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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, elements of a business plan, special considerations.
- Business Plan FAQs
Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How To Write One
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
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A business plan is a document that defines in detail a company's objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written road map for the firm from marketing , financial, and operational standpoints. Both startups and established companies use business plans.
A business plan is an important document aimed at a company's external and internal audiences. For instance, a business plan is used to attract investment before a company has established a proven track record. It can also help to secure lending from financial institutions.
Furthermore, a business plan can serve to keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and on target for meeting established goals.
Although they're especially useful for new businesses, every company should have a business plan. Ideally, the plan is reviewed and updated periodically to reflect goals that have been met or have changed. Sometimes, a new business plan is created for an established business that has decided to move in a new direction.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's core business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- A business plan can also be used as an internal guide to keep an executive team focused on and working toward short- and long-term objectives.
- Businesses may create a lengthier traditional business plan or a shorter lean startup business plan.
- Good business plans should include an executive summary and sections on products and services, marketing strategy and analysis, financial planning, and a budget.
Want Funding? You Need a Business Plan
A business plan is a fundamental document that any new business should have in place prior to beginning operations. Indeed, banks and venture capital firms often require a viable business plan before considering whether they'll provide capital to new businesses.
Operating without a business plan usually is not a good idea. In fact, very few companies are able to last very long without one. There are benefits to creating (and sticking to) a good business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and working through potential obstacles to success.
A good business plan should outline all the projected costs and possible pitfalls of each decision a company makes. Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they can have the same basic elements, such as an executive summary of the business and detailed descriptions of its operations, products and services, and financial projections. A plan also states how the business intends to achieve its goals.
While it's a good idea to give as much detail as possible, it's also important that a plan be concise to keep a reader's attention to the end.
A well-considered and well-written business plan can be of enormous value to a company. While there are templates that you can use to write a business plan, try to avoid producing a generic result. The plan should include an overview and, if possible, details of the industry of which the business will be a part. It should explain how the business will distinguish itself from its competitors.
Start with the essential structure: an executive summary, company description, market analysis, product or service description, marketing strategy, financial projections, and appendix (which include documents and data that support the main sections). These sections or elements of a business plan are outlined below.
When you write your business plan, you don’t have to strictly follow a particular business plan outline or template. Use only those sections that make the most sense for your particular business and its needs.
Traditional business plans use some combination of the sections below. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making. Regardless, try to keep the main body of your plan to around 15-25 pages.
The length of a business plan varies greatly from business to business. Consider fitting the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Then, other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.
As mentioned above, no two business plans are the same. Nonetheless, they tend to have the same elements. Below are some of the common and key parts of a business plan.
- Executive summary: This section outlines the company and includes the mission statement along with any information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and location.
- Products and services: Here, the company can outline the products and services it will offer, and may also include pricing, product lifespan, and benefits to the consumer. Other factors that may go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A firm needs a good handle on its industry as well as its target market. This section of the plan will detail a company's competition and how the company fits in the industry, along with its relative strengths and weaknesses. It will also describe the expected consumer demand for a company's products or services and how easy or difficult it may be to grab market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section describes how the company will attract and keep its customer base and how it intends to reach the consumer. A clear distribution channel must be outlined. The section also spells out advertising and marketing campaign plans and the types of media those campaigns will use.
- Financial planning: This section should include a company's financial planning and projections. Financial statements, balance sheets, and other financial information may be included for established businesses. New businesses will include targets and estimates for the first few years plus a description of potential investors.
- Budget: Every company needs to have a budget in place. This section should include costs related to staffing, development, manufacturing, marketing, and any other expenses related to the business.
Unique Business Plans Help
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its singularity and potential for success.
Types of Business Plans
Business plans help companies identify their objectives and remain on track to meet goals. They can help companies start, manage themselves, and grow once up and running. They also act as a means to attract lenders and investors.
Although there is no right or wrong business plan, they can fall into two different categories—traditional or lean startup. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the most common. It contains a lot of detail in each section. These tend to be longer than the lean startup plan and require more work.
Lean startup business plans, on the other hand, use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans aren't as common in the business world because they're short—as short as one page—and lack detail. If a company uses this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or lender requests it.
A complete business plan must include a set of financial projections for the business. These forward-looking financial statements are often called pro-forma financial statements or simply the " pro-formas ." They include an overall budget, current and projected financing needs, a market analysis, and the company's marketing strategy.
Other Considerations for a Business Plan
A major reason for a business plan is to give owners a clear picture of objectives, goals, resources, potential costs, and drawbacks of certain business decisions. A business plan should help them modify their structures before implementing their ideas. It also allows owners to project the type of financing required to get their businesses up and running.
If there are any especially interesting aspects of the business, they should be highlighted and used to attract financing, if needed. For example, Tesla Motors' electric car business essentially began only as a business plan.
Importantly, a business plan shouldn't be a static document. As a business grows and changes, so too should the business plan. An annual review of the company and its plan allows an entrepreneur or group of owners to update the plan, based on successes, setbacks, and other new information. It provides an opportunity to size up the plan's ability to help the company grow.
Think of the business plan as a living document that evolves with your business.
A business plan is a document created by a company that describes the company's goals, operations, industry standing, marketing objectives, and financial projections. The information it contains can be a helpful guide in running the company. What's more, it can be a valuable tool to attract investors and obtain financing from financial institutions.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
Even if you have a good business plan, your company can still fail, especially if you do not stick to the plan! Having strong leadership with focus on the plan is always a good strategy. Even when following the plan, if you had poor assumptions going into your projections, you can be caught with cash flow shortages and out of control budgets. Markets and the economy can also change. Without flexibility built in to your business plan, you may be unable to pivot to a new course as needed.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers a quick explanation of its business. The company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide since it's just getting started.
Sections can include: a value proposition, a company's major activities and advantages, resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital, a list of partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.
Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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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.
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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained
Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.
What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance.
A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner.
Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.
Why do you need a business plan?
The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis.
These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.
That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .
What can you do with your plan?
So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.
Test an idea
Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful.
The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.
Document your strategy and goals
For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen.
With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.
Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.
The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used.
Better manage your business
A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.
Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.
What should your business plan include?
The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see.
The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.
This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.
Products & Services
When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business.
A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.
Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .
Marketing & sales
Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it.
Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.
Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business.
Organization & management
This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.
Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think.
Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate.
Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:
- Sales and revenue projections
- Profit and loss statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.
Types of business plans explained
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan
The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.
This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information.
Business model canvas
The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.
One-page business plan
The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.
By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.
Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.
It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.
It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning
Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process.
To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan.
It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results.
Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .
Posted in Business Plan Writing
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Ivy Wigmore
A business plan is a document demonstrating the feasibility of a prospective new business and providing a roadmap for its first several years of operation.
Business plans are an important part of creating new businesses, whether as a startup or an offshoot of an existing business. Business plans for startups are often shared with funding agencies, potential investors and venture capitalists to obtain the necessary funding.
Although the specifics may vary, here are the typical components of a business plan for a new business:
- The executive summary is a nutshell version of the entire plan, briefly covering the essentials.
- The business description describes the proposed new endeavor, explains its purpose and its target market.
- The plan's market analysis section describes the industry and the market environment of the proposed business, including a profile of the competition.
- The organizational and managerial section explains how you envision the structure of your business, what types of positions and departments it will encompass.
- The products (or services) section details what you're offering. This section should include a full description of the products you'll sell and your plan for product lifecycle management ( PLM ).
- The marketing and sales section explains your strategies for branding , marketing and selling your product or service.
- The funding request will differ according to what type of information is required by the funding party.
- The financial projection covers the expected performance and milestones over the first years of operation, usually five years. For an existing business, historical financial data should be included.
- An appendix can include useful information that doesn't belong in any of the other sections.
A business plan is similar to a business model . However, the latter is a representation of how an existing business works, rather than how a prospective business can work.
Continue Reading About business plan
- Managed services, your business plan and you
- The Small Business Administration website offers help on writing a business plan
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What Is a Business Plan?
Definition and examples of a business plan.
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
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A business plan is a document that summarizes the operational and financial objectives of a business. It is a business's road map to success with detailed plans and budgets that show how the objectives will be realized.
Keep reading to learn the basic components of a business plan, why they're useful , and how they differ from an investment plan.
A business plan is a guide for how a company will achieve its goals. For anyone starting a business , crafting a business plan is a vital first step. Having these concrete milestones will help track the business's success (or lack thereof). There are different business plans for different purposes, and the best business plans are living documents that respond to real-world factors as quickly as possible.
In a nutshell, a business plan is a practice in due diligence. When it's done well, it will prevent entrepreneurs from wasting time and money on a venture that won't work.
How Does a Business Plan Work?
If you have an idea for starting a new venture, a business plan can help you determine if your business idea is viable. There's no point in starting a business if there is little or no chance that the business will be profitable, and a business plan helps to figure out your chances of success.
In many cases, people starting new businesses don't have the money they need to start the business they want to start. If start-up financing is required, you must have an investor-ready business plan to show potential investors that demonstrates how the proposed business will be profitable.
Since the business plan contains detailed financial projections, forecasts about your business's performance, and a marketing plan, it's an incredibly useful tool for everyday business planning. To be as effective as possible, it should be reviewed regularly and updated as required.
Business owners have leeway when crafting their business plan outline. They can be short or long, and they can include whatever detail you think will be useful. There are basic templates you can work from, and you'll likely notice some common elements if you look up examples of business plans.
The market analysis will reveal whether there is sufficient demand for your product or service in your target market . If the market is already saturated, your business model will need to be changed (or scrapped).
The competitive analysis will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and help direct your strategy for garnering a share of the market in your marketing plan . If the existing market is dominated by established competitors, for instance, you will have to come up with a marketing plan to lure customers from the competition (lower prices, better service, etc.).
The management plan outlines your business structure, management, and staffing requirements. If your business requires specific employee and management expertise, you will need a strategy for finding and hiring qualified staff and retaining them.
The operating plan describes your facilities, equipment, inventory, and supply requirements. Business location and accessibility are critical for many businesses. If this is the case for your business, you will need to scout potential sites. If your proposed business requires parts or raw materials to produce goods to be sold to customers, you will need to investigate potential supply chains.
The financial plan is the determining factor as to whether your proposed business idea is likely to be a success. If financing is required, your financial plan will determine how likely you are to obtain start-up funding in the form of equity or debt financing from banks, angel investors , or venture capitalists . You can have a great idea for a business, along with excellent marketing, management, and operational plans, but if the financial plan shows that the business will not be profitable enough, then the business model is not viable and there's no point in starting that venture.
Business Plan vs. Investment Proposal
A business plan is similar to an investment proposal. In fact, investment proposals are sometimes called investor-ready business plans . Generally speaking, they both have the same contents. You can think of an investment proposal as a business plan with a different audience.
The business plan is largely an internal document, intended to guide the decisions of executives, managers, and employees. The investment proposal, on the other hand, is designed to be presented to external agencies.
- A business plan is a detailed road map that explains what the company's goals are and how it will achieve them.
- The exact details of a business plan will depend on the intended audience and the nature of the business.
- It's a good idea to regularly revisit your business plan so you know it's as accurate, realistic, and detailed as possible.
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Definition of Business Planning
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- Business Planning & Strategy
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How to Conclude a Business Plan
6 types of business plans, importance of following a business plan.
- What Is Business Plan Pro?
- Accounting Financial Summaries
Planning is needed to grow or start a business. The main source of planning for a company is the business plan. A business plan definition is a document that details the strategy of business owners on how they intend to run their business. There are several objectives that should be covered in a business plan from what the company's goals are to how many employees are going to be hired. Business plans provide a road map for where the owners want to take their businesses. It is also necessary to have if owners want to secure financing.
Benefits of Planning
Business plans are guides for owners to run their businesses. Problems facing owners while running their businesses (slow sales, not enough customers or clients) may be solved by analyzing the information detailed in their business plans. The meaning of business planning is that it can help owners focus marketing efforts and get back to basics when the business begins to expand, says the Small Business Administration. This breeds confidence into the business owner as they continue to grow their business.
Business Plan Features
A detailed business plan touches on several key areas. Business plans cover the company’s vision, names of management and how many employees are/will be hired, a description of the company and what product(s) or service(s) it provides. Business plans also outline the marketing research done to analyze the profitability of the company, marketing and sales strategies and financial projections, competition, records, funding amount requests and how the money will be used.
There are several types of business plans that are used for different situations. The main difference between plans is the amount of details that's produced. Some plans outline just the bare facts (mini-plans) while others, such as working plans, which are viewed internally by company management, and presentation plans, which are produced for investors and lenders, detail more facts and data. Business plans should be error free and tailored for the situation. Investors looking for graphs, charts and financial projections to make a final decision won't be satisfied with a mini-plan.
Significance of Planning
Not only do business plans breed confidence in owners, but in lenders as well. Business plans are one of the main requirements for owners to have when they’re applying for business loans. Some lenders require business plans along with other documents such as bank statements as part of their business loan application. Detailed business plans prove to lenders that owners are very knowledgeable and serious about their businesses, according to Free Management Library . If the rest of the application meets their approval, the business plan could be the difference for the owner to secure a business loan.
Although a business plan was created at the start of the business venture, it is necessary to review it from time to time and make changes as the company evolves. A yearly review or a review when the company undergoes growth or significant changes is needed. The same objectives that were important two years ago may not be significant when new goals have replaced old ones. Owners should update their business plans by incorporating changes as much as possible to keep them current.
- Free Management Library: All About Business Planning: Complete Manual With Updated Extensive Resources
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- 1 Business Plan Vs. Business Strategy
- 2 The Importance of a Business Plan
- 3 Why Does a Business Need a Business Plan?
- 4 Business Planning as a Function of Management
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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
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Business Plan Definition
A business plan is an executive document that acts as a blueprint or roadmap for a business. It is quite necessary for new ventures seeking capital, expansion activities, or projects requiring additional capital. It is also important to remind the management, employees, and partners of what they represent.
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Creating a business plan is an indispensable part of any business. The main purpose of creating such a document is to attract prospective investors to provide capital to the enterprise. Therefore, the plan should cover all the important perspectives of a business – financial, operational, personnel, competition, etc.
Table of contents
- Business Plan Explained
- Types of Business Plan
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Recommended articles, key takeaways.
- A business plan is a critical document for any business – whether a start-up or a well-established one. It can be considered a self-written bible for the company.
- The purpose of this plan should not just be restricted to convincing investors, but it should also extend to the company’s morals and ethics, and every stakeholder should be aware of it.
- It can communicate the business idea’s viability and, most importantly, the entrepreneurs’ dedication to the business. As this dedication keeps them going, the investors are generally motivated to approve a venture when it is evident from the plan.
Business Plan Explained
Business plan writers are responsible for crafting the face of a business organization they hope to build. It cannot be easy because a business plan should be a versatile document that covers various perspectives and aspects of the business that the readers might expect.
It should talk about the company’s unique selling proposition ( USP ), business culture, and what the company is. Finally, and most importantly, it is not a static document. With the company’s growth, it needs to change by incorporating more relevant information and goals.
The outline of a business plan should be prepared from three perspectives – first, the market; second, the investors; and finally, the company. However, most plans tend to become business-oriented rather than focusing on the market and the investors. This might create a negative impression on the investors.
First, the entrepreneurs must understand a demand-supply gap from the market’s perspective. This gap can be the perfect opportunity for the company. Or maybe the company has an innovative product or service idea, which they believe will have a high demand. Either way, the market should accept the product.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Enterprise Forum, 1978, investors are more likely to approve market-driven businesses rather than technology or service-driven ones.
Also, the plan should address the investors’ needs. What is in it for the investor? Since they invest a lot of money, they expect higher returns. Of course, no investor would demand profits upfront. But it’s important to tell them when they can expect returns and how much. So the business should provide them with the data on the estimated payback period .
Types of Business Plans
There are many types of business plans based on the size of the document and its scope.
First, depending on the size of the plan, there are traditional and lean start-up plans. The traditional plan is a lengthy document with more than 20 pages. It covers various facets of the business in such a way as to answer the different questions that may arise in the readers’ minds. But the disadvantage of this plan is that it might hold the readers’ concentration only for a limited time.
The lean start-up plan is a concise and brief version of an actual plan, usually consisting of a single page. The demerit of this plan is that it might be too small and not include all the important and relevant information. But the entrepreneurs must be ready to provide the investors with a detailed document if required.
The second classification is based on the scope of the plan. It can be a start-up plan for new businesses seeking capital or an internal plan to communicate with different departments on a new project. Other types based on scope include strategic, feasibility, operations, and growth.
A strategic plan can communicate how the business will achieve its goal, while a feasibility plan can focus on the feasibility of the company’s offerings. For example, the operations plan focuses on production and supply operations. In contrast, a business prepares the growth plan for its aspiring expansion projects, focusing on additional investments and financial projections .
The outline of a business plan should be carefully designed to incorporate all the focus points deemed essential by the audience. These are the elements of a business plan:
- Executive summary – Also known as the elevator pitch , the executive summary is the most important element of any business plan, best fitted in a page or two. A business should draw its plan from the mission and vision, which are the founding principles of any business. Next, it provides an idea and an overview of the company. It also introduces the product or service the company aims to offer. Finally, it is a summary of the plan.
- Business description – This is an elaboration of the company goals and objectives. It includes the market or industry the business belongs to, its target audience, etc. It can also provide information on the company structure and how it operates.
- Market research and analysis – Market research is the concrete floor on which the business plan stands. It should include facts and figures and give the readers an understanding of the market, its preferences, classifications, and the number and size of competitors. Analyzing the market lets businesses identify a gap and fill it. The plan should also inform the market’s acceptance of the product or service.
- Competitive analysis – Competitors can make or break any business. Therefore, before entering the market, the businesses must evaluate how the competitors operate, their profits and costs, their offerings, etc. This will give the enterprise an idea of what it can do differently from the competitors to have the edge over them. This should be effectively communicated to the investors, as it might convince them of the venture’s success.
- Marketing and sales plan – The whole point of any business is to make sales. For this, they need marketing campaigns and strategies targeting the right audience with minimal cost but maximum returns. For example, a firm selling study tools and materials will target students, especially through social media. Like this, businesses should plan their campaigns and decide their advertising channels.
- Operating plan – As the term implies, it talks about how the business is operated. The manufacturing and supply patterns, strategies like agile or lean, inventory approach, etc., decided by the management come under this. In addition, the expected quantity to be produced and supplied in a given period and the reverse logistics plan are good additions to the operating plan .
- Organization description – This gives information on the total employees, departments, management qualifications, job description, and total skill set of the organization’s human resources. The decided salary and wages, HR policies, etc., are also part of an organization’s description.
- SWOT analysis – SWOT analysis helps the business identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, which will help them choose the critical approach. The business should take advantage of its strengths and opportunities while simultaneously working on the weaknesses and finding the best strategy to deal with the threats. This will balance the company and its internal and external environment.
- Financials – These refer to the financial projections, including the budget , estimated costs , payments, expected break-even point, payback period, etc. Forecasts on expected revenue and costs for at least one year or until the business breaks will be necessary. Also, the net capital requirements with proper accounting calculations must be part of the plan.
- Appendices – This can include other important or relevant documents to prepare the plan. For example, financial documents, proof of people’s acceptance of products, resumes of the management, study on competition, etc.
Presentation is as important as the content. Therefore, it is best to add graphs, pie charts, 3D models, and other visuals, which will enhance the presentation and understandability of the plan. In addition, factual data and simple statistical tools can make the plan look genuine and instill investor confidence.
Creating a business plan is more important due to the negative impression its absence can cause rather than the benefits it might provide. The impression is what matters when it comes to a plan. So, let’s understand the importance of making a good impression.
Perhaps the reason why most businesses make a plan is for the investors. These investors can be venture capitalists or financial institutions . For these investors, new ventures are like investments. Hence, before putting in money, they want to be sure if the investment will be worth it.
Therefore, presenting all the important details in an understandable format helps them realize the clarity and the level of commitment the entrepreneurs have towards their business. The business plan writer should also give due to the executive summary and financials while creating the plan.
Secondly, every business needs a blueprint based on which it operates. It should govern the functions of a business and especially in decision-making. Usually, when a plan is created before the enterprise starts functioning, it speaks about the business and what it stands for. Even after the business takes off and expands, it should stick to its roots, which would evolve with the company’s growth.
Making every stakeholder – employees, partners, suppliers, investors, etc. – aware of the plan would increase commitment and sense of belonging to the enterprise. This, too, is important to improve the productivity and contribution of everyone.
The elements of a business plan comprise an executive summary, company description, market research, competitive analysis, SWOT analysis, marketing strategy, operating plan, financial projections, etc.
Businesses create plans on their own by putting relevant content on paper and using their basic computer skills to make it look attractive. Ideally, plans are not expenses. Instead, they are created from the effort of the entrepreneurs.
All plans need not be highly visual. However, adequate data charts, graphs, 3-D models, etc., can make the document look attractive and creates an impression about the effort that has gone into furnishing the plan. It also increases the understandability of the document.
Businesses can draft plans for any period – maybe a year, three years, or just three months. Some plans are also created until the payback period. But it doesn’t mean that the plan is rendered useless after the expiry of the period. On the contrary, a company should always have a constantly updated plan better suited to evolving needs.
This article is a guide to Business Plan and its definition. Here, we explain its types, components, outline, and importance. You can also go through our recommended articles on corporate finance –
- Business Strategy
- Business Plan Template
- Business Continuity Planning
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What is a business plan?
Every small business needs a detailed business plan. Find out how your business plan can help your business grow and succeed, why it's so important and how to get started.
Get started on your business journey. This article is part of our start-up hub , which is home to even more tips and expert advice on starting your own small business.
A business plan is one of the most integral steps in your journey to running a successful small business, whether as a sole trader, partnership or limited company. It's where you'll turn your dreams into an action plan. We’ll look at what a business plan is, why you need one and how it can shape your business.
What is a business plan and why do I need one?
A business plan is an essential written document that provides a description and overview of your company’s future. All businesses should have a business plan. The plan should explain your business strategy and your key goals to get from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.
How will you make your business more profitable, gain more resources or increase your assets?
What are your plans for growth in your target market?
Where do you see your business in one, three or five years?
Anyone who sets up a new company should have a business plan. It can also be an important tool for an established company that’s moving in a new direction.
What should your business plan aim to do?
At its most basic, your business plan outline should explain what you intend to do and how you are going to do it. You should outline your strategies across the business, including financial projections, marketing and operational plans.
An overview of your business
Your business plan should aim to give a good outline of your company, your business strategy and your action plan.
- How will you make money and what do you need to do to achieve your goals?
- What are your targets and how will you meet them?
Knowing your long-term goals will help you to take steps towards them in the day-to-day running of your business.
It should also act as a benchmark for the performance of your company. Look at your competition in your industry and think about why your business will succeed where others might fail. You might want to carry out a competitor analysis to give you a greater understanding of your space and where there have been recent changes or innovations.
You know your business best
Your business plan will show that you have a clear understanding of your business and the market it will operate in. It should set out how you expect it to perform in the coming years and how you will overcome any potential obstacles. It should also be a useful tool to:
- Focus and develop ideas
- Identify your business priorities
- Think through options, identify opportunities and make the most of them
I want to start a business, but I don’t know where to begin...
Start with our free guide for start-ups . Learn about the basics of business with our step-by-step guide to starting a business.
Explaining your funding requirements
Most banks and lenders will require a detailed business plan for loans, including start-up loans, so financial planning is a must. An in-depth plan will help you to convince banks, potential investors and other key contacts to support and fund you to grow your business. Our guide to finance for start-ups takes you through what you’ll need to consider when writing a plan with finance in mind.
As you grow, you might look to hire employees and expand your resources. The plan can also be important for attracting new senior management, business partners and distributors.
- What is your company’s vision?
- What is your mission statement?
- Why would someone want to work with you?
What should your business plan include?
A business plan should include seven key sections:
- an executive summary
- a business description
- details of market strategies
- competitor analysis
- a design and development plan for your products and services
- information about your operations and management plan
- financial information, planning, and factors
The section containing your financial factors should include your income statement, cash flow forecast or statement , and balance sheet. This should aim to provide an accurate picture of your company’s current value and your ability to pay bills and earn a profit.
I’ve already got a business plan, why do I need to change it?
A business plan is one of the big steps when you start a business, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. By revisiting and updating your plans regularly, it becomes a tool for measuring your success or supporting you in moving in a new direction.
Ready to start your business plan?
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