and founder of Perryllion Ltd.
In addition, if you’re asking for funding, you will need to outline exactly how much money you need as well as where this money will go and how you plan to pay it back.
12 quick tips for writing a business plan
Now that you know what components are traditionally included in a business plan, it’s time to consider how you’ll actually construct the document.
Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead.
1. Don’t be long-winded
Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders.
2. Show why you care
Let your passion for your business shine through; show employees and investors why you care (and why they should too).
3. Provide supporting documents
Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging.
4. Reference data
All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative and relevant data points.
5. Research, research, research
The research that goes into your business plan should take you longer than the writing itself. Consider tracking your research as supporting documentation.
6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference
At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan.
7. Be objective in your research
As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency.
8. Know the purpose of your plan
It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction.
9. Identify your audience
The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders?
10. Avoid jargon
Avoid using industry-specific jargon, unless completely unavoidable, and try making your business plan as easy to understand as possible—for all potential stakeholders.
11. Don’t be afraid to change it
Your business plan should evolve with your company’s growth, which means your business plan document should evolve as well. Revisit and rework your business plan as needed, and remember the most important factor: having a plan in place, even if it changes.
A business plan shouldn’t just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead.
Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company
Whether you’re just starting out or running an existing operation, writing an effective business plan can be a key predictor of future success. It can be a foundational document from which you grow and thrive . It can serve as a constant reminder to employees and clients about what you stand for, and the direction in which you’re moving. Or, it can prove to investors that your business, team, and vision are worth their investment.
No matter the size or stage of your business, WeWork can help you fulfill the objectives outlined in your business plan—and WeWork’s coworking spaces can be a hotbed for finding talent and investors, too. The benefits of coworking spaces include intentionally designed lounges, conference rooms, and private offices that foster connection and bolster creativity, while a global network of professionals allows you to expand your reach and meet new collaborators.
Using these steps to write a business plan will put you in good stead to not only create a document that fulfills a purpose but one that also helps to more clearly understand your market, competition, point of difference, and plan for the future.
For more tips on growing teams and building a business, check out all our articles on Ideas by WeWork.
Caitlin Bishop is a writer for WeWork’s Ideas by WeWork , based in New York City. Previously, she was a journalist and editor at Mamamia in Sydney, Australia, and a contributing reporter at Gotham Gazette .
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In order to develop an effective work plan you'll need to clearly understand what you're trying to achieve. ensuring a favorable outcome of a work plan often comes down to the manner in which you manage your goals and objectives, and how you measure success. a ready-made, customizable work plan template is an intelligent first step to reaching your goals..
What is a work plan?
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4 tips for creating a successful work plan
- Work your way backwards from the final goal Planning activities can be accomplished by working backward from the final goal with core initiatives arranged hierarchically. Developing the plan can be achieved through iterative refinements of strategy, objectives and the underlying tactics. Gating factors should be accounted for in the development of a straw man outline. The main objectives and summary checklist should be included as the first step of the process.
- Establish goals with measurable deliverables Once the project outline is complete, it’s important to define clear realistic deliverables as part of the action plan. Milestones allow progress to be tracked against deliverables within a results-oriented framework. A timeline can be instrumental in identifying what needs to happen and when.
- Create realistic objectives that are relevant to the stated goals A good plan will often fan out from goal to tactic. For example, a single goal might be supported by a small number of strategies, each with a single or a small number of objectives. Objectives will often contain many tactics which should comprise the concrete actions to be accomplished within an achievable time frame. The more granular the tactical plan, the easier it will be to follow. Tasks can often be broken down into sub-tasks which represent individual units of work resulting in identifiable deliverables. As the project commences, it's important to track against the agreed-upon deliverables.
- Define responsibilities and roles in the work plan Allocating responsibilities among designated stakeholders with clearly assigned tasks is a key component of the operation plan. That way, all members of the team can function according to the team charter.
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How to create a business plan: a beginner's guide
Creating a well-written business plan is an essential first step to starting your own business.
What is a business plan?
Key concepts for writing a business plan, main components of a business plan, tips for writing a business plan.
A well-written business plan (opens in new tab) holds a lot of value. It’s where your ideas start to take shape and the direction of your new enterprise becomes clear – but it can seem intimidating.
Business plans require focus: you’re stating why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how you expect to do it. There can be a lot to note down.
Ultimately, though, your business plan is going to become an essential guide for you, your team, and anyone involved in your company.
So let’s uncover what it takes to write a business plan, and find out how it can benefit you.
- Also check out our roundup of the best small business software (opens in new tab)
In short, a business plan is a description of your business and everything that goes into it.
As well as helping to clarify the business idea (opens in new tab) that you have, it brings into focus elements like financing, staffing, revenue targets, and marketing strategies.
Business plans aren’t exclusive to startups, either. If you’re regenerating an existing company, a detailed and structured plan is enormously useful.
Not all success stories have required business plans, but a comprehensive plan will help you to identify any immediate routes to failure.
Although you’re putting a business concept on paper and announcing your mission statement, a plan has to be structured, not fanciful.
The first person it’s trying to convince is you. Are you ready to spend time and money on this?
After that, you should be considering any potential investors and your team members. Will they be motivated and excited? You’ll need to achieve the following with your business plan:
- A clear vision and purpose for the business – why is it important?
- A guide that can be used as a reference throughout the company’s growth.
- An objective outlook on the market potential of what it is your business is doing.
There is no one-size-fits-all business plan template, but the most successful plans have the same key components.
For small business owners writing a business plan, whether it's during the startup process or further down the road during a period of change, these are the essentials to include:
1. Executive summary
Think of your executive summary as an elevator pitch: it should be a concise, engaging, and persuasive overview of your business.
Keep this section to less than one page in length – after all, it is a summary.
While it’s the opening to your business plan, we recommend writing it last. That way, you can collate all of the key points raised in the rest of the document.
Here’s what you should summarize in this part of your business plan:
- A quick description - Outline what your business is about – if it’s a new business, what’s the mission? If you’re changing direction, what’s the concept?
- The products or services you’ll provide - Offer a brief value proposition – what makes your business idea unique?
- A picture of your target market - Give evidence that you’ve carried out market research and know who the end user should be.
- Your marketing strategy - Write a few lines about your intended marketing efforts to provide an idea of business reach.
- A snapshot of the company’s financial health - What’s the current business revenue and what are you forecasting to earn?
- A clear view of your financial needs - If you’re raising money, how much does the business require?
- The company’s key personnel - Whether you’re a startup business or an existing operation, who are the employees to mention?
- We've also featured the best online marketing services (opens in new tab)
2. Company description and overview
Next up, give a more detailed description of your business. Even if you’ve decided to write a business plan only for your own benefit, imagine what other people would want to know.
Make clear what you think is going to bring your business success in the long run.
This should help to demonstrate that the ideas you have are worth pursuing. For example, what problem can you solve? What experience can you bring to the table?
Here’s how to structure the company description part of your business plan:
Pinpoint the industry that your business is in, plus any insights or industry trends that you intend to adopt or disrupt.
Describe your business model and its structure – is it incorporated, a limited partnership, or perhaps a sole proprietorship?
Mention your target audience and highlight which problems or opportunities you have identified for the business.
Clarify your mission statement and value proposition to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to business focus.
Provide some background on the company, like when it was founded, who by, and where it’s based.
Highlight the key employees in your team. If it’s a small business, that could be everyone, or maybe just a select few people.
It can be tricky to take a step back and consider your overall business goals and objectives, but remember that this is the whole point of writing a business plan.
Business plans can be great tools to use if you’re not even sure whether the venture is worth doing – writing an ambitious company description will help you to find that out.
3. Market analysis and opportunities
Whether you run a small business or a big business, you’ll have competitors. Knowing about the other companies in your industry will be invaluable.
That knowledge can inform your marketing plans, pricing decisions, and product selections.
You’ll also need to know about your target market. An understanding of your customer profile will help your business reach the right people and maintain a competitive advantage.
So, how does all of your market research come together in a business plan? Here’s how:
Illustrate your market analysis - Use charts and graphs to show where the business is going to sit within its industry. In terms of your price points, product offer, and service proposition, how will it compare to other businesses?
Explain who your potential customers are - Use survey tools (opens in new tab) to help you specify key demographics like age, profession, and location – if you’re only just starting out, it’s fine to make informed guesses about your ideal customer profile.
Include a SWOT analysis - Identifying the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business is at the heart of every competitive analysis. Present this part in a grid layout to draw attention to it within your business plan.
Be clear about the competition - It’s tough to find a market that isn’t already saturated, so show how your product or service will be different. Although it’s useful to have friendly rivals, you’ll need some competitive advantages.
4. Products and services
Earlier in your business plan, you hinted at what you’ll be selling, and now’s the time to describe it. It’s worth remembering at this point that industry jargon should be avoided.
Explaining the products or services your business offers should be clear, but exciting.
This section should describe why and how your product exists, how much money it will cost to develop, and how much business planning has gone into your decisions.
Whether you keep it brief, or go into detail about manufacturing, here’s how to shape this part:
- Outline the development process - If you’re selling products, will you be manufacturing them too, or sourcing from elsewhere? What’s the timeline?
- Overview the business model - This is particularly important for retailers, as you’ll need to clarify how your products will reach your customers.
- Cover off the costs - Financial projections and cost management will come up a lot in your business plan. In this part, discuss your profit margin expectations.
- Explain what sets your business apart - Chances are there will be versions of your product or service on the market – what’s your unique selling point (USP)?
- Talk about intellectual property - Mention any patents or copyrights you have applied for and emphasise how your work will be protected.
5. Business management and organization
By this part of your business plan, you will have described in detail the ideas behind your company or its expansion. The next step is to explain how you plan to execute them.
Start by talking about the people in your business and how they’ll contribute to its success.
You will have highlighted key employees at the start of the business plan document, so use this opportunity to go into more detail about the team.
After all, they’ll be driving the business with you – here’s what you can show:
An organizational chart - This will be a great way to sense check the structure you have created – are there too many people in senior roles? How does the team work together? Is there enough room for growth?
The backgrounds of your key players - A strong management team requires people with a range of skills and expertise. Although your employees don’t need to have years of experience, they should be bringing something interesting to the table.
Your hiring strategies - A big part of business planning is finding the right people – after all, salaries form part of the fixed costs you have to pay for. How do you expect to reach the right talent pool as you grow the company?
The company’s legal structure - If you are creating a startup, go into more detail about how your business will be run. For example, will it be a limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietorship, or partnership?
6. Marketing strategy
You have a customer profile, so now you need to think about how you’re going to manage customer relationships. Nailing this in your business plan is a really smart move.
First of all, understanding your marketing objectives will help you find the right channels.
It will also uncover the financial data around your company’s promotional efforts. What will your campaigns cost? What can you afford to spend on marketing?
Here are the key marketing components that you will need to consider:
Your website - While social media is effective, websites are essential. They’re easy to get – a website builder (opens in new tab) like Zyro (opens in new tab) or Squarespace (opens in new tab) will help you to create a bespoke platform and get online quickly and at a low cost.
Its marketing tools - The other major advantage to website builders is that they provide users with integrations, software, and insights to help drive marketing strategies. You’ll be getting an online presence and the tools to promote your business.
Third-party assistance - You can also use online marketing services (opens in new tab) to help you structure each marketing plan and drive a difference between you and your competitors. Who would you work with, and what will that cost?
Other marketing channels - Where will your audience be? You’ll most likely benefit from using social media platforms, but which ones? Find out if it’s worth investing time into Instagram, or if LinkedIn will be more profitable.
How your business will stand out - When you write a business plan, you’re making predictions about the future – what will you do if your marketing strategy fails? Understand some key digital marketing trends (opens in new tab) to help inform your ideas.
- Check out our complete list of the best small business website builders (opens in new tab)
7. Business operations and logistics
Now we’re getting really granular. Breaking down the proposed logistics in your business plan will be incredibly useful for you as you work out financial projections.
Getting a clear picture of business operations will also help you formulate a contingency plan.
It may be that your business model is very niche and needs testing – how will you account for any failures? While it isn't fun to think about worst case scenarios, it’s better to do this now.
Plus, if you need to secure funding, this section is important. Here’s what to cover:
- Business facilities - If the company plans to open retail spaces or venues, where are they and how big are they? Will there be an office for employees?
- Supply chain - Will you be sourcing products or materials from manufacturers? Explain where they are based and what policies you will implement
- Inventory management - Retailers should describe how and where they plan to manage stock and customer orders
- Fulfillment model - Another vital component for retail businesses, this covers how you expect to receive products and ship them out to customers
- Business equipment - Even small business administration costs money. How will you source office supplies? Will you need a bank loan?
- Financial operations - Before you delve into this part of the business plan, mention how you plan to track and manage cash flow
8. Financial plan
Whether you need to secure funding, take out a business loan, or simply take note of your income statements, every business plan needs to cover financial planning.
It helps to take a look at your finance software (opens in new tab) options to construct this part of the document.
Being upfront about your company’s financial outlook is critical, both for you and anyone else who is planning to invest in the organization.
There are three key components that you’ll need to include in your business plan:
An income statement , which shows the most accurate picture (or estimation) of your company’s profit and loss over a period of time.
A cash flow statement . To understand how much money you need to scale the business, and if it’s viable, you’ll need to provide cash flow statements.
Balance sheets . A balance sheet discloses your business assets and liabilities – in other words, what you owe to others.
On top of your financial statements, you should also include a breakeven analysis of your company in your business plan.
Critical for startups, this shows at what point you expect to start making a profit and for what duration you anticipate to be running at a loss.
Once you know what goes into a good business plan, you’ll need to know how to make it a document that people actually want to read.
In addition to the main segments, you can include supporting documents to help people further contextualize what it is you’re doing.
That will also help you to keep track of your plans, especially if you’re only writing the document to help yourself and your team, not investors.
Either way, you want to avoid writing a total snooze-fest. While a lot of detail goes into a business plan, it also needs to be engaging and exciting throughout.
So, to write a really solid business plan, remember to:
- Keep it brief - Nobody wants to have to flick through a 100-page manifesto, not even future you. An effective business plan is concise and memorable
- Make it shareable - Business plans written on paper won’t really go anywhere – make sure yours is published in an easily transferable format
- Be clear - Only use industry jargon when it’s totally unavoidable, otherwise you risk alienating (and boring) the readers of your business plan
- Show your research - Implement charts, provide supporting documents, and make sure that it’s abundantly clear how much thought you put into your business
- Remember your passion - Don’t be put off by traditional business plans with bland statements – make it clear in your own business plan how exciting this venture is
- We've also featured the best business plan software (opens in new tab)
Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.
Business Plan Example and Template
Learn how to create a business plan
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that contains the operational and financial plan of a business, and details how its objectives will be achieved. It serves as a road map for the business and can be used when pitching investors or financial institutions for debt or equity financing .
A business plan should follow a standard format and contain all the important business plan elements. Typically, it should present whatever information an investor or financial institution expects to see before providing financing to a business.
Contents of a Business Plan
A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan:
1. Title Page
The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date, and the company logo.
2. Executive Summary
The executive summary is the most important section because it is the first section that investors and bankers see when they open the business plan. It provides a summary of the entire business plan. It should be written last to ensure that you don’t leave any details out. It must be short and to the point, and it should capture the reader’s attention. The executive summary should not exceed two pages.
3. Industry Overview
The industry overview section provides information about the specific industry that the business operates in. Some of the information provided in this section includes major competitors, industry trends, and estimated revenues. It also shows the company’s position in the industry and how it will compete in the market against other major players.
4. Market Analysis and Competition
The market analysis section details the target market for the company’s product offerings. This section confirms that the company understands the market and that it has already analyzed the existing market to determine that there is adequate demand to support its proposed business model.
Market analysis includes information about the target market’s demographics , geographical location, consumer behavior, and market needs. The company can present numbers and sources to give an overview of the target market size.
A business can choose to consolidate the market analysis and competition analysis into one section or present them as two separate sections.
5. Sales and Marketing Plan
The sales and marketing plan details how the company plans to sell its products to the target market. It attempts to present the business’s unique selling proposition and the channels it will use to sell its goods and services. It details the company’s advertising and promotion activities, pricing strategy, sales and distribution methods, and after-sales support.
6. Management Plan
The management plan provides an outline of the company’s legal structure, its management team, and internal and external human resource requirements. It should list the number of employees that will be needed and the remuneration to be paid to each of the employees.
Any external professionals, such as lawyers, valuers, architects, and consultants, that the company will need should also be included. If the company intends to use the business plan to source funding from investors, it should list the members of the executive team, as well as the members of the advisory board.
7. Operating Plan
The operating plan provides an overview of the company’s physical requirements, such as office space, machinery, labor, supplies, and inventory . For a business that requires custom warehouses and specialized equipment, the operating plan will be more detailed, as compared to, say, a home-based consulting business. If the business plan is for a manufacturing company, it will include information on raw material requirements and the supply chain.
8. Financial Plan
The financial plan is an important section that will often determine whether the business will obtain required financing from financial institutions, investors, or venture capitalists. It should demonstrate that the proposed business is viable and will return enough revenues to be able to meet its financial obligations. Some of the information contained in the financial plan includes a projected income statement , balance sheet, and cash flow.
9. Appendices and Exhibits
The appendices and exhibits part is the last section of a business plan. It includes any additional information that banks and investors may be interested in or that adds credibility to the business. Some of the information that may be included in the appendices section includes office/building plans, detailed market research , products/services offering information, marketing brochures, and credit histories of the promoters.
Business Plan Template
Here is a basic template that any business can use when developing its business plan:
Section 1: Executive Summary
- Present the company’s mission.
- Describe the company’s product and/or service offerings.
- Give a summary of the target market and its demographics.
- Summarize the industry competition and how the company will capture a share of the available market.
- Give a summary of the operational plan, such as inventory, office and labor, and equipment requirements.
Section 2: Industry Overview
- Describe the company’s position in the industry.
- Describe the existing competition and the major players in the industry.
- Provide information about the industry that the business will operate in, estimated revenues, industry trends, government influences, as well as the demographics of the target market.
Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition
- Define your target market, their needs, and their geographical location.
- Describe the size of the market, the units of the company’s products that potential customers may buy, and the market changes that may occur due to overall economic changes.
- Give an overview of the estimated sales volume vis-à-vis what competitors sell.
- Give a plan on how the company plans to combat the existing competition to gain and retain market share.
Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan
- Describe the products that the company will offer for sale and its unique selling proposition.
- List the different advertising platforms that the business will use to get its message to customers.
- Describe how the business plans to price its products in a way that allows it to make a profit.
- Give details on how the company’s products will be distributed to the target market and the shipping method.
Section 5: Management Plan
- Describe the organizational structure of the company.
- List the owners of the company and their ownership percentages.
- List the key executives, their roles, and remuneration.
- List any internal and external professionals that the company plans to hire, and how they will be compensated.
- Include a list of the members of the advisory board, if available.
Section 6: Operating Plan
- Describe the location of the business, including office and warehouse requirements.
- Describe the labor requirement of the company. Outline the number of staff that the company needs, their roles, skills training needed, and employee tenures (full-time or part-time).
- Describe the manufacturing process, and the time it will take to produce one unit of a product.
- Describe the equipment and machinery requirements, and if the company will lease or purchase equipment and machinery, and the related costs that the company estimates it will incur.
- Provide a list of raw material requirements, how they will be sourced, and the main suppliers that will supply the required inputs.
Section 7: Financial Plan
- Describe the financial projections of the company, by including the projected income statement, projected cash flow statement, and the balance sheet projection.
Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits
- Quotes of building and machinery leases
- Proposed office and warehouse plan
- Market research and a summary of the target market
- Credit information of the owners
- List of product and/or services
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Business Plans. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:
- Corporate Structure
- Three Financial Statements
- NEW CFI Template Marketplace
- See all management & strategy resources
- Share this article
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How to Hire Staff for a Small Business
March 4, 2023 By Community Member Leave a Comment
Small business owners have to wear many hats. One of the most critical roles is knowing how to hire staff. But it can be overwhelming to contemplate how to go about finding the people to help you run a business that’s so near and dear to your heart.
Every small business is different, but there are some general principles that are important to keep in mind. Here’s a guide on how to hire staff for a small business.
Determine What Kind of Hire You’ll Need
First things first: You have to determine what kind of hire you need. Do you need an employee, or would an independent contractor fit better with what you’re looking for?
There are a lot of nuances between what a contractor position can look like versus an employee in the traditional sense. Generally, though, an employee works for one company for a salary or hourly wage at a specific time and place with employer-given tasks using employer-given resources, while a contractor works wherever and whenever they like with their own tools and resources and are paid by the project or with a flat fee.
You may also find that a temp worker is what you need for a trial basis or a particularly busy season. After the temp period of service, you can reevaluate both the fit of that specific candidate in the position and your need for the position at all.
You can often get temp-to-hire workers if you end up wanting to go that route. Whatever kind of hire you need, make sure you have that clearly established before you actually begin the hiring process.
Make a Strategic Plan Before Opening the Position
At a large company, there are often a lot of layers of bureaucracy for prospective employees to work through before they can be officially hired on. However, with a small business, there is potential for positions to fill more quickly.
That means you have to be careful about when you open a position. Before you publicly announce that you’re hiring, make a strategic plan. If you have other current employees, you may consider involving them in the decision.
Focus your plan around this question: What, ideally, is the role that you want a new position to fill? Here are some follow-up questions to consider:
- What is the official job title or titles?
- How much would this person, or people, work?
- Are there physical locations or duties associated?
- What are the “must-have” qualifications or skills a candidate needs to have to be considered for this position?
- What else would be “nice to have” in a candidate?
- What is the salary range you’re willing to pay?
- What benefits will you provide?
Defining the role will give you clarity on who and how to hire. Establishing this type of clear job description will help you know who you’re looking for in the job. That will make the rest of the hiring process easier.
Target Your Recruitment to Your Ideal Candidate
Now that you know what kind of hire you need, and you have your clear strategic plan for the position, it’s time to recruit!
You should already be able to see your ideal candidate emerging from the work you’ve done above, but it doesn’t hurt to be even clearer about it with this step. You can even write down or state in the advertisement who that candidate looks like for you.
Recruitment will look widely different depending on your small business’s industry and nature, but you can always expect it to be a process that requires patience and clarity. When you keep your ideal candidate in mind and focus recruitment on that, you can stay grounded through various outcomes in your search for the new hire. That can range from having no good options to having too many.
As an important part of your targeting, make sure to give your advertisement for the job a clear title and description for your ideal candidate. Make it obvious for them right off the bat if they’re a good fit or not. That way, candidates can essentially vet themselves as an initial step.
Remember that your ideal candidate is about a lot more than just specific skills. Once you make sure your prospective hire has the minimum “must-have” requirements you identified earlier in the hiring process, you can focus then on other critical aspects, such as their communication style and punctuality, to see if they would fit well into your business’s culture.
Each small business has its own feel, and you want to make sure that you hire people who would work well both with anyone else at your business — and with the company’s values and attitudes.
Consider Remote Work Opportunities
Especially with a small business, it’s easy to narrow your focus to a very specific regional area. But depending on the needs of your small business’s new hire, you may have more luck finding the right kind of candidate outside a small locality.
Realistically, in the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work continues to be on the rise, and it’s more than just a current reality or a convenience for busy people who don’t want a commute. Studies show that the remote workforce is actually, on average, more engaged in their work, with a greater efficiency rate, than the traditional in-office workers.
Of course, your small business may have different factors, but remote work is a good possibility to consider when looking at hiring staff. Besides widening the radius from which you get potential workers, you may also be able to find hires with more training who can work better in a more flexible environment.
Seek Professional Help
Small business owners, and workers, are often used to taking things on themselves, even if it’s not expressly in the original job description, as that’s seen as being more economical and efficient for the business’s needs. However, when it comes to hiring staff, seeking professional help can be well worth it.
Professional help can provide permanent staffing solutions to provide not just the next hire, but the best hire, to fit your business. A staffing service can find you the ideal candidate and help you with placement. For a business owner already pulled in a million different directions, sometimes this is the easiest way to go.
Acknowledge Your Business’s Unique Circumstances
Finally, make sure that in your hiring process, you acknowledge the unique circumstances of your small business. The beauty and curse of a small business is that it is completely its own. So, clearly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to hiring staff, but these principles can help any business grow its dedicated team.
About the Author
Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She often writes about HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, finance, and law.
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A pitch for planning on Fridays
We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all live through the same 168 hours each week. Yet during certain seasons of life, we experience those hours in more intense ways than we do in others.
Perhaps you’re living through a whirlwind time, at work or otherwise. Mornings are a rush of getting people out the door. Workdays feature their drumbeat of meetings and deadlines. Evenings descend more quickly than seems possible. You wake up on Monday and realize, when you stop to breathe, that it’s suddenly Thursday. As someone whose work focuses on time management and productivity, I’ve found this to be true: Hours must give all that you ask of them, even in a whirlwind.
To calm the chaos, we need to think about a stretch of time before we’re hurtling through it. We need to pause in the calm shallows to consider what we need to do, and what we want to do. That’s why I advocate for setting a designated weekly pause for planning—and why I think most of us are missing the best time to do it. Here’s why you should be planning on Fridays.
BEGINNING AT THE END
Creating a designated weekly planning time is essential for calming chaos in your time and your calendar. When that session occurs depends on your personal preference, but I have a case for the end of the week.
If you observe a typical Monday–Friday work or school schedule, then Friday, and particularly Friday afternoon, has four main upsides over some other leading planning-time contenders, like Sunday nights or Monday mornings. Here’s why.
BOOSTING THE COST-BENEFIT
Minimize the opportunity cost. It’s hard to start anything new on Friday afternoons. Many of us are sliding toward the weekend at that point. If this time would otherwise be wasted counting the hours until it’s acceptable to sign off, why not repurpose it for planning?
Make Monday productive. If you plan on Fridays, you can make full use of your Monday mornings. Many of us have more energy at the start of things than we do later on. Planning on Fridays allows you to use that Monday-morning energy for making progress on big projects, rather than using that energy to think about what Future You (who may have less vim and vigor than Monday Morning You) should be doing.
Plus if you discover in your Friday planning that you need to make an appointment or set up a meeting, you can still do this during Friday’s business hours, with all of Monday available to you if you need it. If you wait until Monday morning to plan, and realize then that you need to reach out to someone, you won’t get the meeting on the schedule until late Monday at the earliest. Most likely it will be Tuesday or later.
WALLING-OFF THE WEEKEND
Upgrade your weekends. I aim to think about weekends one week ahead. But if you don’t do that—and many people don’t relish planning their leisure time eight to nine days in advance—planning on Friday gives you a chance to look at the immediately upcoming weekend.
You can make arrangements for any family or social activities, for one. You’ll be more likely to make space for big adventures if you think about Saturday on Friday, rather than if you attempt to make a plan on Saturday morning when no one feels like doing much of anything.
A SUNDAY SCARY STALLOUT
Calm the Sunday scaries. A great many people plan on Sunday nights, and this does still allow for directing Monday-morning energy. But the big problem with planning on Sunday is that you go into the weekend without a plan for the upcoming workweek. You know there are complicated problems waiting for you, but you don’t know exactly what. The uncertainty can keep your brain churning through these questions.
This is the big reason that even people who like their jobs can suffer from Sunday anxiety. They spend what could be leisure or family time mulling over the undefined tasks they’ll face during the week ahead.
If you know exactly how you plan to accomplish what you need to accomplish before you quit on Friday afternoon, then you can relax. You can give your brain a true break. Do your weekly planning on Friday afternoon, Friday after Friday, and life will feel a lot more tranquil—on every day of the week.
MORE STORIES FOR TIME-TESTING
↩️ Planning ahead is good, but planning backward is better
⏰ 4 ways to create, use, maximize, and sustain your time
🐠 The to-do list method for people with busy lives and short attention spans
📝 How to structure your day better
🗑 “Personal kanban”: a life-changing time-management system that explodes the myth of multitasking
YOU GOT THE MEMO
Send questions, comments, and planning notes to [email protected] . This edition of The Memo was written by Laura Vanderkam and edited by Gabriela Riccardi . Adapted from Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters , copyright © Laura Vanderkam, published by Penguin Random House.
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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, elements of a business plan, special considerations.
- Business Plan FAQs
Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How To Write One
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
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A business plan is a document that defines in detail a company's objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written road map for the firm from marketing , financial, and operational standpoints. Both startups and established companies use business plans.
A business plan is an important document aimed at a company's external and internal audiences. For instance, a business plan is used to attract investment before a company has established a proven track record. It can also help to secure lending from financial institutions.
Furthermore, a business plan can serve to keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and on target for meeting established goals.
Although they're especially useful for new businesses, every company should have a business plan. Ideally, the plan is reviewed and updated periodically to reflect goals that have been met or have changed. Sometimes, a new business plan is created for an established business that has decided to move in a new direction.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's core business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- A business plan can also be used as an internal guide to keep an executive team focused on and working toward short- and long-term objectives.
- Businesses may create a lengthier traditional business plan or a shorter lean startup business plan.
- Good business plans should include an executive summary and sections on products and services, marketing strategy and analysis, financial planning, and a budget.
Want Funding? You Need a Business Plan
A business plan is a fundamental document that any new business should have in place prior to beginning operations. Indeed, banks and venture capital firms often require a viable business plan before considering whether they'll provide capital to new businesses.
Operating without a business plan usually is not a good idea. In fact, very few companies are able to last very long without one. There are benefits to creating (and sticking to) a good business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and working through potential obstacles to success.
A good business plan should outline all the projected costs and possible pitfalls of each decision a company makes. Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they can have the same basic elements, such as an executive summary of the business and detailed descriptions of its operations, products and services, and financial projections. A plan also states how the business intends to achieve its goals.
While it's a good idea to give as much detail as possible, it's also important that a plan be concise to keep a reader's attention to the end.
A well-considered and well-written business plan can be of enormous value to a company. While there are templates that you can use to write a business plan, try to avoid producing a generic result. The plan should include an overview and, if possible, details of the industry of which the business will be a part. It should explain how the business will distinguish itself from its competitors.
Start with the essential structure: an executive summary, company description, market analysis, product or service description, marketing strategy, financial projections, and appendix (which include documents and data that support the main sections). These sections or elements of a business plan are outlined below.
When you write your business plan, you don’t have to strictly follow a particular business plan outline or template. Use only those sections that make the most sense for your particular business and its needs.
Traditional business plans use some combination of the sections below. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making. Regardless, try to keep the main body of your plan to around 15-25 pages.
The length of a business plan varies greatly from business to business. Consider fitting the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Then, other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.
As mentioned above, no two business plans are the same. Nonetheless, they tend to have the same elements. Below are some of the common and key parts of a business plan.
- Executive summary: This section outlines the company and includes the mission statement along with any information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and location.
- Products and services: Here, the company can outline the products and services it will offer, and may also include pricing, product lifespan, and benefits to the consumer. Other factors that may go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A firm needs a good handle on its industry as well as its target market. This section of the plan will detail a company's competition and how the company fits in the industry, along with its relative strengths and weaknesses. It will also describe the expected consumer demand for a company's products or services and how easy or difficult it may be to grab market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section describes how the company will attract and keep its customer base and how it intends to reach the consumer. A clear distribution channel must be outlined. The section also spells out advertising and marketing campaign plans and the types of media those campaigns will use.
- Financial planning: This section should include a company's financial planning and projections. Financial statements, balance sheets, and other financial information may be included for established businesses. New businesses will include targets and estimates for the first few years plus a description of potential investors.
- Budget: Every company needs to have a budget in place. This section should include costs related to staffing, development, manufacturing, marketing, and any other expenses related to the business.
Unique Business Plans Help
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its singularity and potential for success.
Types of Business Plans
Business plans help companies identify their objectives and remain on track to meet goals. They can help companies start, manage themselves, and grow once up and running. They also act as a means to attract lenders and investors.
Although there is no right or wrong business plan, they can fall into two different categories—traditional or lean startup. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the most common. It contains a lot of detail in each section. These tend to be longer than the lean startup plan and require more work.
Lean startup business plans, on the other hand, use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans aren't as common in the business world because they're short—as short as one page—and lack detail. If a company uses this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or lender requests it.
A complete business plan must include a set of financial projections for the business. These forward-looking financial statements are often called pro-forma financial statements or simply the " pro-formas ." They include an overall budget, current and projected financing needs, a market analysis, and the company's marketing strategy.
Other Considerations for a Business Plan
A major reason for a business plan is to give owners a clear picture of objectives, goals, resources, potential costs, and drawbacks of certain business decisions. A business plan should help them modify their structures before implementing their ideas. It also allows owners to project the type of financing required to get their businesses up and running.
If there are any especially interesting aspects of the business, they should be highlighted and used to attract financing, if needed. For example, Tesla Motors' electric car business essentially began only as a business plan.
Importantly, a business plan shouldn't be a static document. As a business grows and changes, so too should the business plan. An annual review of the company and its plan allows an entrepreneur or group of owners to update the plan, based on successes, setbacks, and other new information. It provides an opportunity to size up the plan's ability to help the company grow.
Think of the business plan as a living document that evolves with your business.
A business plan is a document created by a company that describes the company's goals, operations, industry standing, marketing objectives, and financial projections. The information it contains can be a helpful guide in running the company. What's more, it can be a valuable tool to attract investors and obtain financing from financial institutions.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
Even if you have a good business plan, your company can still fail, especially if you do not stick to the plan! Having strong leadership with focus on the plan is always a good strategy. Even when following the plan, if you had poor assumptions going into your projections, you can be caught with cash flow shortages and out of control budgets. Markets and the economy can also change. Without flexibility built in to your business plan, you may be unable to pivot to a new course as needed.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers a quick explanation of its business. The company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide since it's just getting started.
Sections can include: a value proposition, a company's major activities and advantages, resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital, a list of partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.
Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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How to Create a Business Plan?
What is the executive summary of the business plan.
- the business opportunity.
- a brief description of products and services.
- the target market
- marketing and sales strategic plan
- financial plan and implementation plan
What to Include in a Business Plan
- Your business concept. This is where your business, particular products and service, and your daily plans for your business is discussed.
- Your business strategies. Including marketing and sales strategies, and how you can make your business a success
- Your business products and services. This is where you put into details the products and services your business offers and what are their competitive advantages.
- The target markets. Who are your customers and demographic audience, and how you can attract and retain them to make profits.
- Your management team. The background information on your team, specifically their accomplished projects.
- Your business financial need. How you expect your business strategies will pay out.
Why Prepare a Business Plan?
- To test the probability of your business idea.
- To steer your quality plan of business towards success and give the possible chance to achieve it.
- To secure funding.
- To make business planning easy and effective.
- To attract more clients and investor.
What to Avoid in Your Business Plan
- The executive summary does not succinctly describe your business idea and why it will be successful.
- The business plan is all about the business and not your service for potential customers.
- Not enough details on products and services.
- No clear written objective statement on how the business can generate value.
- The business sales forecast is not credible and reliable.
- The funding of your business is not supported by the financial statements .
- Not giving more importance of having a good cash flow statement .
Tips for Preparing a Business Plan
- Make your business plan as concise as possible. Get rid of the filler words even if it makes your business plan sounds nice. It is still a waste of space and makes your business plan longer.
- Be realistic. What your write in your business plan must be true and accurate.
- Be conservative in your business plan. Present explanations that show you are conservative in your predictions
- Provide visuals in your business plan. Graph, charts , and any visuals can help you convey what you wanted your business plan to show.
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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:
- clarify your business idea
- spot potential problems
- set out your goals
- measure your progress
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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Republicans want to replace federal taxes with a flat sales tax. It'll either add trillions to the national deficit or you'll have to pay a lot more for everything.
- Some Republicans want to abolish the IRS and replace most federal taxes with a flat sales tax.
- However, a report from Brookings finds that the sales tax at the currently proposed rate would add to the deficit.
- Rep. Buddy Carter, who introduced the legislation, said the US "doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem."
Republicans want to slash taxes and government spending, and their big plan to do just that hinges on abolishing the IRS and replacing most federal taxes with a flat 23% national sales tax .
There's just one problem, according to a new report out of the Brookings Institute: That "FairTax" proposal, which would amount to a 30% markup on just about everything's sticker price, making the tax 23% of an item's total price including the tax, would actually add nearly $10 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years — running counter to Republicans' insistence that the deficit should be reduced.
William G. Gale and Kyle Pomerleau argue in their Brookings article that the FairTax's proponents don't deal with how prices would change for consumers and businesses in a consistent way; adjusting for that inconsistency would lead to a much higher tax rate needed to match current tax revenues, even under favorable assumptions like a lack of tax evasion and no changes in government spending. That adds nearly $10 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, according to Gale and Pomerleau.
In an email, Pomerleau said that the simplest way to understand the mismatch was in terms of inflation.
"If the price level suddenly increased by 10% tomorrow, everything denominated in dollars would rise in price by 10 percent (goods and services, wages, profits, etc). However, the real value of everything would remain the same. At the same time, government spending would have to rise with the 10% inflation to keep up, otherwise real spending falls," Pomerleau said.
"This is roughly the problem with the proponents' original estimates. They assumed that when the tax is levied, it is added to the price of goods and services (prices go up). But they assumed that government spending doesn't rise at the same time, which means a real reduction in spending."
Instead, if the FairTax wanted to break even, it would have to be 39% on the sticker price of goods and services in a world without tax evasion. When factoring in a 17% tax evasion and avoidance rate — the current evasion rate on income tax — the rate would have to be nearly 52% to keep revenue at the same levels. And, as the authors note, it's optimistic to assume even that low level of evasion, if there's no IRS to crack down on people getting out of paying.
In short, if FairTax wanted to maintain current levels of government revenue and spending, you'd have to pay over 50% more on things like food, electronics, and pretty much anything else you need to buy. That rate could get even higher if there were exemptions for necessities and state and local government taxes, according to Brookings, meaning it'd have to reach 85.5%.
"Our country doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Under President Biden, the federal government has seen record revenue and is still projected to sustain trillion dollar deficits," Rep. Buddy Carter, who introduced the legislation , said in a statement to Insider. "We need to cut the spending, put money back into Americans' pockets, and simplify our tax code so it works for - not against - hardworking taxpayers. The FAIRTax won't make the government richer, but that's the point."
It's not the first GOP tax legislation that would tack billions onto the deficit. The House GOP's proposal to roll back $80 billion in funding for the IRS would actually add a net $114 billion to the deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office .
But don't expect a FairTax emerging or the IRS disappearing anytime soon. The White House has been adamantly opposed to the FairTax legislation, and President Joe Biden has said he'd veto any bills like it if they came to him.
The Biden administration also continued to express its disapproval of the plan. White House spokesperson Michael Kikukawa told Insider, "only House Republicans could come up with a policy that cuts taxes for the wealthy, increases taxes for working people, and adds $10 trillion to the debt—all at the same time. This is on top of the $3 trillion that Republicans want to add to the debt with tax giveaways to wealthy tax cheats, Big Pharma, big corporations, and other special interests. Given Congressional Republicans' claims that they care about the debt while proposing increasing it by trillions of dollars, the American people deserve to know what they plan to cut. Is it Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, as they have repeatedly proposed?"
Learn about the best business plan software. 1. Write an executive summary This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission...
Create a Company Description Brainstorm Your Business Goals Describe Your Services or Products Conduct Market Research Create Financial Plans Bottom Line Frequently Asked Questions Show more...
Your business plan is the foundation of your business. Learn how to write a business plan quickly and efficiently with a business plan template. ... Work for the SBA; Employee life; Jobs at the SBA; Contracting for the SBA; Disaster response jobs at SBA; Oversight and advocacy;
Here are the 7 steps to write a business plan: Executive summary Products & services Market analysis Marketing & sales Company organization and management team Financial projections Appendix Be sure to download our free business plan template to start writing your own business plan as you work through this guide.
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:
A business plan can help you document your strategy as you're getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running. You should create a business plan when you're:
Create a business plan with templates in Word: Start with a template Download these templates from the Office Templates site to create your plan: Fill in your Business plan. Analyze your market with the Business market analysis template. Detail your financials in a Financial plan.
Step 5: Create a step-by-step plan Now that you have all the pieces, it's time to put everything together by creating a step-by-step work plan and project schedule. You have already laid...
How to Make a Work Plan in 7 Steps While work plans might take many forms, here are some simple work planning steps you can follow to make one. 1. Set Goals & Objectives Before anything, it's important to write down the goals and objectives that'll be achieved through your work plan. These will describe the purpose of your plan.
The first step to creating a work plan is to set clear goals and objectives. Your goals should focus on the big picture, and the objectives should be specific and tangible. For example, if you are launching a new product, the goal may be to drive 50,000 people to the website in the next 12 months.
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:
For professional work plans, you may have to write an introduction and background. These provide your supervisor or manager with the information they need to put your work plan into context.  Writing an introduction and background is often unnecessary for an academic work plan. The introduction should be short and engaging.
The 10 steps to write a business plan are: Create an executive summary Compose your company description Summarize market research and potential Conduct competitive analysis Describe your product or service Develop a marketing and sales strategy Compile your business financials Describe your organization and management Explain your funding request
A business plan shouldn't just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead. Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company
The first step is to establish a goal and determine some strategic ideas. This will facilitate the development of a broad general outline, identify some of the larger strategic considerations, and help define scope constraints. Brainstorming can often identify individual strategies and tactics to support the key objectives.
Learn How to Write a Business Plan in 8 Steps. Business plans help new businesses formalize their goals to internal staff and potential investors, as well as allow the business founders to keep track of their company's progress as it grows. Read on to learn the value of both small business plans and large corporate plans.
For small business owners writing a business plan, whether it's during the startup process or further down the road during a period of change, these are the essentials to include: 1....
A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan: 1. Title Page. The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date ...
The structure and order that you get from a plan can positively impact every aspect of your work life. Here are eight practical tips you can use to create a stellar work plan to suit your needs. 1. Set aside time for planning your week. First, pick a day and set aside an adequate amount of time for your weekly planning.
Acknowledge Your Business's Unique Circumstances. Finally, make sure that in your hiring process, you acknowledge the unique circumstances of your small business. The beauty and curse of a small business is that it is completely its own. So, clearly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to hiring staff, but these principles can help ...
State the basic information of your business, such as your services, objective statements, and market. Products and services. Provide the problem you wish to solve and its corresponding solution in regards to what you can offer your customers. Marketing plan and analysis. Discuss the market demands and how you plan to meet them.
Make Monday productive. If you plan on Fridays, you can make full use of your Monday mornings. Many of us have more energy at the start of things than we do later on. Planning on Fridays allows ...
Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...
Below are the five reason why your business needs an effective business plan. To test the probability of your business idea. To steer your quality plan of business towards success and give the possible chance to achieve it. To secure funding. To make business planning easy and effective.
A business plan helps you to: clarify your business idea spot potential problems set out your goals measure your progress You'll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a...
In the news. Republicans want to replace federal taxes with a flat sales tax. It'll either add trillions to the national deficit or you'll have to pay a lot more for everything. Rep. Buddy Carter ...
The success of your book is up to you. As well as getting it into the hands of readers through personal contact, sales, events, gifting, and more, it's the ideal time to step into the spotlight ...