- Search Search Please fill out this field.
What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, elements of a business plan, special considerations.
- Business Plan FAQs
Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How To Write One
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
A business plan is a document that defines in detail a company's objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written road map for the firm from marketing , financial, and operational standpoints. Both startups and established companies use business plans.
A business plan is an important document aimed at a company's external and internal audiences. For instance, a business plan is used to attract investment before a company has established a proven track record. It can also help to secure lending from financial institutions.
Furthermore, a business plan can serve to keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and on target for meeting established goals.
Although they're especially useful for new businesses, every company should have a business plan. Ideally, the plan is reviewed and updated periodically to reflect goals that have been met or have changed. Sometimes, a new business plan is created for an established business that has decided to move in a new direction.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's core business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- A business plan can also be used as an internal guide to keep an executive team focused on and working toward short- and long-term objectives.
- Businesses may create a lengthier traditional business plan or a shorter lean startup business plan.
- Good business plans should include an executive summary and sections on products and services, marketing strategy and analysis, financial planning, and a budget.
Want Funding? You Need a Business Plan
A business plan is a fundamental document that any new business should have in place prior to beginning operations. Indeed, banks and venture capital firms often require a viable business plan before considering whether they'll provide capital to new businesses.
Operating without a business plan usually is not a good idea. In fact, very few companies are able to last very long without one. There are benefits to creating (and sticking to) a good business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and working through potential obstacles to success.
A good business plan should outline all the projected costs and possible pitfalls of each decision a company makes. Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they can have the same basic elements, such as an executive summary of the business and detailed descriptions of its operations, products and services, and financial projections. A plan also states how the business intends to achieve its goals.
While it's a good idea to give as much detail as possible, it's also important that a plan be concise to keep a reader's attention to the end.
A well-considered and well-written business plan can be of enormous value to a company. While there are templates that you can use to write a business plan, try to avoid producing a generic result. The plan should include an overview and, if possible, details of the industry of which the business will be a part. It should explain how the business will distinguish itself from its competitors.
Start with the essential structure: an executive summary, company description, market analysis, product or service description, marketing strategy, financial projections, and appendix (which include documents and data that support the main sections). These sections or elements of a business plan are outlined below.
When you write your business plan, you don’t have to strictly follow a particular business plan outline or template. Use only those sections that make the most sense for your particular business and its needs.
Traditional business plans use some combination of the sections below. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making. Regardless, try to keep the main body of your plan to around 15-25 pages.
The length of a business plan varies greatly from business to business. Consider fitting the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Then, other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.
As mentioned above, no two business plans are the same. Nonetheless, they tend to have the same elements. Below are some of the common and key parts of a business plan.
- Executive summary: This section outlines the company and includes the mission statement along with any information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and location.
- Products and services: Here, the company can outline the products and services it will offer, and may also include pricing, product lifespan, and benefits to the consumer. Other factors that may go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A firm needs a good handle on its industry as well as its target market. This section of the plan will detail a company's competition and how the company fits in the industry, along with its relative strengths and weaknesses. It will also describe the expected consumer demand for a company's products or services and how easy or difficult it may be to grab market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section describes how the company will attract and keep its customer base and how it intends to reach the consumer. A clear distribution channel must be outlined. The section also spells out advertising and marketing campaign plans and the types of media those campaigns will use.
- Financial planning: This section should include a company's financial planning and projections. Financial statements, balance sheets, and other financial information may be included for established businesses. New businesses will include targets and estimates for the first few years plus a description of potential investors.
- Budget: Every company needs to have a budget in place. This section should include costs related to staffing, development, manufacturing, marketing, and any other expenses related to the business.
Unique Business Plans Help
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its singularity and potential for success.
Types of Business Plans
Business plans help companies identify their objectives and remain on track to meet goals. They can help companies start, manage themselves, and grow once up and running. They also act as a means to attract lenders and investors.
Although there is no right or wrong business plan, they can fall into two different categories—traditional or lean startup. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the most common. It contains a lot of detail in each section. These tend to be longer than the lean startup plan and require more work.
Lean startup business plans, on the other hand, use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans aren't as common in the business world because they're short—as short as one page—and lack detail. If a company uses this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or lender requests it.
A complete business plan must include a set of financial projections for the business. These forward-looking financial statements are often called pro-forma financial statements or simply the " pro-formas ." They include an overall budget, current and projected financing needs, a market analysis, and the company's marketing strategy.
Other Considerations for a Business Plan
A major reason for a business plan is to give owners a clear picture of objectives, goals, resources, potential costs, and drawbacks of certain business decisions. A business plan should help them modify their structures before implementing their ideas. It also allows owners to project the type of financing required to get their businesses up and running.
If there are any especially interesting aspects of the business, they should be highlighted and used to attract financing, if needed. For example, Tesla Motors' electric car business essentially began only as a business plan.
Importantly, a business plan shouldn't be a static document. As a business grows and changes, so too should the business plan. An annual review of the company and its plan allows an entrepreneur or group of owners to update the plan, based on successes, setbacks, and other new information. It provides an opportunity to size up the plan's ability to help the company grow.
Think of the business plan as a living document that evolves with your business.
A business plan is a document created by a company that describes the company's goals, operations, industry standing, marketing objectives, and financial projections. The information it contains can be a helpful guide in running the company. What's more, it can be a valuable tool to attract investors and obtain financing from financial institutions.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
Even if you have a good business plan, your company can still fail, especially if you do not stick to the plan! Having strong leadership with focus on the plan is always a good strategy. Even when following the plan, if you had poor assumptions going into your projections, you can be caught with cash flow shortages and out of control budgets. Markets and the economy can also change. Without flexibility built in to your business plan, you may be unable to pivot to a new course as needed.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers a quick explanation of its business. The company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide since it's just getting started.
Sections can include: a value proposition, a company's major activities and advantages, resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital, a list of partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.
Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
- Business Basics Guide 1 of 46
- Business Ethics: Definition, Principles, Why They're Important 2 of 46
- Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How To Write One 3 of 46
- Organizational Structure for Companies With Examples and Benefits 4 of 46
- Which Type of Organization Is Best For Your Business? 5 of 46
- What Are the Major Types of Businesses in the Private Sector? 6 of 46
- Corporate Culture Definition, Characteristics, and Importance 7 of 46
- What Is an S Corp? 8 of 46
- LLC vs. Incorporation: Which Should I Choose? 9 of 46
- Private Company: What It Is, Types, and Pros and Cons 10 of 46
- Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, Examples, Differences From an LLC 11 of 46
- What Is Bootstrapping? What It Means and How It's Used in Investing 12 of 46
- Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, Popular Websites 13 of 46
- Seed Capital: What It Is, How It Works, Example 14 of 46
- Venture Capital: What Is VC and How Does It Work? 15 of 46
- Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 16 of 46
- Capital Funding: Definition, How It Works, and 2 Primary Methods 17 of 46
- Series Funding: A, B, and C 18 of 46
- Small Business Administration (SBA): Definition and What It Does 19 of 46
- Upper Management 20 of 46
- What is the C Suite?: Meaning and Positions Defined 21 of 46
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO): What They Do vs. Other Chief Roles 22 of 46
- Operations Management: Understanding and Using It 23 of 46
- Human Resource Planning (HRP) Meaning, Process, and Examples 24 of 46
- Brand: Types of Brands and How to Create a Successful Brand Identity 25 of 46
- What Is Brand Personality? How It Works and Examples 26 of 46
- What Is Brand Management? Requirements, How It Works, and Example 27 of 46
- What Is Brand Awareness? Definition, How It Works, and Strategies 28 of 46
- Brand Loyalty: What It Is, and How to Build It 29 of 46
- Brand Extension: Definition, How It Works, Example, and Criticism 30 of 46
- What Is Social Networking? 31 of 46
- Affiliate Marketer: Definition, Examples, and How to Get Started 32 of 46
- What Is Commercialization, Plus the Product Roll-Out Process 33 of 46
- Digital Marketing Overview: Types, Challenges, and Required Skills 34 of 46
- Direct Marketing: What It Is and How It Works 35 of 46
- Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 36 of 46
- What Are Marketing Campaigns? Definition, Types, and Examples 37 of 46
- Researching the Market: How to Conduct Market Research, Types, and Example 38 of 46
- Micromarketing Explained: Definition, Uses, and Examples 39 of 46
- Network Marketing Meaning and How It Works 40 of 46
- Product Differentiation: What It Is, How Businesses Do It, and the 3 Main Types 41 of 46
- Target Market: Definition, Purpose, Examples, Market Segments 42 of 46
- Outside Sales 43 of 46
- What Is a Sales Lead? How It Works and Factors Affecting Quality 44 of 46
- Indirect Sales 45 of 46
- What Is Inside Sales? Definition, How It Works, and Advantages 46 of 46
Retirement Savings Accounts
How to Start a Business
Initial Coin Offerings
- Editorial Policy
- Do Not Sell My Personal Information
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
- Hubspot Blog
Oh no! We couldn't find anything like that.
Try another search, and we'll give it our best shot.
What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
Updated: September 02, 2021
Published: September 01, 2021
In an era where more than 50% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.
The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.
Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?
In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.
What is a business plan used for?
The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.
Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]
Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.
Purposes of a Business Plan
Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Securing financing from investors.
Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break-even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.
All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.
Therefore, these investors need to know if – and when – they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.
2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.
A business plan should leave no stone unturned.
Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.
To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies – from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.
These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.
3. Legitimizing a business idea.
Everyone's got a great idea for a company – until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.
A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.
As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics – and that's exactly what the business plan is for.
It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.
4. Getting an A in your business class.
Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.
If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan – providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?
What does a business plan need to include?
- Business Plan Subtitle
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- The Business Opportunity
- Competitive Analysis
- Target Market
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Summary
- Funding Requirements
1. Business Plan Subtitle
Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.
2. Executive Summary
Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.
3. Company Description
This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.
4. The Business Opportunity
The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high level information about your target market.
5. Competitive Analysis
Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.
6. Target Market
Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.
7. Marketing Plan
Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice. Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.
8. Financial Summary
Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all fair game here.
So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The “team” section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.
10. Funding Requirements
Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.
Types of Business Plans
There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans. For even more examples, check out these 11 sample business plans to help you write your own .
1. Startup Business Plan
As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is used for brand new business ideas. This plan is used to lay the foundation for the eventual success of a business.
The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans typically reference existing industry data and explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.
2. Business Acquisition Plan
Believe it or not, investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.
A business plan for an existing company will explain how an acquisition will change its operating model, what will stay the same under new ownership, and why things will change or stay the same. Additionally, the business plan should speak to what the current state of the business is and why it's up for sale.
For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased and what the new owner will do to turn the business around, referencing previous business metrics, sales projections after the acquisition, and a justification for those projections.
3. Business Repositioning Plan
When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.
This plan will:
- Acknowledge the current state of the company.
- State a vision for the future of the company.
- Explain why the business should (or must) be repositioned.
- Outline a process for how the company will adjust.
Companies planning for a business reposition do so – proactively or retroactively – due to a shift in market trends and customer needs. For example, Pizza Hut announced a plan to drastically overhaul its brand, as it sees the need to shift from dine-in to delivery – a decision resulting from observing years of industry and company trends and acknowledging the need to reposition itself for the future of its sector.
4. Expansion Business Plan
Expanding a successful business venture into another location typically requires a business plan, as the project may focus on a new target market and demand more capital.
Fortunately, an expansion business plan isn’t like a startup business plan in that it starts from scratch. Instead, this type of plan references sales, revenue, and successes from existing locations. However, as great as a reference as these points can be, it's important to not be too reliant on them since it's still a new business that could succeed or fail for a myriad of reasons.
Getting Started With Your Business Plan
At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan – and the business it outlines – will be.
When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.
Don't forget to share this post!
15 Best Screen Recorders to Use for Collaboration
18 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own
How to Write a Powerful Executive Summary [+4 Top Examples]
The 24 Best Google Chrome Extensions for SEO
Professional Invoice Design: 27 Samples & Templates to Inspire You
Customers’ Top HubSpot Integrations to Streamline Your Business in 2022
12 Gantt Chart Examples You'll Want to Copy
The Marketer's Guide to Content Aggregators in 2021
6 Reasons You Really Need to Write A Business Plan
85 Marketing Tools and Software for Every Business & Budget
2 Essential Templates For Starting Your Business
How to write a business description that makes your business plan shine
- A business description is a high-level overview of your company that you include in your business plan
- Your business description should entice readers—like lenders and investors—to look through the rest of your business plan to learn more about your company
- Business descriptions should be concise, error-free, and include only pertinent information about your company
Most successful businesses have one thing in common—they all have a buttoned-up business plan . It lays out the goals of the company, how a company will reach those goals, and when these goals will be realized. And while there are many sections of a business plan, a well-written business description is one of the most important parts.
However, some small business owners may not know how to write an effective business description . Luckily, there’s an easy formula to follow along with a few tips for writing an impactful business description .
What is a business description ?
Also called a company description , your business description summarizes what your company does, its purpose, and what makes it unique. It’s a critical component of your business plan and immediately follows your executive summary . Since it’s one of the first pieces of information a reader will see, it must make a great first impression.
The goal of your business description is to inform readers—like lenders , investors, potential partners, and even employees—how your business benefits consumers and what place your business has in the market. Your business description should give readers a clear understanding of your business and its functions.
Why is a business description important?
A business description is important because it gives readers a single place to learn the details about your company. A well-crafted business description can intrigue readers and encourage them to read the rest of your business plan .
Investors or lenders will have one major thing on their minds—return on investment. They want to know if your business has the potential to be successful and whether it’s worthy of their investment dollars.
Your business description is your first opportunity to wow these investors or lenders and show them why your business will be profitable. It can pique their interest and push them to dig into the rest of your business plan .
What to include in a business description
An effective business description should include information that tells readers exactly what your company does, who is in charge of operations, and what will make your company successful. It should also tell readers what makes you different from competitors and why customers will come knocking at your door with their business.
Below, we’ve outlined every piece of information you should include in your business description . We’ve also created a hypothetical scenario for a hamburger restaurant and added a business description example for each step .
List the official name of your business as it’s registered with your state. Also include the names of the owner(s) and other key members of your management team .
Example: Jay’s Organic Burger Joint, owned and operated by Jacob Doe
Detail the purpose of your business and what you’re aiming to achieve with your venture. These should be realistic short- and long-term goals.
Example: Jay’s aims to grow local brand awareness by 20% and forge partnerships with four additional local suppliers in the next year. The company also intends to expand operations to an additional location in the Chicago area and is seeking an investment of $200,000 in exchange for equity in the company.
Have a thorough understanding of who your target market is. Explain who you’re selling to and why they will buy your product or service. Dig deeper into their needs and motivations so you can predict their purchase behaviors. Identifying the demographics of your target market, such as age group, income, and interests, can give you a competitive edge and attract loyal customers.
Example: Jay’s understands that its customers are health-conscious but have busy lives with little time for preparing healthy meals.
Describe what makes your business unique from your competitors. Readers should understand why your company will succeed and make you a front-runner in the market.
Example: Unlike its competitors, the restaurant alleviates the target audience’ s pain points by providing quick and easy meals that are also healthy for the entire family.
Business location and opening date
Include where your company is headquartered and where you will be conducting business. Also, share when you opened your business or when you plan on opening if you haven’t already.
Example: Jay’s Organic Burger Joint is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and opened operations in April 2019.
Your mission statement tells readers why your business exists. It should highlight the motivations for starting your business and summarize your product or service, target consumers, and why you’re unique.
Example: Jay’s Organic Burger Joint is a fast-casual restaurant that serves the highest quality hamburgers to hungry and health-conscious customers in Chicago, Illinois.
Products or services
Highlight what products or services you’re offering customers. Also, discuss the benefits your products or services provide and what makes them different from competitors.
Example: The menu focuses on healthy meals using only organic ingredients and grass-fed beef.
List what type of business you’re operating. For example, this could be a sole proprietorship , partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or another type of corporation.
Example: The business is a limited liability company owned by Jacob Doe.
Once you’ve included all of these details in your business description , it should look something like this:
Jay’s Organic Burger Joint is a fast-casual restaurant that serves the highest quality hamburgers to hungry and health-conscious customers in Chicago, Illinois. Jay’s understands that its customers are health-conscious but have busy lives with little time for preparing healthy meals.
Unlike its competitors, the restaurant alleviates target customers’ pain points by providing quick and easy meals that are also healthy for the entire family. Jay’s uses local ingredients sourced from farmers in the greater Chicago area. The menu focuses on healthy meals using only organic ingredients and grass-fed beef.
The business is a limited liability company owned by Jacob Doe. Jay’s Organic Burger Joint is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and opened operations in April of 2019.
Jay’s aims to grow local brand awareness by 20% and forge partnerships with four additional local suppliers in the next year. The company also intends to expand operations to an additional location in the Chicago area and is seeking an investment of $200,000 in exchange for equity in the company.
How to write a business description
Not all business descriptions are made the same. There are a few tips to consider if you want your business description to stand out and wow your readers.
Have an elevator pitch
Your business description should kick off with an elevator pitch . An elevator pitch is typically spoken, but it helps to quickly summarize your company at the start of your business description. This pitch quickly covers the key aspects of your business and should be brief and persuasive. You should get straight to the point and immediately give readers your value proposition.
For example, Jay’s Organic Burger Joint could write something like “We serve the highest quality hamburgers and provide a convenient alternative for health-conscious customers who are always on the go.”
Keep it high level
Although you want your business description to be informative, you want to limit the amount of information you include in this section of your business plan. Keep it high-level and avoid going into too much detail. The subsequent sections of your business plan will cover the finer details. Remember, the goal is to give just enough information to entice readers to go through the rest of your business plan .
Show your excitement
This is your opportunity to show your excitement and give your business plan a human touch. Your business plan isn’t only selling your product or service to investors—it’s also selling you. Let your passion shine through as you explain why you started the company and what you aim to achieve.
Keep it short and concise
It can be easy to get carried away and make your business description too long. Avoid being too wordy, which can overwhelm the reader.
Business descriptions should only be a few paragraphs long for most types of companies. Remember, you’re trying to intrigue the reader and encourage them to read the rest of your business plan . If it’s too long, you’ll lose the reader’s attention.
Proofread for errors
Grammatical errors and misspellings can tarnish your company description . Even if you include all the right information, you won’t impress readers if it’s riddled with errors.
Promote your new business
Get a free Yelp Page to help local consumers find you.
Engage readers with your business description
A fine-tuned business description will kick off your business plan on a high note. Whether you’re launching a startup or already have your business up and running, knowing how to write a business description will provide a high-level overview of your company and can help you secure investment dollars from potential investors or lenders .
Yelp Business School: Starting a Business
So, you’ve decided to strike out on your own and start your own business. But what next? Well, through our range of resources and learning materials , we can help you go from concept to launch in just a few simple steps.
Guide to starting your small business:
- 6 questions to ask when starting a business
- Types of business licenses for small businesses
- How to obtain a business license
- How to register your business: a beginner’s guide
- How to write a business description – Back to top
- How to write a business plan and why you need one
- Small business web design tips to build your own site
- How to write an elevator pitch your audience won’t forget
- How to prepare for your small business startup costs
- How to price a product when starting a business
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.
How to attract more customers to your business
Learn how to attract more customers to your business with these tactics that reach people online and build your brand reputation.
Content marketing for small business: 6 essential steps
Content marketing for small business doesn’t have to be difficult. Use these six simple steps to stand out from the competition.
Lead generation ideas for small business owners
Use these four lead generation strategies to get contact information for customers most likely to buy from you, then follow up to make the sale.
Build your dream business for $1/month
Start your free trial, then enjoy 3 months of Shopify for $1/month when you sign up for a monthly Basic or Starter plan.
- Sign up for a free trial
- Select a monthly Basic or Starter plan
- $1/month pricing will be applied at checkout
- Add products, launch your store, and start selling!
- Start free trial
Start selling with Shopify today
Try Shopify for free, and explore all the tools and services you need to start, run, and grow your business.
- How to Start a Dropshipping Business- A Complete Playbook for 2023
- The Ultimate Guide To Dropshipping (2023)
- AliExpress Dropshipping- How to Dropship From AliExpress
- How to Start a Clothing Line in 12 Steps (2023)
- How To Source Products To Sell Online
- How to Do Crowdfunding in 2023- With Expert Tips and Examples from Successful Campaigns
- How to Start a Candle Business (with Examples)
- What Is Affiliate Marketing and How to Get Started
- Pinterest Marketing 101- How to Promote Your Business on Pinterest
- Getting Started on IG- A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Marketing
How To Write the Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2023)
- by Desirae Odjick
- Dec 3, 2022
- 25 minute read
A great business plan can help you clarify your strategy, identify potential roadblocks, decide what you’ll need in the way of resources, and evaluate the viability of your idea or your growth plans before you start a business .
Not every successful business launches with a formal business plan, but many founders find value in taking time to step back, research their idea and the market they’re looking to enter, and understand the scope and the strategy behind their tactics. That’s where writing a business plan comes in.
Table of Contents
What is a business plan?
Why write a business plan, business plan formats, how to write a business plan in 9 steps, tips for creating a small business plan, common mistakes when writing a business plan, prepare your business plan today, business plan faq.
A business plan is a document describing a business, its products or services, how it earns (or will earn) money, its leadership and staffing, its financing, its operations model, and many other details essential to its success.
We had a marketing background but not much experience in the other functions needed to run a fashion ecommerce business, like operations, finance, production, and tech. Laying out a business plan helped us identify the “unknowns” and made it easier to spot the gaps where we’d need help or, at the very least, to skill up ourselves. Jordan Barnett, Kapow Meggings
Investors rely on business plans to evaluate the feasibility of a business before funding it, which is why business plans are commonly associated with getting a loan. But there are several compelling reasons to consider writing a business plan, even if you don’t need funding.
- Strategic planning: Writing out your plan is an invaluable exercise for clarifying your ideas and can help you understand the scope of your business, as well as the amount of time, money, and resources you’ll need to get started.
- Evaluating ideas: If you’ve got multiple ideas in mind, a rough business plan for each can help you focus your time and energy on the ones with the highest chance of success.
- Research: To write a business plan, you’ll need to research your ideal customer and your competitors—information that will help you make more strategic decisions.
- Recruiting: Your business plan is one of the easiest ways to communicate your vision to potential new hires and can help build their confidence in the venture, especially if you’re in the early stages of growth.
- Partnerships: If you plan to approach other companies to collaborate, having a clear overview of your vision, your audience, and your business strategy will make it much easier for them to identify whether your business is a good fit for theirs—especially if they’re further along than you in their growth trajectory.
- Competitions: There are many business plan competitions offering prizes such as mentorships, grants, or investment capital. To find relevant competitions in your industry and area, try Googling “business plan competition + [your location]” and “business plan competition + [your industry].”
If you’re looking for a structured way to lay out your thoughts and ideas, and to share those ideas with people who can have a big impact on your success, a business plan is an excellent starting point.
Free: Business Plan Template
Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.
Get the business plan template delivered right to your inbox.
Almost there: please enter your email below to gain instant access.
We'll also send you updates on new educational guides and success stories from the Shopify newsletter. We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.
Thanks for subscribing. You’ll start receiving free tips and resources soon. In the meantime, start building your store with a free 3-day trial of Shopify.
Business plans can span from one page to multiple pages with detailed graphs and reports. There’s no one way to create a business plan. The goal is to convey the most important information about your company for readers.
Common types of business plans we see include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Traditional. These are the most common business plans. Below, we’ll cover the standard elements of a business plan and go into detail for each section. Traditional business plans take longer to write and can be dozens of pages long. Venture capitalist firms and lenders ask for this plan.
- Lean. A lean business plan is a shorter version of a traditional business plan. It follows the same format, but only includes the most important information. Businesses use this plan to onboard new hires or modify existing plans for a specific target market.
- Nonprofit. A nonprofit business plan is for any entity that operates for public or social benefit. It covers everything you’ll find in a traditional business plan, plus a section describing the impact the company plans to make. For example, a speaker and headphone brand that aims to help people with hearing disabilities. Donors often request this plan.
Check out real-world examples of different business plans by reading The Road to Success: Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own .
- Draft an executive summary
- Describe your company
- Perform a market analysis
- Outline the management and organization
- List your products and services
- Perform customer segmentation
- Define a marketing plan
- Provide a logistics and operations plan
- Make a financial plan
Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. Starting your business plan with a structured outline and key elements for what you’ll include in each section is the best first step you can take.
Since an outline is such an important step in the process of writing a business plan, we’ve put together a high-level overview you can copy into your blank document to get you started (and avoid the terror of facing a blank page). You can also start with a free business plan template and use it to inform the structure of your plan.
Once you’ve got your business plan outline in place, it’s time to fill it in. We’ve broken it down by section to help you build your plan step by step.
1. Draft an executive summary
A good executive summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan—it’s also the last section you should write.
The executive summary’s purpose is to distill everything that follows and give time-crunched reviewers (e.g., potential investors and lenders) a high-level overview of your business that persuades them to read further.
Again, it’s a summary, so highlight the key points you’ve uncovered while writing your plan. If you’re writing for your own planning purposes, you can skip the summary altogether—although you might want to give it a try anyway, just for practice.
An executive summary shouldn’t exceed one page. Admittedly, that space constraint can make squeezing in all of the salient information a bit stressful—but it’s not impossible. Here’s what your business plan’s executive summary should include:
- Business concept. What does your business do?
- Business goals and vision. What does your business want to do?
- Product description and differentiation. What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market. Who do you sell to?
- Marketing strategy. How do you plan on reaching your customers?
- Current financial state. What do you currently earn in revenue?
- Projected financial state. What do you foresee earning in revenue?
- The ask. How much money are you asking for?
- The team. strong> Who’s involved in the business?
2. Describe your company
This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? Answering these questions with a company description provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment bet. For example, clean makeup brand Saie shares a letter from its founder on the company’s mission and why it exists.
Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.
Here are some of the components you should include in your company description:
- Your business structure (Are you a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company?)
- Your business model
- Your industry
- Your business’s vision, mission, and value proposition
- Background information on your business or its history
- Business objectives, both short and long term
- Your team, including key personnel and their salaries
Some of these points are statements of fact, but others will require a bit more thought to define, especially when it comes to your business’s vision, mission, and values. This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
To define your values, think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.
Once you know your values, you can write a mission statement . Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence.
As an example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Making commerce better for everyone.” It’s the “why” behind everything we do and clear enough that it needs no further explanation.
What impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision?
Next, craft your vision statement: what impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision? Phrase this impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise.
Finally, your company description should include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure all your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
3. Perform a market analysis
No matter what type of business you start, it’s no exaggeration to say your market can make or break it. Choose the right market for your products—one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product—and you’ll have a head start on success. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale.
Market analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.
This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. It should include an overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products, an analysis of your business’s position in the market, and an overview of the competitive landscape. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.
How big is your potential market?
The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. While it’s exciting to imagine sky-high sales figures, you’ll want to use as much relevant independent data as possible to validate your estimated potential market.
Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:
- Understand your ideal customer profile . If you’re targeting millennial consumers in the US, you first can look for government data about the size of that group. You also could look at projected changes to the number of people in your target age range over the next few years.
- Research relevant industry trends and trajectory. If your product serves retirees, try to find data about how many people will be retiring in the next five years, as well as any information you can find about consumption patterns among that group. If you’re selling fitness equipment, you could look at trends in gym memberships and overall health and fitness among your target audience or the population at large. Finally, look for information on whether your general industry is projected to grow or decline over the next few years.
- Make informed guesses. You’ll never have perfect, complete information about the size of your total addressable market. Your goal is to base your estimates on as many verifiable data points as necessary for a confident guess.
Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry.
A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed?
These breakdowns often are presented as a grid, with bullet points in each section breaking down the most relevant information—so you can probably skip writing full paragraphs here. Strengths and weaknesses—both internal company factors—are listed first, with opportunities and threats following in the next row. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.
Here’s an example:
Free: SWOT Analysis Template
Get your free SWOT Analysis Template. Use this free PDF to future-proof your business by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Get the SWOT analysis template delivered right to your inbox.
There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:
- Cost leadership. You have the capacity to maximize profits by offering lower prices than the majority of your competitors. Examples include companies like Mejuri and Endy .
- Differentiation. Your product or service offers something distinct from the current cost leaders in your industry and banks on standing out based on your uniqueness. Think of companies like Knix and Qalo .
- Segmentation. You focus on a very specific, or niche, target market, and aim to build traction with a smaller audience before moving on to a broader market. Companies like TomboyX and Heyday Footwear are great examples of this strategy.
To understand which is the best fit, you’ll need to understand your business as well as the competitive landscape.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product, so it’s important to include a competitive overview in your business plan. If you’re entering an established market, include a list of a few companies you consider direct competitors and explain how you plan to differentiate your products and business from theirs.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product.
For example, if you’re selling jewelry, your competitive differentiation could be that, unlike many high-end competitors, you donate a percentage of your profits to a notable charity or pass savings on to your customers.
If you’re entering a market where you can’t easily identify direct competitors, consider your indirect competitors—companies offering products that are substitutes for yours. For example, if you’re selling an innovative new piece of kitchen equipment, it’s too easy to say that because your product is new, you have no competition. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems your product solves.
4. Outline management and organization
The management and organization section of your business plan should tell readers about who’s running your company. Detail the legal structure of your business. Communicate whether you’ll incorporate your business as an S corporation or create a limited partnership or sole proprietorship.
If you have a management team, use an organizational chart to show your company’s internal structure, including the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between people in your chart. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.
5. List your products and services
Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it’s important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers.
If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines; if you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. For example, bag shop BAGGU sells a large selection of different types of bags, in addition to home goods and other accessories. Its business plan would list out those bags and key details about each.
Describe new products you’ll launch in the near future and any intellectual property you own. Express how they’ll improve profitability.
It’s also important to note where products are coming from—handmade crafts are sourced differently than trending products for a dropshipping business, for instance.
Free Guide: How to Find a Profitable Product to Sell Online
Excited about starting a business, but not sure where to start? This free, comprehensive guide will teach you how to find great, newly trending products with high sales potential.
Get How To Find A Product To Sell Online: The Definitive Guide PDF delivered right to your inbox.
6. perform customer segmentation.
Your ideal customer, also known as your target market, is the foundation of your marketing plan , if not your business plan as a whole. You’ll want to keep this person in mind as you make strategic decisions, which is why an overview of who they are is important to understand and include in your plan.
To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:
- Where they live
- Their age range
- Their level of education
- Some common behavior patterns
- How they spend their free time
- Where they work
- What technology they use
- How much they earn
- Where they’re commonly employed
- Their values, beliefs, or opinions
This information will vary based on what you’re selling, but you should be specific enough that it’s unquestionably clear who you’re trying to reach—and more importantly, why you’ve made the choices you have based on who your customers are and what they value.
For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a 50-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.
7. Define a marketing plan
Your marketing efforts are directly informed by your ideal customer. Your marketing plan should outline your current decisions and your future strategy, with a focus on how your ideas are a fit for that ideal customer.
If you’re planning to invest heavily in > Instagram marketing , for example, it might make sense to include whether Instagram is a leading platform for your audience—if it’s not, that might be a sign to rethink your marketing plan.
Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. How much detail you present on each will depend on both your business and your plan’s audience.
- Price. How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision?
- Product. What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market?
- Promotion. How will you get your products in front of your ideal customer?
- Place. Where will you sell your products?
Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.
8. Provide a logistics and operations plan
Logistics and operations are the workflows you’ll implement to make your ideas a reality. If you’re writing a business plan for your own planning purposes, this is still an important section to consider, even though you might not need to include the same level of detail as if you were seeking investment.
Cover all parts of your planned operations, including:
- Suppliers. Where do you get the raw materials you need for production, or where are your products produced?
- Production. Will you make, manufacture, wholesale , or dropship your products? How long does it take to produce your products and get them shipped to you? How will you handle a busy season or an unexpected spike in demand?
- Facilities. Where will you and any team members work? Do you plan to have a physical retail space? If yes, where?
- Equipment. What tools and technology do you require to be up and running? This includes everything from computers to lightbulbs and everything in between.
- Shipping and fulfillment. Will you be handling all the fulfillment tasks in-house, or will you use a third-party fulfillment partner?
- Inventory. How much will you keep on hand, and where will it be stored? How will you ship it to partners if required, and how will you approach inventory management ?
This section should signal to your reader that you’ve got a solid understanding of your supply chain and strong contingency plans in place to cover potential uncertainty. If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending.
9. Make a financial plan
No matter how great your idea is, and regardless of the effort, time, and money you invest, a business lives or dies based on its financial health. At the end of the day, people want to work with a business they expect to be viable for the foreseeable future.
The level of detail required in your financial plan will depend on your audience and goals, but typically you’ll want to include three major views of your financials: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. It also may be appropriate to include financial data and projections.
Here’s a spreadsheet template that includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections if needed.
Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. If you haven’t launched your business yet, you can project future milestones of the same information.
Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets (what you own), and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe). This provides a snapshot of your business’s shareholder equity, which is calculated as:
Assets - Liabilities = Equity
Cash flow statement
Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid.
When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will help you see when cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and where you might need to have a contingency plan to access funding to keep your business solvent .
It can be especially helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement to identify gaps or negative cash flow and adjust operations as required. Here’s a full guide to working through cash-flow projections for your business.
Download your copy of these templates to build out these financial statements for your business plan.
Know your audience
When you know who will be reading your plan—even if you’re just writing it for yourself to clarify your ideas—you can tailor the language and level of detail to them. This can also help you make sure you’re including the most relevant information and figure out when to omit sections that aren’t as impactful.
Have a clear goal
You’ll need to put in more work and deliver a more thorough plan if your goal is to secure funding for your business versus working through a plan for yourself or even your team.
Invest time in research
Sections of your business plan will primarily be informed by your ideas and vision, but some of the most crucial information you’ll need requires research from independent sources. This is where you can invest time in understanding who you’re selling to, whether there’s demand for your products, and who else is selling similar products or services.
Keep it short and to the point
No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices.
Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent
This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it.
Use a business plan software
Writing a business plan isn’t the easiest task for business owners. But it’s important for anyone starting or expanding a business. Fortunately, there are tools to help with everything from planning, drafting, creating graphics, syncing financial data, and more. Business plan software also have templates and tutorials to help you finish a comprehensive plan in hours, rather than days.
A few curated picks include:
- LivePlan : the most affordable option with samples and templates
- Bizplan : tailored for startups seeking investment
- GoSmallBiz : budget-friendly option with industry-specific templates
For a more in-depth look at the available options, read Get Guidance: 6 Business Plan Software to Help Write Your Future .
Other articles on business plans would never tell you what we’re about to tell you: your business plan can fail. The last thing you want is for time and effort to go down the drain. Avoid these common mistakes:
- Bad business idea. Not every idea is going to win. Sometimes your idea may be too risky and you won’t be able to get funding for it. Other times it’s too expensive or there’s no market. Aim for small business ideas that require little money and bypass traditional startup costs.
- No exit strategy. Investors reading your business plan want to know one thing: will your venture make them money? If you don’t show an exit strategy, or a plan for them to leave the business with maximum profits, you’ll have little luck finding capital.
- Unbalanced teams. A great product is the cost of entry to starting a business. But an incredible team will take it to the top. Unfortunately, many business owners overlook a balanced team. They assume readers want to see potential profits, without worrying about how you’ll get it done. If you’re pitching a new software idea, it makes sense to have at least one developer or IT specialist on your team.
- Missing financial projections. Your numbers are the most interesting part for readers. Don’t leave out your balance sheet, cash flow statements, P&L statements, and income statements. Include your break-even analysis and return-on-investment calculations to create a successful business plan.
- Spelling and grammar errors. Some businesses think hiring a professional editor is overkill. The reality is, all the best organizations have an editor review their documents. If someone spots typos while reading your business plan, how can they believe you’ll run a successful company?
Read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own business planning.
Download sample business plan example (.doc)
A business plan can help you identify clear, deliberate next steps for your business, even if you never plan to pitch investors—and it can help you see gaps in your plan before they become issues. Whether you’ve written a business plan for a new online business idea , a retail storefront, growing your established business, or purchasing an existing business , you now have a comprehensive guide and the information you need to help you start working on the next phase of your own business.
Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall
Ready to create your first business? Start your free trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
How do i write a business plan.
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations
- Financial plan
What is a good business plan?
What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan, what are the different types of business plans, about the author.
Desirae is a senior product marketing manager at Shopify, and has zero chill when it comes to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Join 446,005 entrepreneurs who already have a head start.
Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.
No charge. Unsubscribe anytime.
Thanks for subscribing.
You’ll start receiving free tips and resources soon. In the meantime, start building your store with a free 3-day trial of Shopify.
Start your 3-day free trial today!
Try Shopify free for 3 days, no credit card required. By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.
Call Us (877) 968-7147
Most popular blog categories
- Accounting Tips
- Payroll Tips
- Accountant Professionals Tips
How to Write a Company Description for a Business Plan
Nobody does what you do better than you, but … what is it that you do again? You might have trouble describing your business in one sentence or find yourself at a loss for words when writing a company description. Knowing how to write a company description for a business plan helps you communicate with lenders, investors, employees, and potential customers.
How to write a company description for a business plan
You put a lot of thought into your original business concept. Now you need to know how to succinctly describe your business.
Where better to describe your business than in the company description business plan?
What is a business plan?
A company description is just one part of your small business plan . The business plan outlines your goals and how to achieve them.
According to the Small Business Administration , a successful business plan should include the following:
- Executive summary
- Company description (Bingo)
- Small business market analysis
- Organization and management details
- Service or product information
- Marketing and sales overview
- Funding request
- Financial projections
Another thing to note about business plans is that you can’t write one and be done. Your business is always changing. And that means your business plan is always changing, too. Be sure to update it regularly.
What is a business description?
A company description provides an overview of key aspects of your business, like what you do and what makes your business unique. Anyone reading your business description should have no problem understanding the scope of your business.
Lenders and investors should see how your business has a place in the market, as well as its benefits to future customers.
Your business’s mission statement is the part of your company description that you want the public to see. And, you should include your vision statement, too.
Regularly update your company description as your business expands or changes.
Writing your company description
You need to know how to pitch to investors and lenders to captivate their interest. Your description should answer who, what, where, when, why, and how right off the bat.
So, do you know how to write a business description? We’ll walk you through the 5 W’s (and 1 H) to consider when drafting your first copy.
Who are you? Who is your business? Verify that the name of your business is clear in the business description section of your business plan. And, include your name (and the names of any other owners) because lenders and investors want to know the entrepreneur behind the business.
Who is your target customer? Who are you selling to? When describing your business, make sure you know who you appeal to. If you don’t know your target customer, there’s a chance that nobody will be interested in your business.
What is your product or service? If lenders and investors can’t understand what you’re selling or how it’s significant, they may pass on your concept. Be clear, narrow, and focused when telling lenders and investors about your business.
What are your goals for your business? Set realistic short-term and long-term goals. For example, if you plan on selling $20,000 worth of products by the end of the second month, include the goal in your description.
Where is your business located? If you are currently operating your business, list the address. Likewise, make sure you state where you want your business to be if you are still looking for office space.
When will you implement your business plan and see results? Include when you want to open your business (or when you opened it).
When do you plan on achieving your goals? Also, talk about the timeline for your main goals (both short-term and long-term).
When do you think you’ll leave your business? Don’t forget to discuss your exit strategy . Whether you plan on retiring in 20 years, selling your company in 15 years, or closing it down in 10 years, be clear about when you plan on parting ways.
Why would potential customers want to buy from you? Explain why you are different from the competition. This is where you can describe your business’s originality. Lenders and investors want to know why consumers would want to make a purchase at your small business instead of a competitor’s.
Why are you in business? Also make sure you include your business’s mission statement . A mission statement defines why you’re in business and what your goals are.
How are you going to structure your business? Which business structure will you form: sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or corporation? Explain your structure decision, too. Mention any small business advisor (e.g., business attorney) you work with to help with registration requirements, regulations, and liabilities.
How are you going to achieve the goals you set for your business? Are you going to hire employees to help you, or will you handle all responsibilities on your own? Talk about what steps you’ll take to reach the goals you outline.
How do you picture your company in the future? Include your business’s vision statement in your company description. A vision statement is an internal description that states what you want your business to look like in the future.
Business description example
Still unsure? Take a look at this business description example for more information:
Ann’s Office Hut delivers office supplies to small businesses in Boston, Massachusetts. The business is structured as a sole proprietorship, operating under entrepreneur Ann Smith. Ann’s Office Hut is located in Boston, Massachusetts and will begin operations in February. Ann’s Office Hut recognizes the busy lives of small business owners and wants to bring essential items like printers, cash registers, paper, ink, and envelopes to their doorsteps. Ann’s Office Hut will conveniently provide office supplies to small business owners who are short on time. Other office supply stores cannot match the convenience Ann’s Office Hut will give.
The business hopes to have gross sales of $30,000 by the end of one year and $95,000 by the end of five years. To achieve this goal, Ann’s Office Hut plans on offering referral credit.
Company description business plan: Final tips
Writing the business description portion of your business plan should be fun … even though it may feel more like a chore. But, this is your opportunity to talk about your business idea and get other people (i.e., lenders and investors) on board.
Here are a few final tips to keep in mind when learning how to write a company description:
- Answer the 5 W’s and 1 H
- Keep it short, simple, and easy to read
- Proofread, proofread, proofread
- Determine whether it’s interesting
This article has been updated from its original publication date of December 9, 2016.
This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.
Get the latest small business news delivered straight to your inbox!
You may also be interested in:
Everything You Need to Know About Business Description
A business description is included in a small business plan. It outlines objectives and how to achieve them. 3 min read
A business description is included in a small business plan. It outlines objectives and how to achieve them. The Small Business Administration states an effective business plan will generally include:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Service or product
- Organization and management
- Small business market analysis
- Marketing and sales
- Funding request
- Financial projections
What is a Business Description?
In most business plans, the company description is included in the section that directly follows the executive summary. The business description is meant to provide an overview of the business, including what the business does and how the company is unique from others in the same industry. This description provides extensive details outlining the business. In addition to outlining goals and how the goals are going to be met, it includes where the company is located and how many people are going to be employed.
It also gives a detailed overview of the vision and direction of the business ; this helps lenders and stakeholders develop a realistic picture of who and what the business are. A business description varies from one company to the next. Generally, though, it will need to look similar to the following:
- The official name of the business
- Where the business' operations are going to be conducted
- Type of structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or corporation)
- Names of the people who own the company and any senior-level employees
- The address of the company's headquarters
- Date the business was started
- How the company came to be
- Goals the company needs to meet
- Mission statement; this outlines the purpose of the business
- What is being sold and the market segment being targeted
- Future goals (both short- and long-term)
- Vision statement; what is your vision of the company's future
Questions to Ask and Answer When Creating a Business Description
You can ask and answer the following questions to help you create a detailed business description:
- Why should consumers purchase my product?
- Who am I targeting?
- What avenues of communication are in place for me to communicate with customers?
- What services and products am I going to sell? Are there certain products and services that I don't sell that my targeted audience may expect me to sell?
- Where is my business going to be located?
- Where am I going to source the products/services I am selling?
- What will my hours of operation be? Is anyone going to be working for me? If so, who are they and how will I pay them?
- Who is going to handle core operational tasks, like accounting, advertising, and shipping?
- What forms of marketing am I going to use to promote my company?
- Who are my competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What is it about the business that makes it unique from the competition? (this question needs to be answered from the viewpoint of a customer)
What Goes Into the First Paragraph of a Business Description?
The first paragraph of a business description needs to be extensively detailed, capturing pertinent information about the business. It's in this paragraph that you want to ensure the name of the company is clearly stated. In addition, make sure to outline the present outlook of the company as well as its future potentials.
It is also helpful to include information and data on the markets you intend to offer your products/services in. Furthermore, you should detail any products or developments that are expected to hit the market that could have an impact on your company, whether it be a positive or adverse impact.
The Importance of Citing Your Sources
All of the observations you make should be made using reliable data; include sources to this data in footnotes. You will need to provide these footnotes if you are seeking funding for the company . The investor will want your sources to ensure you are not making projections based on assumptions. Your goal is to captivate their attention and entice them to invest in the company. As you are creating the business description, make sure to outline its structure. Are you a retail company? A manufacturing business? Accounting firm? Are you service-oriented?
Proofreading the Business Description
You should always have your business description proofread. This proofreading should take place by a person who has not been part of creating the business plan ; this allows a fresh set of eyes to examine the description for any typos and grammatical errors.
If you have questions about creating a business description or if you need help developing one, post your legal need on the UpCounsel marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.
Hire the top business lawyers and save up to 60% on legal fees
Content Approved by UpCounsel
- Parts of Business Plan and Definition
- General Business Description Examples
- Service Business Plan
- Details of a Business Plan
- Business Plan
- How to Make a Business Plan Format
- Business Description Outline
- How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide for Entrepreneurs
- IT Company Business Plan
- Creating a Business Plan
Signing out of account, Standby...
By Entrepreneur Staff
Business Plan Definition:
A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement
A business plan is also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road. The time you spend making your business plan thorough and accurate, and keeping it up-to-date, is an investment that pays big dividends in the long term.
Your business plan should conform to generally accepted guidelines regarding form and content. Each section should include specific elements and address relevant questions that the people who read your plan will most likely ask. Generally, a business plan has the following components:
Title Page and Contents A business plan should be presented in a binder with a cover listing the name of the business, the name(s) of the principal(s), address, phone number, e-mail and website addresses, and the date. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a fancy binder or cover. Your readers want a plan that looks professional, is easy to read and is well-put-together.
Include the same information on the title page. If you have a logo, you can use it, too. A table of contents follows the executive summary or statement of purpose, so that readers can quickly find the information or financial data they need.
Executive Summary The executive summary, or statement of purpose, succinctly encapsulates your reason for writing the business plan. It tells the reader what you want and why, right up front. Are you looking for a $10,000 loan to remodel and refurbish your factory? A loan of $25,000 to expand your product line or buy new equipment? How will you repay your loan, and over what term? Would you like to find a partner to whom you'd sell 25 percent of the business? What's in it for him or her? The questions that pertain to your situation should be addressed here clearly and succinctly.
The summary or statement should be no more than half a page in length and should touch on the following key elements:
- Business concept describes the business, its product, the market it serves and the business' competitive advantage.
- Financial features include financial highlights, such as sales and profits.
- Financial requirements state how much capital is needed for startup or expansion, how it will be used and what collateral is available.
- Current business position furnishes relevant information about the company, its legal form of operation, when it was founded, the principal owners and key personnel.
- Major achievements points out anything noteworthy, such as patents, prototypes, important contracts regarding product development, or results from test marketing that have been conducted.
Description of the Business The business description usually begins with a short explanation of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss what's going on now as well as the outlook for the future. Do the necessary research so you can provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including references to new products or developments that could benefit or hinder your business. Base your observations on reliable data and be sure to footnote and cite your sources of information when necessary. Remember that bankers and investors want to know hard facts--they won't risk money on assumptions or conjecture.
When describing your business, say which sector it falls into (wholesale, retail, food service, manufacturing, hospitality and so on), and whether the business is new or established. Then say whether the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, C or Sub chapter S corporation. Next, list the business' principals and state what they bring to the business. Continue with information on who the business' customers are, how big the market is, and how the product or service is distributed and marketed.
Description of the Product or Service The business description can be a few paragraphs to a few pages in length, depending on the complexity of your plan. If your plan isn't too complicated, keep your business description short, describing the industry in one paragraph, the product in another, and the business and its success factors in two or three more paragraphs.
When you describe your product or service, make sure your reader has a clear idea of what you're talking about. Explain how people use your product or service and talk about what makes your product or service different from others available in the market. Be specific about what sets your business apart from those of your competitors.
Then explain how your business will gain a competitive edge and why your business will be profitable. Describe the factors you think will make it successful. If your business plan will be used as a financing proposal, explain why the additional equity or debt will make your business more profitable. Give hard facts, such as "new equipment will create an income stream of $10,000 per year" and briefly describe how.
Other information to address here is a description of the experience of the other key people in the business. Whoever reads your business plan will want to know what suppliers or experts you've spoken to about your business and their response to your idea. They may even ask you to clarify your choice of location or reasons for selling this particular product.
Market Analysis A thorough market analysis will help you define your prospects as well as help you establish pricing, distribution, and promotional strategies that will allow your company to be successful vis-à-vis your competition, both in the short and long term.
Begin your market analysis by defining the market in terms of size, demographics, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. Next, determine how often your product or service will be purchased by your target market. Then figure out the potential annual purchase. Then figure out what percentage of this annual sum you either have or can attain. Keep in mind that no one gets 100 percent market share, and that a something as small as 25 percent is considered a dominant share. Your market share will be a benchmark that tells you how well you're doing in light of your market-planning projections.
You'll also have to describe your positioning strategy. How you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill is called "positioning." Positioning helps establish your product or service's identity within the eyes of the purchaser. A positioning statement for a business plan doesn't have to be long or elaborate, but it does need to point out who your target market is, how you'll reach them, what they're really buying from you, who your competitors are, and what your USP (unique selling proposition) is.
How you price your product or service is perhaps your most important marketing decision. It's also one of the most difficult to make for most small business owners, because there are no instant formulas. Many methods of establishing prices are available to you, but these are among the most common.
- Cost-plus pricing is used mainly by manufacturers to assure that all costs, both fixed and variable, are covered and the desired profit percentage is attained.
- Demand pricing is used by companies that sell their products through a variety of sources at differing prices based on demand.
- Competitive pricing is used by companies that are entering a market where there's already an established price and it's difficult to differentiate one product from another.
- Markup pricing is used mainly by retailers and is calculated by adding your desired profit to the cost of the product.
You'll also have to determine distribution, which includes the entire process of moving the product from the factory to the end user. Make sure to analyze your competitors' distribution channels before deciding whether to use the same type of channel or an alternative that may provide you with a strategic advantage.
Finally, your promotion strategy should include all the ways you communicate with your markets to make them aware of your products or services. To be successful, your promotion strategy should address advertising, packaging, public relations, sales promotions and personal sales.
Competitive Analysis The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine:
- the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market.
- strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage.
- barriers that can be developed to prevent competition from entering your market.
- any weaknesses that can be exploited in the product development cycle.
The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify both direct and indirect competition for your business, both now and in the future. Once you've grouped your competitors, start analyzing their marketing strategies and identifying their vulnerable areas by examining their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine your distinct competitive advantage.
Whoever reads your business plan should be very clear on who your target market is, what your market niche is, exactly how you'll stand apart from your competitors, and why you'll be successful doing so.
Operations and Management The operations and management component of your plan is designed to describe how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the organization, such as the responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business.
Financial Components of Your Business Plan After defining the product, market and operations, the next area to turn your attention to are the three financial statements that form the backbone of your business plan: the income statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet.
The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on the business' cash-generating ability. It is a scorecard on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models developed earlier such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation), and cost of goods. By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result, which is either a profit or loss. In addition to the income statements, include a note analyzing the results. The analysis should be very short, emphasizing the key points of the income statement. Your CPA can help you craft this.
The cash flow statement is one of the most critical information tools for your business, since it shows how much cash you'll need to meet obligations, when you'll require it and where it will come from. The result is the profit or loss at the end of each month and year. The cash flow statement carries both profits and losses over to the next month to also show the cumulative amount. Running a loss on your cash flow statement is a major red flag that indicates not having enough cash to meet expenses-something that demands immediate attention and action.
The cash flow statement should be prepared on a monthly basis during the first year, on a quarterly basis for the second year, and annually for the third year. The following 17 items are listed in the order they need to appear on your cash flow statement. As with the income statement, you'll need to analyze the cash flow statement in a short summary in the business plan. Once again, the analysis doesn't have to be long and should cover highlights only. Ask your CPA for help.
The last financial statement you'll need is a balance sheet. Unlike the previous financial statements, the balance sheet is generated annually for the business plan and is, more or less, a summary of all the preceding financial information broken down into three areas: assets, liabilities and equity.
Balance sheets are used to calculate the net worth of a business or individual by measuring assets against liabilities. If your business plan is for an existing business, the balance sheet from your last reporting period should be included. If the business plan is for a new business, try to project what your assets and liabilities will be over the course of the business plan to determine what equity you may accumulate in the business. To obtain financing for a new business, you'll need to include a personal financial statement or balance sheet.
In the business plan, you'll need to create an analysis for the balance sheet just as you need to do for the income and cash flow statements. The analysis of the balance sheet should be kept short and cover key points.
Supporting Documents In this section, include any other documents that are of interest to your reader, such as your resume; contracts with suppliers, customers, or clients, letters of reference, letters of intent, copy of your lease and any other legal documents, tax returns for the previous three years, and anything else relevant to your business plan.
Some people think you don't need a business plan unless you're trying to borrow money. Of course, it's true that you do need a good plan if you intend to approach a lender--whether a banker, a venture capitalist or any number of other sources--for startup capital. But a business plan is more than a pitch for financing; it's a guide to help you define and meet your business goals.
Just as you wouldn't start off on a cross-country drive without a road map, you should not embark on your new business without a business plan to guide you. A business plan won't automatically make you a success, but it will help you avoid some common causes of business failure, such as under-capitalization or lack of an adequate market.
As you research and prepare your business plan, you'll find weak spots in your business idea that you'll be able to repair. You'll also discover areas with potential you may not have thought about before--and ways to profit from them. Only by putting together a business plan can you decide whether your great idea is really worth your time and investment.
More From Business Plans
Estimates of the future financial performance of a business
A written report of the financial condition of a firm. Financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in net worth and statement of cash flow.
A nontechnical summary statement at the beginning of a business plan that's designed to encapsulate your reason for writing the plan
A 'quiet promotion' will cost you a lot — use this expert's 4-step strategy to avoid it.
TikTok Influencer Reveals She Makes $350,000 a Month on OnlyFans. 'Absolutely Unreal.'
A business plan is a document that defines in detail a company's objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written road map
A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-
Executive summary · Company description · Market analysis · Organization and management · Service or product line · Marketing and sales · Funding request · Financial
Also called a company description, your business description summarizes what your company does, its purpose, and what makes it unique. It's a
A business plan is a document describing a business, its products or services, how it earns (or will earn) money, its leadership and staffing
How to Write a Business Description for a Business Plan · 1. Research the industry and competition · 2. Describe the industry's current and future state · 3.
Writing your company description · Who are you? · Who is your target customer? · What is your product or service? · What are your goals for your
In most business plans, the company description is included in the section that directly follows the executive summary. The business description is meant to
A business plan is a written description of your business's future. That's all there is to it--a document that desribes what you plan to do
A business plan is also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road.