The Best Business Plan
Examples of 2020

Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have a background in finance or business. It gets even more complicated when you realize that there isn’t just one format to follow. You need to modify your business plan depending on the nature of your business and who is going to read it.

These challenges shouldn’t stop you from making a business plan. It’s a great way to think your company through, identify weaknesses in your business concept, and discover new opportunities that you didn’t see before. A good business plan will put you on the path to success and help you create contingency plans to deal with speed bumps. Also, a business plan is absolutely necessary if you want to convince investors and lenders to finance your business.

Thankfully, there are business plan templates for every industry (from third-wave coffee shops to construction conglomerates) and every area (from Kansas, Missouri to the southern border). Read through to find out more about how to write a killer business plan or scroll down to see the best business plan examples of 2018.

What Is A Business Plan?

A business plan is simply any document that details how you plan to run and grow your business. It normally contains information about your company, your products and services, a marketing plan, and financial projections.

Business plans can serve many purposes. You can use it to help with your day-to-day operations. Many people use it to pitch to venture capitalists and banks for additional funding. More important than the actual document itself, however, is the actual process of writing it. Getting your ideas down on paper helps you evaluate your business strategy, check it for weaknesses, and refine your concept until it’s ready for launch.

The length and contents of your business plan largely depends on what you need it for. An investor-ready business plan will look different from a business plan that is for internal use only. Business plans can be anywhere from a single page to 30, 40, or even 100 pages depending on the complexity.

Why You Should Use A Business Plan Template

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to start your business plan from scratch. There are tons of business plan templates online that you can use to speed up the process and make it much easier. Here are some of the reasons you should use a business plan template.

  1. Easy

    You’re already incredibly busy trying to get your business together. Writing a business plan doesn’t have to add to your stress. While you can use Microsoft Word or Excel to start, using a business plan template takes the difficulty out of writing one.

    Business plan templates help organize your thoughts much more easily so that you can actually get it done. These act as a simple step-by-step guide that you simply fill out and customize to fit your business’ needs.

  2. Fast

    The biggest hurdle many business owners face when writing a business plan is the amount of time it takes. Many people think it will take them days or even weeks to put one together, but a business plan template can cut down your writing time by a lot. Some templates even let you have a finished business plan in just a few hours!

    You don’t have to spend weeks racking your brain for ideas. Save yourself some time on the business plan writing process and you can jump into actually starting up and managing your business.

  3. Complete

    Worried about missing out on some important details? A business plan template will help you cover all your bases. The best business plan examples provide a complete and thorough guide to building your own business plan—you just need to fill it in, and voila! You have an exhaustive business plan ready for your team or investors. You can be confident that you didn’t forget anything crucial with a business plan template.

  4. Professional

    You don’t want to hand in a business plan that’s just scrawled on some scrap pieces of paper. The mark of a professional business plan is that it’s well-structured, organized, and presented in an easy-to-comprehend format.

    A business plan template ensures that your plan is investor or SBA-friendly. You can even find examples that are specific to your industry so that your business looks more credible and thought-out.

  5. Free

    The last thing you want to do as a business owner is add another expense. Some business planning tools charge you to get access to their business plan samples, but you don’t have to spend to get a professional-looking template.

    Our business plan template is absolutely free so it doesn’t take away from your budget. We also have a variety of other resources (also at no cost) that can help you write an excellent business plan.

Challenges To Using A Business Plan Template

Even though business plan templates can make your writing process much easier compared to starting from scratch, they aren’t an all-in-one solution to your business planning concerns. There are still a few challenges you’ll have to face when using a business plan template instead of planning software.

  1. Research & Calculations

    There isn’t a business plan template out there—free or otherwise—that can do the legwork for you. Following a template or example still requires you to conduct your own research and financial projections.

    You can hire an accountant or business consultant to get through the business math and balance sheets if you need additional help. Market research can be done in two ways: you can get info by surveying your customers and collecting your own data, or you can look up business journals and studies to backup your concept. Either way, the template can’t take care of this for you. You still need to put in the work!

  2. Visual Assets

    Another thing templates can’t do is create illustrations, tables, charts, and graphs. Visual assets make data more appealing and easier to understand, so they’re an absolute must-have for your business plan.

    You will still need to manually create those on your own, whether through Excel or another program. Adding your charts to your business plan should be easy enough, but make sure that you update your visual assets as the numbers change to keep the data consistent.

  3. Progress Tracking

    If you know how, a business plan can help you monitor your progress and keep your business focused on the goals you’ve set. A business plan template won’t keep a record of your sales, expenses, and growth. You’ll also have to keep continually updating the data to make sure they’re accurate and consistent across the board.

    Business plan software has an edge over templates in this respect, but you are limited to whatever features they offer.

The Business Plan Format

While there are many different kinds of business plans, most of them have the same core elements. Our tried-and-tested business plan template follows a concise yet complete format with these sections:

While there are many different kinds of business plans, most of them have the same core elements. Our tried-and-tested business plan template follows a concise yet complete format with these sections:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Organization and management
  • Products or services
  • Market analysis
  • Operations and development plan
  • Marketing and sales strategies
  • Funding request
  • Financial analysis
  • Appendix

We'll quickly go through the details of each section. You can also skip ahead to downloading the business plan template with complete instructions.

Business Plan Template

Executive Summary

The executive summary is basically a snapshot of your entire business plan. Sometimes, investors or lenders only read through the executive summary before deciding whether or not your business is worth funding. It's important to be passionate but clear, and backup your enthusiasm with hard data.

This part runs for 1-2 pages maximum and is written after the business plan has been finished. If you're stuck, just answer the following questions:

  1. What is your business concept?
  2. What problems does your business aim to solve?
  3. What products and/or services do you offer?
  4. Who is your target market?
  5. Who are your competitors?
  6. What is your unique selling proposition?
  7. Who is your management team and why are they the best people for the job?
  8. What are your short and long-term business goals?
  9. What kind of funding do you need and what is it for?
  10. How do you see your business performing in the coming year(s)?

Company Description

The company description chapter gives your reader everything they need to know about your business. This is where you go into detail about who you are as a business and why your business matters. Answer these questions for a comprehensive brand overview:

  1. What is your industry?
  2. Why did you start the business?
  3. What is the company history?
  4. Who are the founders and major stakeholders?
  5. What is your mission or vision statement?
  6. What are your company values?
  7. What are your goals and objectives?
  8. What makes you different from your competitors?
  9. What is the legal structure of your business?
  10. What press, awards, or recognition has your company received?

Organization and Management

Investors will want to know who is in charge of running your business. They'll want to know that their money is in capable hands. To write the organization and management section of your business plan, answer these questions:

  1. Who are your founders and stakeholders?
  2. Who makes up your management team?
  3. What are their credentials and qualifications?
  4. Why did you choose this team and how can they contribute to your business' success?
  5. What are their key responsibilities?
  6. What is the organizational structure?
  7. Are there gaps in your team? How do you plan to fill those gaps?
  8. Do you have any special mentors, investors, experts, and/or other advisers on your team?

Products or Services

At the end of this chapter of your business plan, your reader should feel confident in your products or services. You'll have to cover everything from the features of your product to how much you'll be earning on top of production/manufacturing costs.

Here are some questions you need to consider when writing your products or services section:

  1. What products and/or services are you offering?
  2. What problems do your products/services solve?
  3. What are the special features of your products/services?
  4. Do you use any groundbreaking technology or patents?
  5. What makes your products/services different from your competitors?
  6. How much does it cost to produce your products/services?
  7. How will you manufacture or provide your products/services?
  8. How will you sell and distribute your products/services?
  9. How will you price your products/services?
  10. What are your profit margins on each product/service?

Market Analysis

The bulk of your research will be included in your market analysis chapter. The information you place here will help your reader understand how your business will perform compared to your competitors. This section will especially come in handy when you are crafting your marketing and sales plan later on. To write your business plan's market analysis, ponder on these questions:

  1. What industry are you in?
  2. What are the current market conditions?
  3. Are there any innovations or trends that work for and/or against your business?
  4. Who is your target demographic?
  5. What are their purchasing habits?
  6. Who are your competitors? What alternative solutions do they offer?
  7. What are your competitors strengths and weaknesses?
  8. What is your competitive advantage?
  9. What are the barriers to entry?
  10. What are the threats your business might face?
  11. What are the possible opportunities?

Operations and Development Plan

Giving your investors a peek into your day-to-day operations will give them the confidence that your business is doing what it needs to do to turn a profit. Go into minute details like your location, inventory management, require permits, and business practices. These questions will guide you:

  1. Where is your business located?
  2. What are the advantages and/or benefits of this location?
  3. Is your location sufficient to handle your manufacturing, storage, or operations?
  4. What special technology, software, or equipment do you need?
  5. How will you acquire this technology, software, or equipment?
  6. What are your target milestones and timeline?
  7. What are your performance metrics?
  8. What are you quality control measures?
  9. What kind of licenses or permits do you need to operate?
  10. What kind of employees do you need?
  11. How will you recruit the right team?
  12. What is the payment plan for your hired talent?
  13. What kind of training does your staff need?
  14. How will you handle inventory?
  15. Who are your suppliers? What are their terms?
  16. What are your customer services policies?

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Business isn't all about operations. To cinch those sales, you need to let your target market know about your products and/or services. In this chapter, you'll lay out your marketing and sales strategy. Before coming up with a solid plan, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What image do you want to convey about your business?
  2. What is your brand voice or personality?
  3. How does this image speak to your customers?
  4. What branding and design elements will you use?
  5. How will you reach your customers?
  6. How much are you going to spend on marketing?
  7. What kind of sales team do you need?
  8. How ill you convert interest into sales?
  9. What kind of partnerships do you need to boost your business' sales?

Funding Request

Only include this part if you're going to show your business plan to an investor or lender. This is the part where you ask for funding to get your business started. Your investors will have the following questions:

  1. How much do you need to start and sustain your business for the next few years?
  2. How did you come up with that data? What is the breakdown of expenses?
  3. How much of that capital do you already have? Where did you get the funds?
  4. How much additional funding are you seeking?
  5. What will those funds be used for? How will it help your business grow?
  6. What are the terms and timeline for repayment?
  7. What are your investors' exit options?

Financial Analysis

The financial statements section serves two purposes. One, to keep your business on track and help you set realistic goals; and two, convince your investors that your business is a worthy investment. You'll have to include balance sheets, projected profit and loss, and cash flow statements, among others. Make sure to include a lot of charts and graphs to help visualize your data and make it easier to comprehend.

Answer these questions when putting together this chapter:

  1. What is your projected net profit or loss for the year?
  2. What are your monthly expenses and earnings?
  3. How much do you see your business growing in a year? 3 years? 5 years?
  4. How much do you need to break even?
  5. How did you come up with these numbers?
  6. What is your best-case scenario? Realistic projection? Worst-case scenario?
  7. What are your plans for dealing with each of these scenarios?

Appendix

The appendix is an optional segment of your business plan, but it's a great repository for all of your supporting documents. Some of the things you can add to your appendix are product diagrams, location photos, patent documents, management resumes, leases, contracts, press releases, marketing materials, and research/studies.

Free 2018 Business Plan Template

You can get the above guide PLUS more detailed instructions by downloading our free business plan template here. Available in both editable PDF and DOC formats, our business plan example is thorough and easy to fill out. You can have a finished business plan in just a few hours!

Adapting The Template For Your Business Needs

Your business is totally unique, so your business plan should be as well! Follow the template to get the best results, but feel free to modify it to fit your business and show off your brand’s personality! A boring, generic business plan is almost as bad as not having one, so take the time to make it compelling for your readers.

Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out among the rest.

  1. Use the Right Template

    Find a sample business plan in an industry or sector that's close to yours. It doesn't have to be an exact match; a business plan for a pizza restaurant could be adapted to fit a burger joint very easily. Collect different business plan examples so that you have a lot of references for your perfect business plan.

    You should find not just industry-specific plans, but also location-specific. A business plan for a Kansas City, MO operation will be different from one in the other parts of the Midwest because of the different demographics.

  2. Get Inspiration

    The biggest mistake you can make in writing your business plan is copying from someone else. The template should give you ideas and jump-start your brainstorming. Looking at a variety of business plan templates will show you options you hadn’t even considered.

  3. Change it for Your Audience

    As we’ve mentioned before, a business plan for internal use will be very different from a business plan for your potential investors. The data and content could be similar, but what you emphasize will vary depending on who you’re talking to. Focus on ROI for an investor, your financial projections and repayment capabilities for a bank lender, and your operational plan for your management team.

Best Business Plan Examples of 2018

Choose from our extensive library of best sample business plans to find the one that perfectly fits your business.

Creative Ideas For A Better Business Plan

Having a unique business plan will definitely grab your investors’ attention. Check out some of these super creative ways to boost your business plan’s effectiveness.

  1. Business Plan Infographic

    A visual infographic is a stunning way to demonstrate your credibility and authority. Engage your reader and illustrate your points in a way that is easy, fun, and intriguing.

  2. Business Plan Presentation

    You can also get business plan templates in the form of a pitch deck. Show off your company’s highlights and go into detail about the most important aspect of your business.

  3. Single-Page Business Plan

    This takes very little time to create, but it can make a huge impact. Get your most salient points on a single page so that your readers can learn about your business in a simple, digestible format.

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