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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

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

1. Write an executive summary

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

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

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

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

steps for business plan preparation

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.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

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

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

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

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

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

On a similar note...

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

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

Link copied

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

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

What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

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

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

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

Business Plan Steps

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

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

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

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

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

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

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

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

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

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

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

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

Step 1: Executive Summary

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

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

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

Step 2: Description of Business

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

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

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

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

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

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

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

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

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

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

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

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

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

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

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

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

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

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

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

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

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

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

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

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

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

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

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

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

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

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

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

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

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

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

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

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

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

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

African American entrepreneur climbing a mountain representative of writing a business plan to outline your entrepreneurial journey.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated November 30, 2023

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

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

  • The basics of business planning

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

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

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

  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

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

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

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

Your executive summary should include:

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

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

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

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

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

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

Market analysis

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

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

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

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

Related: Target market examples

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

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

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

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing and sales plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key milestones and metrics

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

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

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

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

Possible milestones might be:

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

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

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

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

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

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

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

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

Financial plan

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

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

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

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

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

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

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

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

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

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

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

Your cover page should be simple and include:

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

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

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

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

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

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

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

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

  • Writing tips and strategies

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

Determine why you are writing a business plan

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

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

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

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

Keep things concise

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

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

Have someone review your business plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use your business plan to manage your business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

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

What are the benefits of a business plan?

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

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

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

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

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

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

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

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

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

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

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

How long should a business plan be?

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

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

What are the different types of business plans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Content Author: Noah Parsons

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

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Table of Contents

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

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October 31, 2023

Block Advisors

How to Write a Business Plan Step-By-Step

October 31, 2023 • Block Advisors

QUICK ANSWER:

  • A business plan outlines your business’s goals, services, financing, and more.
  • Business plans vary in length and complexity but should always include an explanation of what your business will do and how it will do it.
  • Business plans serve as a guide for business owners and employees and are key to boosting investor confidence.

Whether you’re a serial entrepreneur or just getting your first small business idea off the ground, creating a business plan is an important step. Good business planning will help you clarify your goals and objectives, identify strategies, and note any potential issues or roadblocks you might face.

Not every business owner chooses to write a business plan, but many find it to be a valuable step to take when starting a business. Creating a business plan can seem daunting and confusing at first. But taking the time to plan and research can be very beneficial, especially for first-time small business owners.

If you want to learn how to create a business plan or if you feel you just need a little business plan help, read on!

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan serves as a comprehensive document that outlines your business’s goals, services, financing, leadership, and more details essential to its success. Think of the plan as the who, what, and why of your new business:

A small business owner learning how to write a business plan

Who are the major players in your business?

What goods or services do you offer and why are they important?

Why are you in business and why should customers choose you?

Business plans can range in complexity and length, but, at their core, all plans explain what the business will do and how it will do it. A business plan serves as a guide for business owners and employees and should boost investor confidence. Some important advantages of business plans include:

  • Shows investors you have an in-demand product or service, a solid team to achieve business goals, and the potential for growth and scalability.
  • Increases the likelihood of securing a business loan, locking in investments, or raising capital. >>Read: A Guide to Raising Capital as a Small Business Founder
  • Helps recognize partnership opportunities with other companies.
  • Identifies and defines competitors within your given industry.

Looking for an examples of a successful business plan? Check out the SBA’s business plan page for walkthroughs of different business plan outlines.

How to Write a Business Plan: 10 Simple Steps

Starting with a blank page is undoubtedly intimidating. So, begin with a structured business plan template including the key elements for each section. Once your outline is complete, it’ll be time to fill in the details. Don’t worry, you’ll know how to write a business plan in no time. We’ve broken each section down to help you write a business plan in a few simple steps.

1. Brainstorm and Draft an Executive Summary for Your Business Plan

This will be the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your business’ written elevator pitch. In this high level summary, include a mission statement, a short description of the products or services you will be providing, and a summary of your financial and growth projections.

This section will be the first part people read, but you may find it easier to write it last. Writing it after building out the rest of your plan may help you condense the most important information into a concise statement. You’ll need to streamline your thoughts from the other sections into a one page or less summary.

2. Create a Business Description

In this next section, describe your business. Add more specific details than the executive summary. You should include your business’s registered name, the address of your business’s location, basic information about your business structure , and the names of key people involved in the business.

The company description should also answer these two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you plan to do?

Explain why you’re in business. Show how you are different from competitors. Tell investors why they should finance your company. This section is often more inspirational and emotional. Make sure you grab the reader’s attention. The goal is to get them to believe in your vision as much as you do.

What business structure is right for my company?

Answer these six questions to help you find your fit

3. Outline Your Business Goals

This section should serve as an objective statement. Explain what you want to accomplish and your timeline. Business goals and objectives give you a clear focus. They drive your business to success, so dream big. Include objectives that will help you reach each goal. Don’t forget to make your goals and objectives SMART – that is, they should be:

S pecific | M easurable | A ttainable | R elevant | T ime-bound

4. Conduct and Summarize Market Research

Next, outline your ideal customer with some research. Do the math to estimate the potential size of your target market. Make sure you are choosing the right market for your product, one with plenty of customers who want and need your product. Define your customer’s pain points. Explain your expertise in relation to the market. Show how your product or service fills an important gap and brings value to your customers. Use your findings to build out a value proposition statement.

5. Conduct a Competitive Analysis

In a similar way, you’ll also want to conduct and include a competitive analysis. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of competitors in your market, strategies that will give you a competitive advantage, and how your company is different. Some people choose to conduct a competitive analysis using the SWOT method .

6. Outline Your Marketing and Sales Strategies

Your marketing sales strategy can make or break your business. Your marketing plan should outline your current sales decisions as well as future marketing strategies. In this section, you should reiterate your value proposition, target markets, and customer segments. Then, include details such as:

  • A launch plan
  • Growth tactics and strategies
  • A customer retention plan
  • Advertising and promotion channels (i.e. social media, print, search engines, etc.)

7. Describe Your Product or Service

By this point, your products or services have probably been mentioned in several areas of the business plan. But it’s still important to include a separate section that outlines their key details. Describe what you’re offering and how it fits in the current market. Also include details about the benefits, production process, and life cycle of your products. If you have any trademarks or patents, include them here. This is also a good time to ask yourself, “Should my plan include visual aids?”

[ Read More Must-Have Tips to Start Your Small Business ]

8. Compile Financial Plans

Financial health is crucial to the success of any business. If you’re just starting your business, you likely won’t have financial data yet. However, you still need to prepare a budget and financial plan. If you have them, include income statements , balance sheets , and cash flow statements . You can also include reporting metrics such as net income and your ratio of liquidity to debt repayment ability.

If you haven’t launched your business yet, include realistic projections of the same information. Set clear financial goals and include projected milestones. Share information about the budget. What are the business operations costs? Ensure you are comprehensive when considering what costs you may need to prepare for.

9. Build a Management and Operations Plan

Identify your team members. Highlight their expertise and qualifications. Outline roles that still need to be filled now to establish your company and later as the business grows. Read More: 8 tax steps to take when hiring employees >>

Include a section detailing your logistics and operations plan. Consider all parts of your operation. Create a plan that provides details on suppliers, production, equipment, shipment and fulfillment, and inventory. This shows how your business will get done.

10. Create an Appendix – A Place for Additional Information and Documents

Lastly, assemble an organized appendix. This section can contain any other relevant information a reader might need to enhance their understanding of other sections. If you feel like the appendix is getting long, consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section. Appendices often include documents such as:

  • Licenses and permits
  • Bank statements
  • Resumes of key employees
  • Equipment leases

How to Create a Business Plan: The Bottom Line

A business plan helps you identify clear goals and provides your business direction. Many small business plans are 10-20 pages in length. But as long as the essentials are covered, feel empowered to build a plan that works for you and your company’s needs. Creating a business plan will help you identify your market and target customers, define business aims, and foster long-term financial health.

We’re ready to help you get your business started on the right foot today, and help you find long-term satisfaction as you pursue your business dream. Writing a business plan can be exciting. But if the steps to starting your business are feeling overwhelming, Block Advisors is here to help. Make an appointment today – our experts can assist you with tax prep , bookkeeping , payroll , business formation , and more .

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How to Prepare and Write the Perfect Business Plan for Your Company Here's how to write a business plan that will formalize your company's goals and optimize your organization.

By Matthew McCreary • May 5, 2021

Are you preparing to start your own business but uncertain about how to get started? A business plan ought to be one of the first steps in your entrepreneurial journey because it will organize the ideas that have been spinning around in your brain and prepare you to seek funding, partners and more.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a detailed document that outlines a company's goals and how the business, well, plans to achieve those goals over the next three or more years. It helps define expected profits and challenges, providing a road map that will help you avoid bumps in the road.

Stever Robbins writes in an Entrepreneur article titled, "Why You Must Have a Business Plan," that a business plan "is a tool for understanding how your business is put together…. Writing out your business plan forces you to review everything at once: your value proposition, marketing assumptions, operations plan, financial plan and staffing plan." But, a business plan is about more than just reviewing the past state of your business or even what your business looks like today.

Robbins writes that a well-written business plan will help you drive the future by "laying out targets in all major areas: sales, expense items, hiring positions and financing goals. Once laid out, the targets become performance goals."

The business plan can help your company attract talent and funding, because when prospects ask about your business, you already have an articulated overview to offer them. How they react can allow you to quickly understand how others see your business and pivot if necessary.

What should you do before you write your business plan?

It might sound redundant, but you actually need to plan your business plan. Business plans can be complicated, and you'll be held accountable for the goals you set. For example, if you plan to open five locations of your business within the first two years, your investors might get angry if you only manage to open two.

That's why it's essential that, before writing your business plan, you spend some time determining exactly which objectives are essential to your business. If you're struggling to come up with a list of goals on your own, Entrepreneur article "Plan Your Business Plan" offers some questions you can ask yourself to spark some inspiration.

How determined am I to see this venture succeed?

Am I willing to invest my own money and work long hours for no pay, sacrificing personal time and lifestyle, maybe for years?

What's going to happen to me if this venture doesn't work out?

If it does succeed, how many employees will this company eventually have?

What will be the business's annual revenue in a year? What about in five years?

What will be the company's market share in that amount of time?

Will the business have a niche market, or will it sell a broad spectrum of goods and services?

What are my plans for geographic expansion? Should it be local or national? Can it be global?

Am I going to be a hands-on manager, or will I delegate a large proportion of tasks to others?

If I delegate, what sorts of tasks will I share? Will it be sales, technical work or something else?

How comfortable am I taking direction from others? Can I work with partners or investors who demand input into the company's management?

Is the business going to remain independent and privately owned, or will it eventually be acquired or go public?

It's also essential to consider your financial goals. Your business might not require a massive financial commitment upfront, but it probably will if you're envisioning rapid growth. Unless you're making your product or service from scratch, you'll have to pay your suppliers before your customers can pay you, and as "Plan Your Business Plan" points out, "this cash flow conundrum is the reason so many fast-growing companies have to seek bank financing or equity sales to finance their growth. They are literally growing faster than they can afford."

How much financing will you need to start your business? What will you be willing to accept? If you're desperate for that first influx of cash, you might be tempted to accept any offer, but doing so might force you to either surrender too much control or ask investors for a number that's not quite right for either side.

These eight questions can help you determine a few financial aspects of your planning stages:

What initial investment will the business require?

How much control of the business are you willing to relinquish to investors?

When will the business turn a profit?

When can investors, including you, expect a return on investment?

What are the business's projected profits over time?

Will you be able to devote yourself full-time to the business?

What kind of salary or profit distribution can you expect to take home?

What are the chances the business will fail, and what will happen if it does?

You should also consider who, primarily, is going to be reading your business plan, and how you plan to use it. Is it a means of raising money or attracting employees? Will suppliers see it?

Lastly, you need to assess the likelihood of whether you actually have the time and resources to see your plan through. It might hurt to realize the assumptions you've made so far don't actually make a successful business, but it's best to know early on, before you make further commitments.

Related: Need a Business Plan Template? Here Is Apple's 1981 Plan for the Mac.

How to Write a Business Plan

Once you've worked out all the questions above and you know exactly what goals you have for your business plan, the next step is to actually write the darn thing. A typical business plan runs 15 to 20 pages but can be longer or shorter, depending on the complexity of the business and the needs of your venture. Regardless of whether you intend to use the business plan for self-evaluation or to seek a seven-figure investment, it should include nine key components, many of which are outlined in Entrepreneur 's introduction to business plans:

1. Title page and contents

Presentation is important, and a business plan should be presented in a binder with a cover that lists the business's name, the principals' names and other relevant information like a working address, phone number, email and web address and date. Write the information in a font that's easy to read and include it on the title page inside, too. Add in the company logo and a table of contents that follows the executive summary.

2. Executive summary

Think of the executive summary as the SparkNotes version of your business plan . It should tell the reader in as few words as possible what your business wants and why. The executive summary should address these nine things:

The business idea and why it is necessary. (What problem does it solve?)

How much will it cost, and how much financing are you seeking?

What will the return be to the investor? Over what length of time?

What is the perceived risk level?

Where does your idea fit into the marketplace?

What is the management team?

What are the product and competitive strategies?

What is your marketing plan?

What is your exit strategy?

When writing the executive summary, remember that it should be somewhere between one-half page to a full page. Anything longer, and you risk losing your reader's attention before they can dig into your business plan. Try to answer each of the questions above in two or three sentences, and you'll wind up with an executive summary that's about the right length.

Related: First Steps: Writing the Executive Summary of Your Business Plan

3. Business description

You can fill anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages when writing your business description, but try again to keep it short, with the understanding that more sections will follow. The business description typically starts with a short explanation of your chosen industry, including its present outlook and future possibilities. Use data and sources (with proper footnotes) to explain the markets the industry offers, along with the developments that will affect your business. That way, everyone who reads the business description, particularly investors, will see that they can trust the various information contained within your business plan.

When you pivot to speaking of your business, start with its structure. How does your business work? Is it retail, service-oriented or wholesale? Is the business new or established? Is the company a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation? Who are the principals and who are your customers? What do the distribution channels look like, and how can you support sales?

Next, break down your business's offerings. Are you selling a physical product, SaaS or a service? Explain it in a way that a reader knows what you're planning to sell and how it differentiates itself from the competition (investors call this a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, and it's important that you find yours). Whether it's a trade secret or a patent, you should be specific about your competitive advantage and why your business is going to be profitable. If you plan to use your business plan for fundraising, you can use the business description section to explain why new investments will help make the business even more profitable.

This, like everything else, can be brief, but you can tell the reader about your business's efficiency or workflow. You can write about other key people within the business or cite industry experts' support of your idea, as well as your base of operations and reasons for starting in the first place.

4. Market strategies

Paint a picture about your market by remembering the four Ps: product, price, place and promotion.

Start this section by defining the market's size, structure and sales potential. What are the market's growth prospects? What do the demographics and trends look like right now?

Next, outline the frequency at which your product or service will be purchased by the target market and the potential annual purchase. What market share can you possibly expect to win? Try to be realistic here, and keep in mind that even a number like 25% might be a dominant share.

Next, break down your business's plan for positioning, which relates to the market niche your product or service can fill. Who is your target market, how will you reach them and what are they buying from you? Who are your competitors, and what is your USP?

The positioning statement within your business plan should be short and to the point, but make sure you answer each of those questions before you move on to, perhaps, the most difficult and important aspect of your market strategy: pricing.

In fact, settling on a price for your product or service is one of the most important decisions you have to make in the entire business plan. Pricing will directly determine essential aspects of your business, like profit margin and sales volume. It will influence all sorts of areas, too, from marketing to target consumer.

There are two primary ways to determine your price: The first is to look inward, adding up the costs of offering your product or service, and then adding in a profit margin to find your number. The second is called competitive pricing, and it involves research into how your competitors will either price their products or services now or in the future. The difficult aspect of this second pricing method is that it often sets a ceiling on pricing, which, in turn, could force you to adjust your costs.

Then, pivot the market strategies section toward your distribution process and how it relates to your competitors' channels. How, exactly, are you going to get your offerings from one place to the next? Walk the reader step by step through your process. Do you want to use the same strategy or something else that might give you an advantage?

Last, explain your promotion strategy. How are you going to communicate with your potential customers? This part should talk about not only marketing or advertising, but also packaging, public relations and sales promotions.

Related: Creating a Winning Startup Business Plan

5. Competitive analysis

The next section in your business plan should be the competitive analysis, which helps explain the differences between you and your competitors … and how you can keep it that way. If you can start with an honest evaluation of your competitors' strengths and weaknesses within the marketplace, you can also provide the reader with clear analysis about your advantage and the barriers that either already exist or can be developed to keep your business ahead of the pack. Are there weaknesses within the marketplace, and if so, how can you exploit them?

Remember to consider both your direct competition and your indirect competition, with both a short-term and long-term view.

6. Design and development plan

If you plan to sell a product, it's smart to add a design and development section to your business plan. This part should help your readers understand the background of that product. How have the production, marketing and company developed over time? What is your developmental budget?

For the sake of organization, consider these three aspects of the design and development plan:

Product development

Market development

Organizational development

Start by establishing your development goals, which should logically follow your evaluation of the market and your competition. Make these goals feasible and quantifiable, and be sure to establish timelines that allow your readers to see your vision. The goals should address both technical and marketing aspects.

Once the reader has a clear idea of your development goals, explain the procedures you'll develop to reach them. How will you allocate your resources, and who is in charge of accomplishing each goal?

The Entrepreneur guide to design and development plans offers this example on the steps of producing a recipe for a premium lager beer:

Gather ingredients.

Determine optimum malting process.

Gauge mashing temperature.

Boil wort and evaluate which hops provide the best flavor.

Determine yeast amounts and fermentation period.

Determine aging period.

Carbonate the beer.

Decide whether or not to pasteurize the beer.

Make sure to also talk about scheduling. What checkpoints will the product need to pass to reach a customer? Establish timeframes for each step of the process. Create a chart with a column for each task, how long that task will take and when the task will start and end.

Next, consider the costs of developing your product, breaking down the costs of these aspects:

General and administrative (G&A) costs

Marketing and sales

Professional services, like lawyers or accountants

Miscellaneous costs

Necessary equipment

The next section should be about the personnel you either have or plan to hire for that development. If you already have the right person in place, this part should be easy. If not, then this part of the business plan can help you create a detailed description of exactly what you need. This process can also help you formalize the hierarchy of your team's positions so that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.

Finish the development and design section of your business plan by addressing the risks in developing the product and how you're going to address those risks. Could there be technical difficulties? Are you having trouble finding the right person to lead the development? Does your financial situation limit your ability to develop the product? Being honest about your problems and solutions can help answer some of your readers' questions before they ask them.

Related: The Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan

7. Operations and management plan

Want to learn everything you'll ever need to know about the operations and management section of your business plan, and read a real, actual web article from 1997? Check out our guide titled, "Writing A Business Plan: Operations And Management."

Here, we'll more briefly summarize the two areas that need to be covered within your operations and management plan: the organizational structure is first, and the capital requirement for the operation are second.

The organizational structure detailed within your business plan will establish the basis for your operating expenses, which will provide essential information for the next part of the business plan: your financial statements. Investors will look closely at the financial statements, so it's important to start with a solid foundation and a realistic framework. You can start by dividing your organizational structure into these four sections:

Marketing and sales (including customer relations and service)

Production (including quality assurance)

Research and development

Administration

After you've broken down the organization's operations within your business plan, you can look at the expenses, or overhead. Divide them into fixed expenses, which typically remain constant, and variable, which will change according to the volume of business. Here are some of the examples of overhead expenses:

Maintenance and repair

Equipment leases

Advertising and promotion

Packaging and shipping

Payroll taxes and benefits

Uncollectible receivables

Professional services

Loan payments

Depreciation

Having difficulty calculating what some of those expenses might be for your business? Try using the simple formulas in "Writing A Business Plan: Operations And Management."

8. Financial factors

The last piece of the business plan that you definitely need to have covers the business's finances. Specifically, three financial statements will form the backbone of your business plan: the income statement, the cash-flow statement and balance sheet . Let's go through them one by one.

The income statement explains how the business can make money in a simple way. It draws on financial models already developed and discussed throughout the business plan (revenue, expenses, capital and cost of goods) and combines those numbers with when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. When the reader finishes going through your income statement, they should understand how much money your company makes or loses by subtracting your costs from your revenue, showing either a loss or a profit. If you like, you or a CPA can add a very short analysis at the end to emphasize some important aspects of the statement.

Second is the cash-flow statement, which explains how much cash your business needs to meet its obligations, as well as when you're going to need it and how you're going to get it. This section shows a profit or loss at the end of each month or year that rolls over to the next time period, which can create a cycle. If your business plan shows that you're consistently operating at a loss that gets bigger as time goes on, this can be a major red flag for both you and potential investors. This part of the business plan should be prepared monthly during your first year in business, quarterly in your second year and annually after that.

Our guide on cash-flow statements includes 17 items you'll need to add to your cash-flow statement.

Cash. Cash on hand in the business.

Cash sales . Income from sales paid for by cash.

Receivables. Income from collecting money owed to the business due to sales.

Other income. The liquidation of assets, interest on extended loans or income from investments are examples.

Total income. The sum of the four items above (total cash, cash sales, receivables, other income).

Material/merchandise . This will depend on the structure of your business. If you're manufacturing, this will include your raw materials. If you're in retail, count your inventory of merchandise. If you offer a service, consider which supplies are necessary.

Direct labor . What sort of labor do you need to make your product or complete your service?

Overhead . This includes both the variable expenses and fixed expenses for business operations.

Marketing/sales . All salaries, commissions and other direct costs associated with the marketing and sales departments.

Research and development . Specifically, the labor expenses required for research and development.

General and administrative expenses. Like the research and development costs, this centers on the labor for G&A functions of the business.

Taxes . This excludes payroll taxes but includes everything else.

Capital. Required capital for necessary equipment.

Loan payments. The total of all payments made to reduce any long-term debts.

Total expenses. The sum of items six through 14 (material/merchandise, direct labor, overhead, marketing/sales, research and development, general and administrative expenses, taxes, capital and loan payments).

Cash flow. Subtract total expenses from total income. This is how much cash will roll over to the next period.

Cumulative cash flow . Subtract the previous period's cash flow from your current cash flow.

Just like with the income statement, it's a good idea to briefly summarize the figures at the end. Again, consulting with a CPA is probably a good idea.

The last financial statement is the balance sheet. A balance sheet is, as our encyclopedia says, "a financial statement that lists the assets, liabilities and equity of a company at a specific point in time and is used to calculate the net worth of a business." If you've already started the business, use the balance sheet from your last reporting period. If the business plan you wrote is for a business you hope to start, do your best to project your assets and liabilities over time. If you want to earn investors, you'll also need to include a personal financial statement. Then, as with the other two sections, add a short analysis that hits the main points.

9. Supporting documents

If you have other documents that your readers need to see, like important contracts, letters of reference, a copy of your lease or legal documents, you should add them in this section.

Related: 7 Steps to a Perfectly Written Business Plan

What do I do with my business plan after I've written it?

The simplest reason to create a business plan is to help people unfamiliar with your business understand it quickly. While the most obvious use for a document like this is for financing purposes, a business plan can also help you attract talented employees — and, if you share the business plan internally, help your existing employees understand their roles.

But it's also important to do for your own edification, too. It's like the old saying goes, "The best way to learn something is to teach it." Writing down your plans, your goals and the state of your finances helps clarify the thoughts in your own mind. From there, you can more easily lead your business because you'll know whether the business is reaching the checkpoints you set out to begin with. You'll be able to foresee difficulties before they pop up and be able to pivot quickly.

That's why you should continue to update your business plan when the conditions change, either within your business (you might be entering a new period or undergoing a change in management) or within your market (like a new competitor popping up). The key is to keep your business plan ready so that you don't have to get it ready when opportunity strikes.

Entrepreneur Staff

Associate Editor, Contributed Content

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Blog / Small business tips / How to create a business plan: A complete guide to writing your company roadmap

steps for business plan preparation

How to create a business plan: A complete guide to writing your company roadmap

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines what your business does, how it’s going to work and how you’re going to achieve your goals. 

According to Bplans , who worked with the University of Oregon to analyse academic research around planning, entrepreneurs who take the time to create a plan for their business idea are 152% more likely to start that business.

Further, 129% are more likely to push forward with it beyond the start-up phase. And companies that strategically plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. 

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through how to write a business plan that helps your company start, build and achieve success.   

Table of contents

What is a business plan and why do you need one, the nine key components of a business plan and how to write them.

  • Five top tips for writing a compelling business plan

📹 Masterclass video: How to write the perfect business plan

Wrapping up.

A business plan is a document that guides you through the various stages of building, launching and running your business. Essentially, it helps you put the building blocks in place to make your company a success.

If you’re bringing a new small business to market, a business plan will be crucial in:

  • Securing funding or loans
  • Achieving investment or raising venture capital
  • Attracting talent or business partners
  • Guiding your go-to-market strategy

All banks and most investors and venture capitalists will only invest in a business if they can see that they’ll get their money back. They want to know that you have the business idea, team, scalability and planned sales growth to succeed. A business plan gives financiers the details they need to make informed decisions. 

Similarly, for talent or prospective partners, a business plan is your assurance to them that your business matches their short and long-term career ambitions. 

A business plan also keeps you focused on what you need to do to accomplish your goals. If you’re not meeting your targets, you can turn to your business plan to help guide you on changes that need to be made. It’s the drawing board you can always go back to. 

Because of this, having a business plan is as important for existing businesses as it is for start-ups. 

Top Tip: Business plans also apply to side hustles. Even if you have a full-time job or already run a small business, a side hustle can be a great way to pull in extra income or capitalise on a hobby. But just because it doesn’t take up all of your time doesn’t mean it should lack structure. To learn more about how to effectively run a side business, read our guide to 5 side businesses you can start quickly and affordably 💡

How long should a business plan be?

According to Growthink surveys, 15 to 25 pages is the optimum business plan length. But the number of pages isn’t the ideal way to measure length. 

As Bplans points out: “A 20-page business plan with dense text and no graphics is much longer than a 35-page plan broken up into readable bullet points, useful illustrations of locations or products, and business charts to illustrate important projections.”

Instead, Bplans says that your business plan should: 

  • Take no longer than 15 minutes to skim read . Make sure that key information in each section is easy for readers to find.
  • Mirror the length of its audience . The length is directly tied to the intent. If the purpose is for outsiders who know nothing about your business to gain a deeper understanding, it must include detailed executive summaries and team descriptions. If the intent is to procure investment, it must be built to withstand legal scrutiny and include any information a bank would look for in a business loan application. Know your audience, and work backwards to create the ideal business plan to match that scenario (we’ll dive into exactly how to do this in a later section).

How to present your business plan?

Your business plan is designed to evolve as your business grows. It’s a living document that should be consistently tweaked to match the health and goals of your company. Because of this, it’s best to keep your plan as a digital document that can be easily updated and sent to third parties as a PDF. 

That said, there may be times when your plan needs to be presented to investors or bank managers in person, so it should always be print-ready with a front cover that includes your:

  • Company name
  • Company logo and colour scheme
  • Business name and date
  • Contact information

It should also have a contents page, with numbered pages and sections so that readers can easily find what they’re looking for.

When you are ready – register your business with Tide for FREE ! Registering your business with Tide is incredibly fast, easy and free. You not only get to officially start your company, but you get a free business bank account at the same time, which is the best way to ensure you’re keeping your finances in order from day one. Be your own boss and register your company with Tide !

A business plan features nine main sections related to your business operations, structure and finances: 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description

Market analysis

  • Management and company structure
  • Service or product information
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Funding information
  • Financial projections

Let’s take a closer look at each. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is a top-level look at your business that summarises the detailed information found in the rest of the sections.

It’s also your elevator pitch—a chance for you to immediately captivate the reader by portraying your mission, vision, goals, product, leadership, finance information and growth plans.

Picture yourself in a lift for 45 seconds with a potential investor. How would you sell your business? Think about that when writing this section. Be concise and compelling with your words.

Because it is a summary, it’s often easier to write this section last after you’ve fleshed out the finer details of your business plan .

Writing your executive summary

Start with the basic information:

  • Your company name
  • Company address
  • Names of all owners and partners

Then, get into the business information. 

  • Value proposition . Describe in one sentence what your company does and why it’s great. This is your value proposition. For example, Uber’s value proposition is “The smartest way to get around”. For email marketing platform MailChimp it’s “Send Better Email”. For Dollar Shave Club it’s “A great shave for a few bucks a month”.
  • Problem and solution . In a paragraph, briefly explain the problem customers are facing and how your product or service solves it.
  • Target customers. Who is your ideal customer? Be extremely specific. For example, if you’re selling men’s suits, your audience won’t simply be every man because every man wears suits. That doesn’t hold true. It’s more likely to be targeted towards ‘fashion-conscious men’ or ‘businessmen’.
  • Competitors . List other companies that are solving the same problems you are and how they’re solving them.
  • Team . A sentence or two on why your team is the best team to bring your product or service to market.
  • Finances . Focus on the key aspects of your financial plan–your planned costs and how you will make money.
  • Funding . Details of your start-up costs and how much you need to raise to get your business off the ground. 
  • Milestones . Briefly mention what you’ve achieved so far and what goals you plan to achieve. This lets potential investors, talent or partners know how serious you are in building a successful business. 

As mentioned above, before you can write this section you have to flesh out all of your company details, including who you are, who you’re selling to, how you’re going to sell your product or service, what your financial goals are, how you will reach those financial goals, and so on. 

The rest of this article will inform you on how to do just that. 

2. Company description

The company description is your story. It digs deeper into your value proposition, looking at how you came to be and what you intend to achieve.

Break your description down into three sections: 

Mission statement

Company profile, business objectives.

An example of a target, mission, and values

Your mission statement is a sentence or short paragraph that describes why your business exists.

To create your mission statement, answer the following questions:

  • What does my business do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing to customers?

For example, Patagonia’s mission statement is “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

In a single sentence, they get across their aims and ambitions, their value to the market (safe, quality products) and their value to people and the world (helping the environment). 

Use this as inspiration to come up with a statement that captures the heart and soul of your business.

Top Tip: Your company description will also help to inform your business culture. You will carry these core values throughout all of your business behaviours and they will also influence how you make future business decisions. Because of this, it’s crucial to devote the necessary time and energy to get this right. To learn exactly how to do that, read our guide on why business culture matters & how to get it right from the start ☀️

In a paragraph or two, your company profile should detail your: 

  • Founding date
  • Company location
  • Products or services
  • Number of employees
  • Details of company leaders and their roles
  • Company milestones

The information is the most important thing here, so approach it like a business profile and stick to the facts and figures.

In a paragraph or two explain what you want to achieve as a business. This needs to be a realistic aim that investors can get behind and your team members can work towards. 

The SMART goals method can help you to ensure your goals are practical.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. 

Infographic describing SMART goals

Use graphs to add weight to your objectives. For example, if you aim to increase revenue from £100,000 in year one to £500,000 by year five, create a chart that plots your growth. The visual aspect helps to grab attention whilst providing readers with key information they may miss if skim reading. 

This chart from an example business plan does just that:

Example of 5 year net revenue projections

You’re immediately drawn to the planned-growth projections and want to learn about how they’ll reach such high goals. We will get into the specifics of how to create accurate sales and revenue forecasts in a later section.

Top Tip: To learn more about how to establish practical SMART goals that will inform your business strategy and help you effectively market your brand, read our beginners guide to digital marketing strategy . 

3. Market analysis

Marketing analysis focuses on three areas:

  • Your target market (the industry your selling in)
  • Your customers (who you’re selling to)
  • Your competitors (who you’re selling against)

By detailing information about the themes and trends within your industry, you’ll be able to show that the appetite for your product or service exists. Outlining information about your ideal customer helps you to identify the marketing and sales tactics you can use to attract them. And highlighting your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses gives you a chance to showcase what you do better than the rest. 

Market analysis should identify the market as a whole, as well as your addressable market and your share of the market. From this information, you can begin to get an idea of your target market, which informs your messaging, positioning and unique selling point (USP).

Venn diagram demonstrating how to find your USP

Start by researching the current state of your industry and where the market is heading in terms of size, trends and projected growth.

Your approach here will depend on your business. For example, if you’re opening a small local shop, you should assess the market around your shop. If you’re starting an ecommerce business and selling UK-wide, you’ll need to analyse the market at a national level. 

When estimating market size, look at:

  • Volume . The number of potential customers
  • Value . The value of the market

You can find this information by searching for publicly available data or by commissioning a market research report. If you’re searching on a national level, you may find figures published online. On a local level, data might not be as easy to come by, which is where you’ll need to carry out your own research. 

Top Tip: Conducting market research takes time, but it’s important that you get a full picture of your audience to ensure your message and USP resonates. To learn more, read our detailed guide on how to conduct market research for your business idea ⚡️

Once you have the information, you can use TAM SAM SOM to work out your business’ relationship to the market size.

  • TAM stands for Total Addressable Market
  • SAM stands for Serviceable Addressable Market
  • SOM stands for Serviceable Obtainable Market

Infographic describing TAM SAM SOM

  • To calculate your TAM, work out how many people have a need for your business. For example, let’s say you’re opening a shop selling custom-designed women’s clothes in a town of 100,000 people. Market research shows that 50% (50,000) of residents are women. Your total addressable market would be 50,000 people. 
  • To calculate your SAM, take your TAM and discount all the people that fall outside of your target market. Let’s say your target market is women between 18 and 35, with disposable income. This discounts 30,000 people, which means your serviceable addressable market is 40% (20,000) of your total addressable market. 
  • To calculate your SOM, work out how many of your SAM you can realistically serve. Your shop offers a measuring service and design consultation but only to people in a five-mile radius, which means you can serve 200 people a month. That would mean serving 2,400 people a year, which makes your SOM around 12% of your SAM.

Ideal customer

Your ideal customer is the person your product or service is aimed at. In the above example of the women’s clothes shop, the ideal customer is between 18 and 35, with disposable income. 

Customer analysis digs deeper than this, looking at your target customers’ education, income, job, relationship, buying concerns, interests and more.

You’ll find methods to help you discover your ideal customer and create customer personas in our guide on how to create a go-to-market strategy . 

Competitors

Competitive analysis is the process of identifying gaps in the market that your product or service can fill. It’s about finding out what the competition does so you gain a competitive advantage. 

In our guide on how to run a competitive analysis , we walk you through the process of analysing the finer details of your rivals in five steps:

Step 1: Identify & segment your competitors

Step 2: Analyse their market positioning

Step 3: Review their content & social media

Step 4: Check out what their customers are saying

Step 5: Walk through their customer journey

Use this information to show potential investors and talent that your business is going places. Our competitive analysis matrix template is a great starting point.

Screenshot showing competitor analysis matrix template with examples

Once complete, take it a step further and create a simple visual that clearly shows where your company outperforms the competition. Here is a basic example of how to build out this visual.

Example competitive analysis matrix

It’s hard to ignore a chart that checks all of the boxes. 

4. Management and company structure

This section goes into detail on how your company is structured and who is running it. 

The structure here means two different things:

Team structure

Company structure.

First, you need to show your management structure: what each leader’s role is within the company. 

The simplest way to show your company hierarchy is with an organisational chart like this example:

Example organisational chart

For each member of your team, give details on their background and credentials with a bio that includes their:

  • Professional background
  • Achievements

Including this information gives readers assurances that the team you have in place is well-positioned to take the company forward. 

If there are any roles yet to be filled, give details on those positions.

Company structure is your legal structure. For example, limited company or sole trader.

Top Tip: If you’re yet to decide on a business structure, you can weigh up the pros and cons for setting up as a sole trader or limited company in our sole trader vs limited company guide.

steps for business plan preparation

If you plan on changing the structure of your company in the future, include details on this as well. For example, you may start as a private limited company (Ltd), but grow to become a public limited company with shares offered to members of the public. 

5. Service or product information

Here is where you get to wax lyrical about your offer and why it’s better than anything currently on the market. 

This section should include: 

  • A description of your product or service . Details on what it is and what it does.
  • How your product or service will be priced . Do you offer tiered pricing or a subscription model, for example.

Top Tip: Choosing the right pricing strategy is another key part of your go-to-market strategy. Will you price higher, lower, or similar to your competitors? What does the market demand? How does your pricing strategy reflect the value of your products and services? To learn more about how to answer these questions, read our 6-step guide on how to price a product and achieve profitable markups 💷

  • How your products compare to competitors . List several competitor products along with their pros and cons.
  • The production process . Details on how your products are created, how your source materials, quality control management, supply chain, inventory and bookkeeping.
  • Product lifecycle . Details on upsells and cross-sells, research and development plans and time between purchases.
  • Orders . Details on how you process and fulfil orders.
  • Legal aspects . Details on any intellectual property or trademarks you own.
  • Future products or services . If you plan on expanding your offer, give details on the offer and any research and development plans.

While there are formal and practical details to get across, the main point of this section is to get the reader excited about your product. To do this:

  • Focus on the benefits . Describe how features give value to the customer. Here are some examples of features turned into benefits:
  • Highlight your features. Get across what features your product or service has that the competition doesn’t. For example, your product might be the cheapest on the market or your turnaround time might be quicker or your expertise might allow you to offer a better level of service. 
  • Get across why you’re needed . Shine the light on why your product or service is important to the market. This will be especially crucial if your startup is bringing a new invention to the market, or you’re creating an entirely new market. 

6. Marketing and sales strategy

If your business is going to be a success, you need a marketing strategy and sales plan that takes customers on a journey from awareness to purchase.

Diagram of the marketing funnel from awareness stage to advocacy

This section of your business plan should include:

  • Your target market . Reiterating the information from the market analysis section.
  • Which marketing channels you’ll use and which you’ll prioritise . For example, social media, word of mouth, Google Ads, print or radio advertising, exhibition stands or fairs, or referrals.
  • Your plan to attract customers at launch . For example, you might run an opening discount offer to people who share your post on social media. Or give a voucher to every customer who refers a friend.
  • Your plan to retain customers . For example, you may offer reward programs that allow customers to collect points for every purchase that can be redeemed for free or discounted products.
  • Your expected results . What you hope to achieve from your marketing and how it will help you grow your business in terms of sales and visibility. If you’ve already started marketing your business, give details on what you’ve done and how it’s benefited the business.

7. Funding information 

Funding information is all about how much money you need to start your business, why you need it and how you’ll use any capital. 

The most critical part of this is your startup costs, which detail:

  • The cost of producing your product or service
  • Your fixed outgoings
  • The cost of equipment, premises, supplies, insurance and other necessities required to run your business

Top Tip: If you’re yet to work out how much capital you need, check out our guide on how much it costs to start a business in the UK 📌

If you have the figures in place, you can set out presenting them. 

This section should be broken down into three parts: 

Current and future funding requirements

How funds will be used, current and future financial plans.

Include how much money you need to get your business off the ground, along with any funding you’ll need in the foreseeable future (up to five years). Be clear about why you’re requesting a loan or investment and outline what your needs are based on in your financial forecasts (we’ll get onto those soon). 

If you’re offering equity in exchange for investment, provide details on how an investor will be paid, as well as how and when they can cash out. For most small businesses, investors are paid in dividends (a share of company profits).

This part should explain how you plan to use the funds so that investors can determine if your business is a worthwhile investment. If you plan on using capital for several things, list and provide costs for each.

Again, putting these numbers into a visual format will help to more clearly outline your vision.

Example funding allocation

Finally, if applicable, provide information on any current investments and/or outstanding loan repayment plans. 

If you’re seeking investment or a loan for the first time, most lenders will have their own repayment schedules. However, you should detail any factors that may affect lenders, such as any plans to relocate or sell the business. 

Unlike other sections, funding information will need to be tailored to each financier. Investors will be interested in return on investment (ROI), whereas lenders will be interested in loan repayments. Create separate reports so that information is relevant to the reader. 

Top Tip: Investors and banks will also be interested in your business credit report (if you have one). To learn more about why your business credit score is important and how it’s determined, read our guide to everything you need to know about your business credit score (and how to improve it) 🙌

8. Financial projections

Financial projections supplement your funding information by showing potential lenders and investors that your business has a positive financial outlook.

This section should include the following key information: 

  • Sales forecast. The amount of money you expect to raise from sales.
  • Cash flow statement. Your cash flow balance and monthly cash flow patterns–how much is coming in and going out of your business every month.
  • Balance sheet. An overview of the financial health of your business.
  • Profit and loss statement . Your profit level and how much you expect to make based on projected sales, minus the cost of overheads and providing goods or services. 

Top Tip: Unless you’re an accountant, this part of the business plan can be overwhelming. To learn more about the fundamentals of accounting and how to create each of the aforementioned statements, read our complete guide to accounting for startups 📣 

If your business is already established, you’ll need to include financial figures from the last three years (or however long you’ve been trading if it’s less than three years) for all of the above, other than your sales forecast. 

If you’re a new business, your financial figures need to be predicted.

We’ve built several spreadsheet templates to help you generate the below financial reports:

  • Three main financial statements (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement)
  • Cash flow forecast
  • Estimated sales

Forecasting your finances

Sales forecast.

Use your market analysis and knowledge of industry trends to estimate your future sales. For the first year, break these figures down into monthly sales, detailing what you’re selling, price points and how much you expect to sell. Moving into the second and third year of business, reduce forecasting to quarterly sales.

Cash flow statement

As a startup, your cash flow statement becomes a cash flow forecast based on your sales forecast, minus your expenses. Your expenses are the: 

  • Fixed costs . Expenses that are the same or close the same every month (e.g. rent, insurance and utilities).
  • Variable costs . Expenses that vary every month depending on demand (e.g.costs for raw materials, production costs, shipping and advertising).

Provide monthly cash flow patterns for the first 36 months. Keep in mind that, depending on your business, you may need to account for a lag in revenue. For example, if you provide a service to a client, their payment terms might dictate the invoice is paid 60 days after being sent.

Top Tip: To learn more about the various types of expenses and how to manage them, read our guide to small business expense management 🙌

Balance sheet

Create a balance sheet by calculating company assets, minus company liabilities.  

Company assets include:

  • Property you own
  • Equipment you own
  • Unsold inventory
  • Company vehicles you own
  • Outstanding invoices

Company liabilities include:

  • The amount you owe on a business loan
  • The amount you owe unpaid invoices

Your balance is the difference between your assets total and your liabilities total.

Profit and loss statement

Use the figures from your sales forecast, expenses and cash flow statement to forecast how much you expect in profit and losses for your first three years in business. 

Your statement needs profit and loss projections for each year, as well as a total figure for the three years and should include a breakdown of:

  • Sales . Based on figures from your sales forecast.
  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) . The total cost of selling your product or service. If you need help with this, check out our guide on everything you need to know about cost of sales .
  • Gross margin . Your sales minus your COGS. This is usually listed as a percentage, which you can calculate as: 

Gross margin (total revenue – COGS / total revenue x 100

For example, £500,000 total revenue, minus £300,000 leaves a gross margin of £200,000. 

£200,000 / £500,000 x 100 = 40%

  • Operating expenses . A list of all your expenses, minus COGS (which you’ve already included), tax, amortisation and depreciation. List each expense individually and include a total sum. 
  • Operating income statement . Your total operating expenses minus your COGS, before interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation.
  • Total expenses . Your expenses including interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation.
  • Net profit . Your monthly and yearly bottom line.

List financial figures using bullet points and include graphs to show how you predict your business will grow over your first three years of trading.

9. Appendix 

The appendix is the place to include any supporting documents. If a lender or investor hasn’t requested additional documentation, you can choose to leave this section out. But it’s a good place to strengthen your business plan, by including: 

  • Reference letters
  • Credit reports
  • Permits and licences
  • Client contracts or customer purchase orders
  • Legal documents
  • Associations and memberships  

Format the appendix with a clear table of contents and sections that correspond to the business plan section.

5 top tips for writing a compelling business plan 

  • Keep it concise . Say what you need to say using simple language (no jargon) in as few words as possible. Your business plan only needs to get the key information across. The intricacies can come later. 
  • Make it easy on the eye . Most lenders and investors will skim read your business plan, picking out relevant information as they go. Use headings to define sections and make key data stand out on each page by using bullet points for lists, bolding important sentences and using graphs and charts to add weight to financial figures. 
  • Think about your audience . Consider who your business plan is aimed at and write with them in mind. If it’s an internal plan, think about what your team would want to gain from reading the document. If it’s for a lender or investor, think about the questions they might ask and which information is of particular interest to them. 
  • Get the figures right. If you’re forecasting costs, sales and expenses, numbers will never be 100% accurate and it’s better to overestimate than underestimate. However, figures must be realistic and they must add up. Expect lenders and investors to scrutinise your calculations. Always double and triple check the numbers. 
  • Proofread and proofread again . Don’t let your hard work be undone by something as simple as a typo or grammar mistake. Proofread your document from start to finish and then finish to start. Have someone you trust look over it too.

You now know what goes into a strong business plan, but you might be wondering what tools and frameworks you can use to bring it to life.

In this Tide Masterclass, our Events Manager Cuan Hawker is joined by Tom Horbye , Head of Campaigns Development at Seedrs .

Seedrs connects investors and businesses. They help startups raise capital and grow a supportive community. As they put it, it’s “equity crowdfunding done properly”. It’s unlikely anyone has seen and improved more business plans than Tom!

Tom will explain:

  • Why you need a business plan 📘
  • How to structure your plan 📃 Two tried-and-tested structures that work.
  • What to include in your plan 📋 And what to leave out.
  • Tools, help and next steps 🛠

This Masterclass is useful for anyone thinking about starting their own business in the UK.

A business plan is the cornerstone of your company. By clearly detailing your business objectives, strategies, marketing and sales plans, and financial forecasts you’ll be able to set out your business goals and keep track of your progress. 

Use this guide to complete the key components and put together a plan that a) brings clarity to your team, and b) provides assurances to lenders and investors that your business is a safe bet.

Set up your business with Tide for free

Photo by William Ivan, published on Unsplash

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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business plan

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

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

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

steps for business plan preparation

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steps for business plan preparation

What is a Business Plan? 

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

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

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

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

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

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

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

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

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

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

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

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

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

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

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

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

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

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

steps for business plan preparation

Understand Your Audience

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

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

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

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

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

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

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

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

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

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

steps for business plan preparation

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

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

Executive Summary

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

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

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

Company Description

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

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

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

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

Products & Services

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

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

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

Market Analysis

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

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

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

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

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

Marketing & Sales

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

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

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

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

Management & Organization

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

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

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

Funding Request

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

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

Financial Projections

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

steps for business plan preparation

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

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

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

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

SWOT Analysis

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

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

steps for business plan preparation

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

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

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

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

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

Want to Learn More?

  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Register a Business in the USA
  • How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store in Less Than 30 Minutes Flat
  • 30+ Amazing Startup Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money

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How to write a business plan in 9 steps

Robert Bruce

Bryce Colburn

Bryce Colburn

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 7:54 a.m. UTC Jan. 2, 2024

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Starting a business is a risky venture. 

Even the smartest of entrepreneurs have many questions to consider as they develop and execute their business idea. One of the best outlets for creating a successful company is having a business plan in place before you launch on day one. 

A solid business plan will provide a game plan for your company, both now and in the future. It should guide all of your decisions and allow you to navigate difficult times by providing a resource by which you operate and strategize. 

A business plan is a vital part of any successful company. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is simply an outline of a company’s future goals and how it plans to achieve those goals. A solid business plan will guide a company’s strategy and decision-making and help it navigate through any unforeseen obstacles. 

Companies of all sizes can benefit from a business plan. Smaller-sized companies can use this plan to develop a strategy for growth, development and investor strategy. Larger, more established companies can use a business plan to expand, explore other profit possibilities and stay on track with its original vision. 

Business plans are also important when it comes to funding, as many investors will want to see your plan before funding your project or company. 

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How to write a business plan

One of the most important parts of writing a business plan is the realization you need one in the first place. If that’s you, congratulations on overcoming that initial obstacle. 

Now that you understand why a business plan is important let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow to create a successful one. 

1. Write an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as a Cliffs Notes for your business plan. This summary will condense the entire business plan that follows into one easy-to-follow package. It should contain all the highlights while giving a solid overview of the entire plan. 

The plan should also briefly offer key company information, such as business goals and vision, product descriptions, marketing strategy and current financials — as well as other relevant information like leadership, employees and location.

In addition to offering a brief overview of your business strategy, the executive summary is a useful tool to give to potential investors who might not have the time to read the entire plan. 

2. Draft a company description

This section simply covers the basics of your company — what you do, how you separate yourself in your industry, what makes the services and/or products you provide worthwhile and why your company would be a smart investment. 

You should also include information like your business’s mission statement, its structure, short- and long-term goals, business history and other similar facts. This is also a good place to list your company’s core values. 

A lot of these issues should be well thought out before you draft a company description or business plan. By this point, you should be able to easily articulate all of this. If not, take a breath and meet with your team to go back through this to make sure you have all your bases covered.  

3. Include a description of your products and services

This is where you outline what you sell and why your target market should care. You should outline key specs like price, size and material quality. If you provide a service, you should offer information about availability, quality and durability. 

Give a brief overview of the multiple products you offer, as well as those that are a part of your future plans. 

4. Consider your company goals and objectives

You’ve already briefly mentioned your goals and objectives in prior sections, but this section allows you to go a little more in-depth. 

Here, expand on your mission statement and why it’s important to your company. You might talk about the thought process behind the statement and how it came to be. Who was involved in crafting it, and what were the important elements they wanted to include?

Then, begin going more in-depth on your specific business goals — both short-term and long-term. What are some of your priorities for the next year? Five years? Decade? Listing out these objectives shows you not only have a good grasp of your company’s current situation but also of where it is headed. 

5. Perform market research and competitor analysis

Performing market research and competitive analysis is an extremely important part of your business plan. Getting familiar with other businesses in your market will help you see what works and what doesn’t. 

You should be able to list out the size of your market and who might be interested in your products or services, how you fit into that market and what other competitors are doing. Along those lines, what is your brand’s differentiation with that market — what sets you apart?

Knowing your market and how you approach it strategically can make or break your business. 

6. Create a marketing plan

Who is your ideal customer? And, strategically, how do you plan on reaching them? This is the foundation of your marketing plan. 

How much money and effort do you plan on putting into marketing, or will you rely more heavily on sales? With your marketing, this is where you’ll outline the platforms you plan on using to reach your audience — whether that’s through social media, online ads, television or radio commercials.

Ultimately, this section will provide the details on your product or service, how much it will cost, how you plan to promote it and where you plan on selling it. 

7. Define your operating procedures

This section explains the framework of your organization and how you operate. 

You’ll outline your leadership structure with an organizational chart if you have one. Explain some of the key members of your team and how they make your business run successfully. You might consider including resumes or CVs. 

This is where you’ll lay out the legal structure of your company as well. Do you plan on incorporating, or are you a limited liability company (LLC) or sole proprietor ?

In terms of operations, outline who your suppliers will be, how your production process will work, which facilities and equipment you’ll use to develop your products, how you plan on shipping and the amount of inventory you’ll keep on hand. 

8. Create a financial plan

Obviously, your financials are the backbone of your business. With a solid financial plan, your company will thrive. Without one, it may whither. The basics of your financial plan will include a balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement. 

The balance sheet shows your total assets and liabilities. The income statement will show your revenue and expenses — the two main factors that ultimately reveal your business’s profit or loss. The cash-flow statement shows how much cash your business will have available at any given time — based on when you pay your bills and deposit revenue.

9. Set a timeline for progress and goals

In this section, you’ll set the timeline for your company’s progress. You’ll break down different milestones and when you expect to reach them, as well as what progress will look like for your business. 

Be specific. List out the exact amount of profit you hope to have over a certain time frame. This should be as detailed as possible. So when writing out your goals, don’t use generalized phrases like “increase revenue.” Instead, go into the specifics of those goals. 

Additional business planning resources

In addition to a business plan, you definitely want to make sure you have other aspects of your business covered. Some business planning topics to think about include:

  • Business structures: Starting out, will you form your business structure as a limited liability company (LLC), which protects you from your company’s debts and liabilities in the event of a lawsuit? Or are you forming a partnership or sole proprietorship ? 
  • Business licenses: Most businesses will require a business license , which may be needed at the county, state and federal level, depending on the type of business you operate.
  • Business taxes: The type of business you have will dictate how you pay taxes. You may be required to pay income tax, payroll tax, self-employment tax, employment taxes and excise tax. 

You don’t necessarily need a business plan to start your business, but creating one will put you at a great advantage. 

A business plan communicates your vision and mission to your company as well as potential investors. It also allows you to get buy-in from your current employees and how you plan to build your business into the future.

A solid business plan will include the following:

  • Executive summary: A quick overview of the entire business plan. 
  • Company description: A description of your company and what it does.
  • Products and services description: A description of the products and services your company offers.
  • Company goals and objectives: An outline of your company’s future goals. 
  • Market research: Who are your competitors and how do you fit into the industry?
  • Marketing plan: Details about how you plan to reach your ideal customer. 
  • Operating procedures: Outline the framework of your organization and how it operates. 
  • Financial plan: Provide details about your balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement.
  • Progress and goals: A breakdown of company milestones and your timeline for reaching them. 

A business plan allows you to precisely define the basic information and values of your company, as well as its viability, vision, mission, marketing strategy and future goals. A solid plan will outline all the above while explaining, in detail, how you plan to make these ideas a reality.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce has been a full-time writer for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured in US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, The Penny Hoarder, The Money Manual, WGN Chicago, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, among others.

Bryce Colburn is a USA TODAY Blueprint small business editor with a history of helping startups and small firms nationwide grow their business. He has worked as a freelance writer, digital marketing professional and business-to-business (B2B) editor at U.S. News and World Report, gaining a strong understanding of the challenges businesses face. Bryce is enthusiastic about helping businesses make the best decisions for their company and specializes in reviewing business software and services. His expertise includes topics such as credit card processing companies, payroll software, company formation services and virtual private networks (VPNs).

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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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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The Business Planning Process: 6 Steps To Creating a New Plan

The Business Planning Process 6 Steps to Create a New Plan

In this article, we will define and explain the basic business planning process to help your business move in the right direction.

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process whereby an organization’s leaders figure out the best roadmap for growth and document their plan for success.

The business planning process includes diagnosing the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, improving its efficiency, working out how it will compete against rival firms in the future, and setting milestones for progress so they can be measured.

The process includes writing a new business plan. What is a business plan? It is a written document that provides an outline and resources needed to achieve success. Whether you are writing your plan from scratch, from a simple business plan template , or working with an experienced business plan consultant or writer, business planning for startups, small businesses, and existing companies is the same.

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The best business planning process is to use our business plan template to streamline the creation of your plan: Download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and finish your business plan & financial model in hours.

The Better Business Planning Process

The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:

  • Do Your Research
  • Calculate Your Financial Forecast
  • Draft Your Plan
  • Revise & Proofread
  • Nail the Business Plan Presentation

We’ve provided more detail for each of these key business plan steps below.

1. Do Your Research

Conduct detailed research into the industry, target market, existing customer base,  competitors, and costs of the business begins the process. Consider each new step a new project that requires project planning and execution. You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What is the current state of your business?
  • What are the current industry trends?
  • What is your competition doing?

There are a variety of resources needed, ranging from databases and articles to direct interviews with other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or industry experts. The information gathered during this process should be documented and organized carefully, including the source as there is a need to cite sources within your business plan.

You may also want to complete a SWOT Analysis for your own business to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks as this will help you develop your strategies to highlight your competitive advantage.

2. Strategize

Now, you will use the research to determine the best strategy for your business. You may choose to develop new strategies or refine existing strategies that have demonstrated success in the industry. Pulling the best practices of the industry provides a foundation, but then you should expand on the different activities that focus on your competitive advantage.

This step of the planning process may include formulating a vision for the company’s future, which can be done by conducting intensive customer interviews and understanding their motivations for purchasing goods and services of interest. Dig deeper into decisions on an appropriate marketing plan, operational processes to execute your plan, and human resources required for the first five years of the company’s life.

3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast

All of the activities you choose for your strategy come at some cost and, hopefully, lead to some revenues. Sketch out the financial situation by looking at whether you can expect revenues to cover all costs and leave room for profit in the long run.

Begin to insert your financial assumptions and startup costs into a financial model which can produce a first-year cash flow statement for you, giving you the best sense of the cash you will need on hand to fund your early operations.

A full set of financial statements provides the details about the company’s operations and performance, including its expenses and profits by accounting period (quarterly or year-to-date). Financial statements also provide a snapshot of the company’s current financial position, including its assets and liabilities.

This is one of the most valued aspects of any business plan as it provides a straightforward summary of what a company does with its money, or how it grows from initial investment to become profitable.

4. Draft Your Plan

With financials more or less settled and a strategy decided, it is time to draft through the narrative of each component of your business plan . With the background work you have completed, the drafting itself should be a relatively painless process.

If you have trouble writing convincing prose, this is a time to seek the help of an experienced business plan writer who can put together the plan from this point.

5. Revise & Proofread

Revisit the entire plan to look for any ideas or wording that may be confusing, redundant, or irrelevant to the points you are making within the plan. You may want to work with other management team members in your business who are familiar with the company’s operations or marketing plan in order to fine-tune the plan.

Finally, proofread thoroughly for spelling, grammar, and formatting, enlisting the help of others to act as additional sets of eyes. You may begin to experience burnout from working on the plan for so long and have a need to set it aside for a bit to look at it again with fresh eyes.

6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation

The presentation of the business plan should succinctly highlight the key points outlined above and include additional material that would be helpful to potential investors such as financial information, resumes of key employees, or samples of marketing materials. It can also be beneficial to provide a report on past sales or financial performance and what the business has done to bring it back into positive territory.

Business Planning Process Conclusion

Every entrepreneur dreams of the day their business becomes wildly successful.

But what does that really mean? How do you know whether your idea is worth pursuing?

And how do you stay motivated when things are not going as planned? The answers to these questions can be found in your business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls along the way. ​

Business plans are dynamic documents that can be revised and presented to different audiences throughout the course of a company’s life. For example, a business may have one plan for its initial investment proposal, another which focuses more on milestones and objectives for the first several years in existence, and yet one more which is used specifically when raising funds.

Business plans are a critical first step for any company looking to attract investors or receive grant money, as they allow a new organization to better convey its potential and business goals to those able to provide financial resources.

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How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Steps (With FREE Template)

Discover how to write a business plan in just 10 steps! Access our comprehensive PowerPoint and PDF templates to streamline your process. Ready to write your business plan? Start here.

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How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Steps (With FREE Template)

Have you ever wondered how the likes of SpaceX or Beyond Meat charted their course to industry dominance?

Spoiler alert: A meticulously crafted business plan was at the heart of their strategy.

If you're gearing up to launch your venture or scale it to new heights, a business plan isn't just a good-to-have; it's your roadmap to success.

I'd like you to take a look at this guide, peppered with real-world examples and actionable insights, as we break down the art of creating a business plan into nine digestible steps.

Ready to set the stage for your business triumph? Let's dive in!

steps for business plan preparation

1. The Elevator Pitch - Draft an Executive Summary

Imagine stepping into an elevator with a potential investor, and you have moments to encapsulate your business's essence. This is the challenge of the elevator pitch, and at the heart of it lies the Executive Summary. Often considered the gateway to your business plan, the Executive Summary is a snapshot, providing a tantalizing glimpse into the world you're building.

First Impressions Matter . The Executive Summary is not just an introduction; it's an invitation. It should succinctly convey your business's core concept, unique selling proposition, and growth potential. While it's positioned at the beginning of your business plan, it's often recommended to pen it last, ensuring it distills the essence of the detailed sections that follow.

The Essence of Brevity . An impactful Executive Summary is both concise and compelling. It should encapsulate the business's mission, vision, product or service offerings, target market, and a brief overview of financial projections. Think of it as a trailer for a blockbuster movie; it should entice the reader to delve deeper into the subsequent sections of the business plan.

In the grand tapestry of your business plan, the Executive Summary is the golden thread that weaves everything together. It's the first impression and, often, the lasting one. So, as you stand poised at the threshold of your entrepreneurial journey, please make sure that your Executive Summary is an overview and an overture, setting the stage for the following symphony of success.

Think of this as the trailer to your business's blockbuster movie. It's a snapshot, offering a glimpse into what your business is all about. Highlight your business's essence, vision, and what sets you apart. Remember, this is your first impression if you're pitching to investors. Make it count!

2. The Heartbeat - Write a Company Description

At the core of every thriving enterprise lies its essence, its heartbeat - the Company Description. This section is not just a narrative; it's the soulful story of your business, painting a vivid picture of who you are, what you stand for, and the journey you envision. It's the foundation upon which the rest of your business plan is built, offering readers a clear lens into your company's ethos and aspirations.

Diving Deep into Identity . A compelling Company Description goes beyond the surface. It delves into the very DNA of your business, encapsulating its mission, vision, and core values. It should articulate the problems you aim to solve, the solutions you offer, and the unique value proposition that sets you apart in the marketplace. This section is your opportunity to showcase the passion, purpose, and potential that drive your venture.

Crafting a Compelling Canvas . Think of your Company Description as a canvas, where each brushstroke adds depth and dimension. It should encompass the structure of your business, its history, and its future aspirations. Whether you're a budding startup or an established enterprise, this section should resonate with authenticity, reflecting the heart and soul of your brand.

In the intricate tapestry of your business plan, the Company Description is the vibrant thread that brings your vision to life. The narrative informs and inspires, drawing readers into the world you're creating. As you embark on this entrepreneurial odyssey, please ensure that your Company Description is not just an account but an anthem, echoing the passion and promise of your venture.

Who are you, and what's your mission? This section is your chance to introduce your business to the world. Dive into your business's ethos, unique selling points, and objectives. Think of brands like Patagonia and their commitment to sustainability; that's the passion and clarity you want to convey.

3. The Landscape - Perform a Market Analysis

Understanding your terrain is paramount in the vast expanse of the business world. The Market Analysis serves as your compass, guiding you through the intricate landscape of your industry, illuminating opportunities, and highlighting potential pitfalls. It's not merely a section in your business plan; it's the lens through which you view the world, ensuring that your venture is viable and valuable in the marketplace.

Deciphering the Dynamics . A robust Market Analysis dives deep into the currents of your industry. It assesses your target market's size and growth potential, identifies key players and competitors, and decodes consumer behaviors and preferences. This section is your chance to showcase your understanding, showing that you know the market trends and are adept at leveraging them to your advantage.

Crafting a Strategic Stance . With the insights gained from your Market Analysis, you can carve out a distinct position in the industry. Whether identifying an underserved niche, understanding the pricing strategies that resonate with your audience, or pinpointing the channels that offer maximum visibility, Market Analysis provides the intelligence to make informed decisions. It's the foundation upon which your strategies are built, ensuring that your business moves purposefully and precisely.

In the grand scheme of your business journey, Market Analysis is your roadmap. It offers clarity amidst complexity, ensuring that every step you take is grounded in research and resonates with relevance. As you chart your course in the business world, let your Market Analysis be the beacon that guides you, illuminating the path to success and sustainability.

Would you set sail without a compass? You'll need to understand your market. I'd appreciate it if you could delve into current market trends, identify competitors, and understand potential customers. This section is about showing that you've done your homework and are ready to navigate the business waters precisely.

4. The Dream Team - Outline the Management and Organization

In the intricate dance of business, while strategy and vision set the rhythm, the people truly make the magic happen. The Management and Organization section of your business plan is where you introduce the maestros behind the curtain, the individuals steering the ship through both calm and stormy seas. This isn't just about listing names and titles; it's about showcasing the collective expertise and passion that propels your venture forward.

The Pillars of Leadership . Every successful venture stands tall on the shoulders of its leaders. In this section, delve into your key team members' backgrounds, experiences, and unique strengths. Highlight their past achievements, industry expertise, and the specific roles they'll play in driving your business's growth. Whether it's the visionary CEO with a track record of successful startups or the tech genius who's revolutionized processes in their previous roles, this is your chance to spotlight the human capital that sets your business apart.

Structuring for Success . In addition to the individuals, it's essential to outline the organizational structure to help your operations. Will you lean towards a flat hierarchy, promoting open communication and collaboration? Or may a more traditional, tiered system better suit your industry and goals? Accompanied by an organizational chart, this section should clarify roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines, ensuring that current and potential stakeholders understand how decisions are made and tasks are executed.

In the grand tapestry of your business narrative, the Management and Organization section is where you weave in the threads of leadership and structure. It assures stakeholders that not only do you have a compelling vision, but you also have the right team and organizational framework in place to turn that vision into a vibrant reality. Remember, businesses thrive not just on strategies but on the people who bring them to life.

Behind every significant venture is a team of dedicated individuals. Highlight your business's key players, roles, and expertise. Whether you're a solo entrepreneur or have a diverse team, showcase the brains behind the operation.

5. The Offer - List Your Products and Services

In the bustling marketplace of ideas and innovations, what truly sets a business apart is its unique offering to the world. The Products and Services section of your business plan is your stage, where you unveil the stars of your show. It's not just about listing items or services; it's about painting a vivid picture of the solutions you provide, the needs you address, and the value you deliver.

The Spotlight on Solutions . You can start by diving deep into the core of your offerings. What problems are they designed to solve? How do they enhance your customers' lives or fill a market gap? Whether it's groundbreaking software that streamlines workflows or a handcrafted product that adds a touch of luxury to everyday life, this is your chance to showcase the benefits and features that make your offerings stand out.

Diversity in Delivery . In today's dynamic business landscape, versatility is vital. Highlight the range and variety of your products and services. Provide a clear breakdown if you offer multiple product lines or varied service tiers. This demonstrates the breadth of your offerings and caters to a diverse clientele with various needs and budgets.

Crafting the Products and Services section is akin to curating a gallery. Each product or service is a masterpiece, reflecting your business's ethos, passion, and commitment to excellence. It invites potential stakeholders and customers to experience the value you bring. In this section, you're not just listing items; you're telling a story of innovation, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of delivering unparalleled value.

What's on your offering menu? Detail the products or services you're bringing to the table. Whether you're launching a groundbreaking tech product or a new line of vegan snacks, ensure your audience understands your value.

steps for business plan preparation

6. The Audience - Perform Customer Segmentation

In the vast arena of business, knowing your audience is the compass that guides every decision. Customer segmentation is not just a section in a business plan; it's the lens through which you view your market, allowing you to tailor your offerings and strategies to resonate with the right crowd. It's about understanding the myriad faces in public and crafting a message that speaks directly to each one.

The Mosaic of Markets . Imagine a tapestry, each thread representing a different segment of your audience. Some lines represent age groups, others geographical locations, and yet others, specific behaviors or interests. By weaving these threads together, you get a vivid picture of your customers, their desires, and how they interact with the world. Whether it's the tech-savvy millennials, the eco-conscious urbanites, or the luxury-seeking retirees, each segment has unique characteristics and needs.

Strategies Tailored to Tastes . With a clear understanding of your customer segments, you can craft strategies that resonate. It's like curating a playlist for different moods and occasions. Your marketing campaigns, product features, and customer service protocols can be fine-tuned to appeal to each segment. This personalized approach enhances customer experience and optimizes resource allocation, ensuring your efforts and investments are channeled where they matter most.

Diving into customer segmentation is akin to being a maestro, understanding each instrument's unique notes and rhythms, and orchestrating a symphony that captivates the audience. It's a dance of data and intuition, where insights drive innovation, ensuring that your business reaches its audience and resonates, engages, and builds lasting relationships.

Only some people are your customers, and that's okay. Could you define who you're targeting? Are you catering to the tech-savvy millennials or the eco-conscious Gen Z? Pinpointing your audience ensures your marketing efforts hit the bullseye.

7. The Megaphone - Define a Marketing Plan

In the bustling marketplace of ideas and products, standing out is both an art and a science. A marketing plan isn't just about shouting the loudest; it's about ensuring your voice carries the right message to the right ears at the right time. It's the megaphone that amplifies your brand's story, values, and offerings, ensuring they echo in the hearts and minds of your audience.

The Symphony of Strategy . Think of a marketing plan as a musical score, where every note, every pause, and every crescendo is meticulously crafted. It begins with understanding your audience, their desires, and their pain points. Then, it's about choosing the suitable instruments - social media campaigns, influencer partnerships, or traditional advertising - and playing them harmoniously to create a resonant melody. Each strategy, whether a catchy jingle or a viral video, is a note in this grand composition, aiming to captivate and convert.

Adapting to the Audience's Rhythm . The beauty of a well-crafted marketing plan lies in its adaptability. Just as a maestro might tweak a performance based on the audience's reaction, a business must be ready to pivot its strategies based on market feedback. This means constantly monitoring performance metrics, staying attuned to industry trends, and being agile enough to capitalize on new opportunities or address challenges head-on.

Ultimately, a marketing plan is more than just a blueprint; it's a living, breathing entity that evolves with your business and audience. It's about striking the right chords, creating a symphony of strategies that reach the masses and touch individual souls, turning casual listeners into loyal fans.

How do you plan to shout your brand's name from the rooftops? Whether leveraging the power of social media or diving into grassroots marketing, chalk out your strategy. Remember, it's not just about reaching your audience; it's about resonating with them.

8. The Engine Room - Provide a Logistics and Operations Plan

Behind every successful venture lies the intricate machinery of logistics and operations, often unseen but undeniably vital. It's the engine room of a business, where ideas are transformed into tangible products, and strategies are executed with precision. While the spotlight often shines on the end product or service, the logistics and operations plan ensures the show runs smoothly, efficiently, and sustainably.

The Choreography of Coordination . Imagine a ballet performance where every leap, twirl, and step is perfectly synchronized. Similarly, a logistics and operations plan is about orchestrating a dance of various elements - from sourcing raw materials to ensuring timely deliveries. It's about mapping out the journey of a product, from conception to the consumer's hands, ensuring that every stage, be it manufacturing, storage, or distribution, is optimized for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This choreography is crucial not just for meeting business objectives but also for delivering consistent value to customers.

Adapting to the Ebb and Flow . Just as a ship's captain must be prepared to navigate through calm seas and stormy waters alike, businesses must be equipped to handle the dynamic challenges of the market. A robust logistics and operations plan is not set in stone; it's flexible, allowing businesses to adapt to changing circumstances, be it a sudden surge in demand, supply chain disruptions, or technological advancements. It's about having contingency plans, alternative routes, and the agility to pivot when needed.

In essence, while the external facade of a business might be its products, marketing, or brand image, the logistics and operations plan forms its backbone. The silent force keeps the wheels turning, ensuring businesses survive and thrive in the competitive marketplace.

The behind-the-scenes magic. Detail how you'll source materials, manage production, handle shipping, and everything else. This section showcases that you have a robust system to deliver consistently.

9. The Treasure Chest - Make a Financial Plan

In the grand tapestry of business, if strategy and vision are the threads, then the financial plan is the loom of everything. The treasure chest safeguards a company's future, ensuring every decision is grounded in fiscal responsibility and foresight. While the allure of innovation and marketing might capture the imagination, the financial plan translates dreams into actionable, sustainable realities.

It is mapping the Business Odyssey . Every entrepreneurial journey is filled with aspirations, but the financial roadmap dictates these aspirations' pace, direction, and viability. A comprehensive financial plan delves deep into the numbers, projecting revenues, analyzing costs, and forecasting profits. It's not just about crunching numbers; it's about understanding the story they tell - where the business stands today, where it aims to be tomorrow, and the financial milestones along the way. This roadmap serves as both a guide and a barometer, helping businesses navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

The Pillars of Stability . Within the financial plan lie the pillars that uphold a business's stability: the income statement reflecting profitability, the balance sheet showcasing assets and liabilities, and the cash flow statement, the lifeline that ensures operations run smoothly. Together, these documents offer a panoramic view of a company's financial health, enabling stakeholders, from investors to employees, to gauge the company's potential and resilience.

Ultimately, a financial plan is more than just spreadsheets and projections. It's the treasure chest that contains the essence of a business's potential, its challenges, and its path to success. It's the tool that turns entrepreneurial dreams into tangible, sustainable enterprises, ensuring that the ship sets sail and reaches its destined shores.

Show me the money! Outline your financial projections, potential expenses, and revenue streams. Whether you're bootstrapping or seeking investment, a clear financial plan showcases that you're in this for the long haul and have a clear path to profitability.

10. The Captain's Log: Charting Your Course with a Timeline

In the vast ocean of entrepreneurship, where unpredictable currents can sway even the most robust vessels, the Captain's Log serves as the compass, guiding businesses through both calm and stormy waters. Much like the seasoned captains of old, who meticulously recorded their journeys, today's business leaders need a timeline—a Captain's Log—to chart their course, ensuring they remain on the right path towards their destined harbor.

Anchoring Vision to Reality . The Captain's Log, or the business timeline, is not just a record of where you've been but a beacon illuminating where you're headed. It captures the milestones, the challenges overcome, and the victories celebrated. Each entry is a testament to the company's journey, offering insights into past decisions and their outcomes. But more crucially, it provides a structured framework for the future, setting clear objectives, deadlines, and benchmarks. This timeline becomes the rhythm to which the business marches, ensuring that every crew member, from the deckhand to the first mate, is synchronized in purpose and pace.

The Legacy of Lessons Learned . As with any journey, the business path is filled with lessons—some hard-earned, others serendipitous. The Captain's Log preserves these lessons, ensuring they become part of the company's legacy. Future endeavors can draw from past experiences, avoiding pitfalls and capitalizing on proven strategies. It's a living document, evolving with each entry, reflecting the company's growth, adaptability, and resilience.

The Captain's Log is more than just a timeline; it's the soul of the business journey. The narrative tells the tale of a venture's past, present, and future, ensuring that no matter how tumultuous the seas are, the ship remains steadfast, with its eyes firmly set on the horizon.

Every epic voyage has milestones, ports of call, and moments of reflection. When do you envision reaching each landmark as you embark on this business journey? By setting a clear timeline for your goals, you're not just dreaming but committing. It's the rhythm to your business song, ensuring you dance to the beats of progress and pause to celebrate the milestones. Remember, it's not just about the destination but the journey, and a well-defined timeline ensures you savor every moment.

steps for business plan preparation

Wrapping Up

In the grand tapestry of business, a well-crafted plan is the thread that binds everything together.

Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business magnate looking to pivot, these steps will ensure your business plan is not just a document but a beacon guiding you to success. So, are you ready to chart your legacy?

steps for business plan preparation

How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Steps - PDF Template

steps for business plan preparation

How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Steps - PowerPoint Template

Frequently asked questions.

FAQ About How to Write a Business Plan

Understanding the Blueprint: What is a business plan?

A business plan is more than just a document; it's a roadmap for your entrepreneurial journey. Think of it as the GPS guiding your business from its nascent stages to its ultimate goals. At its core, a business plan outlines your business's vision, mission, and strategies to achieve success. It delves into the specifics, detailing your products or services, your target market, your financial projections, and the challenges you anticipate.

But why is it so pivotal? For starters, a business plan offers clarity. It forces you to crystallize your vision, understand your market, and strategize effectively. It's also a tool of persuasion – a well-crafted business plan can attract investors, partners, and top-tier talent. Moreover, it serves as a reference point, allowing you to measure your business's progress and adjust course when needed. A business plan isn't just a requirement for securing funding; it's the foundation upon which successful companies are built. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an established business owner, crafting a comprehensive business plan is the first step towards turning your business dreams into reality.

The Power of Preparation: Why write a business plan?

Embarking on a business journey without a plan is akin to setting sail on turbulent seas without a compass. A business plan is your guiding star, illuminating the path to success. It's not merely a document; it's a strategic blueprint that outlines your business's vision, objectives, and the steps needed to achieve them. But why is it so indispensable?

Firstly, a business plan provides clarity and direction. It forces you to introspect to truly understand your business's core values, target audience, and unique selling propositions. I want to let you know that this clarity is invaluable, ensuring every decision aligns with your overarching goals. Secondly, it's a powerful tool of persuasion. Whether seeking investment, forging partnerships, or recruiting top-tier talent, a well-articulated business plan showcases your commitment, foresight, and strategic insight; it's a testament to your business's viability and potential for growth. Lastly, a business plan acts as a yardstick, allowing you to measure your progress, identify potential roadblocks, and recalibrate your strategies when necessary. Writing a business plan isn't just a bureaucratic exercise; it's the cornerstone of business success, ensuring your entrepreneurial vision is grounded in reality and poised for growth.

Blueprint for Success: What needs to be in a business plan?

A business plan is more than just a document; it's a comprehensive roadmap that charts the course of your entrepreneurial journey. But what exactly should this roadmap contain? A business plan must provide a clear and concise overview of your business's foundation, direction, and potential.

To start, every business plan should have an Executive Summary . Please think of this as your elevator pitch, which is the essence of your business in a brief yet compelling manner. It should provide an overview of your business concept, key objectives, and a snapshot of your potential growth. Next, I'd like you to go into the Company Description . This section paints a vivid picture of your business, its mission, vision, and the unique value it brings to the market. Following this, a thorough Market Analysis is crucial. This segment should offer insights into your target audience, industry trends, and competitive landscape, showcasing your understanding of the market dynamics and your business's position.

Also, details about your Products or Services, Marketing and Sales Strategies, and Financial Projections are essential. These sections provide a deep dive into what you're offering, how you plan to reach your audience, and the financial trajectory you anticipate. Don't forget the Operational Plan – a behind-the-scenes look at the logistics, from supply chain management to daily operations—and the Timeline of when it gets done.

A business plan should be a holistic representation of your business's past, present, and future, serving as both a guide and a tool for persuasion.

Navigating the Pitfalls -Common mistakes when writing a business plan

It has its pitfalls in crafting a business plan. Many enthusiastic entrepreneurs, brimming with passion and vision, often need to pay more attention to some critical aspects, leading to potential missteps. Recognizing these common mistakes can differentiate between a plan that shines and one that falls flat.

First and foremost, many fall into the trap of Over-ambitious Projections . While optimism is valuable, unrealistic financial or growth forecasts can undermine your plan's credibility. It's essential to base your projections on solid research and realistic market expectations. Another frequent oversight is the Lack of Market Analysis . A business plan that doesn't thoroughly address the target market, industry trends, and competitive landscape can appear uninformed. This section is your opportunity to showcase your deep understanding of the market dynamics and how your business fits within that ecosystem.

Additionally, many entrepreneurs need to pay more attention to the importance of Clear and Concise Writing . A business plan riddled with jargon, complex language, or, worse, grammatical errors can detract from its professionalism. Remember, clarity and precision are critical. Anyone, from potential investors to new team members, should easily understand your plan. By being aware of these common mistakes and proactively addressing them, you can craft a business plan that stands out and the test of time.

Unraveling the Core - What are the three primary purposes of a business plan?

Diving into entrepreneurship often begins with a foundational document: the business plan.

But what drives the creation of this pivotal document? At its heart, a business plan serves three primary purposes, each interwoven and essential for guiding a business toward success.

To start, the business plan acts as a Strategic Blueprint . The roadmap outlines the company's direction, goals, and strategies to achieve those goals. This blueprint not only provides a clear path for the team but also helps in anticipating potential roadblocks. The compass ensures every decision aligns with the company's core objectives and vision.

Secondly, it serves as a Validation Tool . Before diving headfirst into the market, validating the business idea's feasibility is crucial. The business plan offers a reality check through market analysis, competitive research, and financial projections. It answers critical questions: Is there a demand for the product or service? What differentiates the business from competitors? Are the financial projections sustainable?

Lastly, the business plan is an Investor Magnet . Whether to secure a loan, attract venture capitalists, or onboard strategic partners, a well-crafted business plan showcases the company's potential and viability. The document instills confidence in potential stakeholders, assuring them that their investment is sound and that the business has a clear strategy for growth and success. A business plan isn't just a document; it's the lifeline that threads a business's vision, validation, and value together.

Decoding the Varieties - What are the different types of business plans?

Not all business plans are created equal. Depending on the goals, audience, and stage of the business, entrepreneurs might consider several distinct types of business plans.

First on the list is the Traditional Business Plan . Comprehensive and detailed, this type of plan is the most common and covers all aspects of the business. From an in-depth market analysis to detailed financial projections, it's the go-to format for startups seeking significant funding from banks or investors. This plan is robust, often spanning dozens of pages, and is designed to leave no stone unturned.

For those looking for a more concise approach, the Lean Business Plan offers a solution. Streamlined and to the point, it focuses on the essentials. While it follows the structure of a traditional plan, it only includes the most crucial information, making it ideal for businesses that need a plan for internal use or to adapt to rapidly changing markets.

Lastly, there's the Nonprofit Business Plan . Tailored for organizations operating for public or social benefit, this plan covers the standard business strategies and delves into the impact the organization aims to make. It's a blend of traditional business strategies focusing on mission-driven goals.

In essence, the type of business plan chosen reflects the business's objectives, audience, and stage. Whether a comprehensive deep dive or a high-level overview, each project is a guiding star, illuminating the path to success.

The Timeline Tangle - How long does it take to write a business plan?

One of the budding entrepreneurs' most frequently pondered questions is, "How long will it take to chart my business blueprint?" Much like the vast ocean, the answer varies based on several factors.

At the outset, the Depth and Detail of the plan play a pivotal role. A comprehensive Traditional Business Plan, with market analyses, intricate financial projections, and a detailed operational roadmap, can take several weeks, if not months, to perfect. This meticulous approach ensures every facet of the business is explored, making it a preferred choice for those seeking substantial funding or entering competitive markets.

On the flip side, with its concise and agile format, the Lean Business Plancan can be crafted in a matter of days to a few weeks. Tailored for businesses needing a nimble strategy or internal brainstorming, this plan focuses on the essentials, allowing quicker turnaround times.

However, beyond the type of plan, the Research Intensity and the Familiarity with the Business Domain also influence the timeline. A well-researched plan, grounded in data and insights, will naturally demand more time. Similarly, the learning curve might extend the drafting duration if an entrepreneur ventures into a new industry.

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, the time invested in a business plan is a testament to its thoroughness and clarity. Whether it's a month-long endeavor or a week's sprint, the goal remains to pave a clear path toward entrepreneurial success.

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Business Planning Process: Create a Business Plan That Works

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Radhika Agarwal

  • December 15, 2023

Business Planning Process

If you are planning to start or grow your business, you might have heard about the importance of the business planning process countless times. And yes, it is necessary to have a plan. After all, it’ll be your roadmap to success.

But how would you go about it? Where will you start? And most importantly is there a tried and tested process that can make your job easier? What if we told you there is such a process?

And through this article, we’ll walk you through everything from what is business planning to the steps of the business planning process .

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process of giving structure to your business idea. It acts as a roadmap to your business journey, helps you get through obstacles, and maximizes opportunities.

It also helps you set realistic goals and pursue the same with a structured action plan.

Moreover, through a business plan, you can analyze your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how that would impact your company while dealing with market competition and how your strengths would help you achieve your goal.

Above all, doing business with a well-written business plan increases your chances of success.

Steps of the Business Planning Process

Although there’s no sole right way to go about the process of planning your business, here’s a compilation of steps that’ll make your planning process faster and easier.

1. Carry out your research

Carry out your Research

The first step to creating a business plan is to do thorough research about the business and industry you are trying to get into. Tap into all the information you can get about your target audience, potential customer base, competitors, market and industry trends, cost of business, etc.

You can give a form to your research by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • Where does your business stand currently?
  • What are the prevailing market trends?
  • What strategies is your competitor following?

You can find your answers by conducting market surveys , talking to customers and industry experts, designing good questionnaires, reading articles, blogs, and news updates about your industry and related ones, and so on.

Also, it is a good practice to conduct a SWOT analysis for your company to understand how your company’s strengths and weaknesses would help you stand apart from your competitors based on the current market statistics.

2. Make a Framework

Make a Framework

Once you’re done with your research the next step is to make a framework or a set of strategies for your business based on your research and business goals. You can either design strategies from scratch or reframe previously tried and tested successful strategies to fit your business goals.

But remember that you’ll have to tweak strategies to fit your unique competitive advantages and goals. Hence, strategies that are already being used can act as a good foundation, but it is essential to remember that you’ll have to expand upon them or improvise them for your business.

This step can be completed by taking a deep dive into your customer’s buying motivations and challenges that your product can help solve. Based on that, make a marketing plan, operations plan, and cost structure for your business at least for the first few years of your business.

3. Formulate your Financial Forecasts

Formulate your Financial Forecasts

No matter how tedious finances might seem, they are an integral part of any business. When you map out your finances it is essential to note down all the costs you’ll incur as you grow and run your business for the next five years and what would be your potential revenue , and if or not it would leave room for profit.

You can get your financial forecast by adding your financial assumptions to a financial system which will give you your cash flow statements and give you an idea of what amount of funds you’ll need to start and run your business for the first year.

This step is especially helpful if you want to acquire funding for your business. Nonetheless, it helps you prepare to deal with the financial aspects of your business.

A financial statement essentially provides details of a company’s expenses and profits. It also provides an overview of the company’s current financial stance, including its assets and liabilities.

Through this section try to write down and explain how you plan to use your investments and how would the same give a return.

4. Draft a Plan

Draft a Plan

As you’re done with creating business strategies and planning your finances, it is time to draft your business plan and compile everything into a single document. As you are done with all the technical aspects, this step should feel relatively easy.

But if you need help drafting a business plan and making it look presentable, you can subscribe to business plan software that comes with predesigned templates and tools to make your work easier .

5. Recheck and Improvise

Recheck and Improvise

Now as you’re done with writing your plan, it is a good idea to give it enough time to edit it. Check for any unclear sentences, irrelevant phrases, or confusing terms.

Take suggestions from your team members who are familiar with the functioning of your business. Finally, proofread for any grammar or punctuation errors. One of the most popular and useful pieces of editing advice is to put your work aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes to edit it better.

6. Create an Impressive Business Plan Presentation

Create an Impressive Business Plan Presentation

Now, as you’re done with writing your business plan, it is time to create a presentation that leaves an excellent impression on your audience. Highlight all the important and relevant points.

Also, add references for your investors like your financial reports, resumes of your key team members, snippets of your marketing plan, and past sales reports to have a well-rounded presentation.

It is true that starting a business is intimidating. It includes a bunch of emotions, chaotic ideas, and a will to take risks. ( Risks are a part and parcel of starting a business, no matter how much you plan, but yes planning helps you prepare for it.) But in the end, all of us know that all of it is worth it if you have a profitable business in the end.

And business planning is something that takes you one step closer to your idea of success. Moreover, a plan keeps you going in the face of challenges and adversities, and helps you push yourself a little harder to achieve your dreams when things get tougher.

Above all, a business plan helps you take action and turn ideas into a real and functioning business. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start planning !

And while you’re at it, to check out Upmetrics’s business planning software to make business planning easier and faster.

Build your Business Plan Faster

with step-by-step Guidance & AI Assistance.

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About the Author

steps for business plan preparation

Radhika is an economics graduate and likes to read about every subject and idea she comes across. Apart from that she can discuss her favorite books to lengths( to the point you\'ll start feeling a little annoyed) and spends most of her free time on Google word coach.

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Business plan & Preparation of a Business Plan – Entrepreneurship

Business plan.

Preparation of a business plan

  • Identifying business opportunities and an innovative idea
  • Researching the external environment for opportunities and threats
  • Identifying internal strengths and weaknesses
  • Assessing the feasibility of that idea and
  • Allocating resources in the best possible manner

Objectives of a Business Plan

  • To give direction to the vision of Entrepreneur
  • To objectively evaluate the future prospects of the business
  • To monitor the progress after implementation of the plan
  • To seek loans from Financial Institutions
  • To facilitate the decision making process
  • To persuade others to join the business
  • To identify strengths and weaknesses present in the internal environment
  • To identify opportunities and threats in the external environment
  • To assess the feasibility of the business

Preparation of a Business Plan

  A good business plan must identify strengths and weaknesses internal to the business and the challenges in terms of opportunities and threats to assess the viability of the business. It must lay down all the necessary steps that are involved in initiating and operating a proposed business. Preparation of a business plan involves the following steps :-

Preparation of a business plan

(I) Preliminary Investigation – In order to create an effective plan an entrepreneur must –

  •  Review available business plans
  • Draw key business assumptions on which plan is based
  • Scan the environment for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
  • Seek professional advice
  • Conduct a functional audit

(II)   Idea Generation – It involves generation of a new concept/product/service or value addition to an existing Product or Service. The idea must be such that satisfies the existing demands and future demands of market.

  Sources of ideas –

  • Existing companies
  • Research & Development
  • Dealers/Retailers

  Methods of generating ideas –

  •  Brain storming
  • Group discussion
  • Data collection through questionnaires
  • Invitation of ideas from professionals
  • Value addition to existing Product and Service
  • Market research
  • Import of ideas from products launched abroad
  • Commercializing inventions

Screening of ideas is done to identify practical ones and eliminate impractical one. The most feasible and the most promising idea is selected for further investigation.

(III) Environment Scanning – The internal and external environment must be analysed to study the prospective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business. An entrepreneur must collect information from all formal and informal sources in order to understand the supportive and obstructive factors related to the business enterprise.  

  External Environment –

• Socio cultural appraisal – It involves assessment of the values, beliefs and norms of a particular society in order to understand their perception towards a particular idea or product.

• Technological appraisal – It involves assessment of existing technical know-how and availability of technology necessary to convert an idea into a product.

• Economic appraisal – It assess the economic environment in terms consumer price index, inflation, balance of payments, consumption pattern, per capita income etc.

• Demographic – It involves an assessment of the overall population pattern of a particular region. Variables like age, education, income pattern, sex, occupation, distribution etc. help in identifying the size of target market.

• Government appraisal- It assess various grants, legislations, policies, incentives, subsidies etc. formed by government.

Internal Environment –

  • Availability of Raw materials
  • Availability of various machines, tools and equipment required for production
  • Means of Finance and assessment of opening, maintaining and operating expenses
  • Assessment of Present, Potential and Future market
  • Assessment of cost, quantity and quality of human resources required

(IV) Feasibility analysis –   Feasibility analysis is done to find out whether the proposed project will be feasible or not. The various variables that are studied include –

(a) Market Analysis – It is conducted to –

  •  Estimate the demand of the proposed product in the future
  • Estimate the market share of the proposed product in the future

(b) Technical or operational analysis – It is conducted to access the operational ability of the proposed business. It is very important to find out the cost and availability of technology. Under Technical analysis data is collected on following parameters –

  •  Material availability
  • Material requirement planning
  • Plant location
  • Plant capacity
  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Plant layout

(C) Financial analysis – A Financial Feasibility test is carried out to access the financial issues related with the proposed business. The following estimates have to be carried out –

  • Cost of land and building
  • Cost of plant and machinery
  • Preliminary cost estimation
  • Provision for contingencies
  • Working capital estimates
  • Cost of production
  • Sales and production estimates

  Based on the above analysis the following projections are made –

  • Break-even point
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

(V) Drawing functional plans – If the feasibility plans give a positive indication a draft business plan is formulated. It involves preparation of the following functional plans –

(a) Marketing Plan – A marketing plan lays down strategies for marketing a product/service which can lead to success of business. These strategies are made in terms of marketing mix (4 P’s) i.e. Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

(b) Production/Operation Plan –A production plan is made for a business involved in manufacturing industry while an operation plan is made for business involved in service industry. It includes strategies for following –

  • Location and reasons for selecting a location
  • Physical layout
  • Cost and availability of equipment, machine and raw material
  • List of suppliers and distributors
  • Cost of manufacturing and running operations
  • Quality management
  • Production scheduling capacity and Inventory management

(c) Organizational Plan – It defines the type of ownership i.e. it could be a single proprietary, partnership firm, company, private limited or public limited. It also consists of details about the organization structure and norms guiding the organization culture.

(d) Financial Plan – It indicates the financial requirement of the proposed business and furnishes the following details –

  • Cost incurred in smooth running of all the financial plans
  • Projected cash flows
  • Projected income statement
  • Projected Break even point
  • Projected ratios
  • Projected balance sheet

(e) Human Resource Plan – It consists of the details on the following:-

  • Manpower requirements
  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Compensation
  • Organization structure
  • Wages and Salaries
  • Remuneration etc.

(VI) Project Report Preparation –   It is a written document that describes step by step, the strategies involved in starting and operating a business. It is prepared when environmental scanning has been done and feasibility studies have been carried out.

(VII) Evaluation, Review and Control – In order to keep up with the dynamic environment and  successfully face global competition a business must be continuously evaluated and reviewed. It is necessary to periodically evaluate, control and review a business to keep up with the technological changes and introduce changes in the business strategy.

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