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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
We’ll quickly go through the details of each section. You can also skip ahead to downloading the business plan template with complete instructions below.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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’re crafting your marketing and sales plan later on. To write your business plan’s market analysis, ponder on these questions:
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 even minute details like your location, inventory management, required permits, and business practices. These questions will guide you:
Business isn’t all about operations. To cinch those sales, you need to let your target market know about your products or services. In this chapter, you’ll lay out your marketing and sales strategy. Ask yourself these questions before coming up with a solid plan:
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:
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 tons of charts and graphs to help visualize your data and make it easier to comprehend.
Answer these questions when putting together this chapter:
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.
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!
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.
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.
The biggest mistake you can make in writing your business plan is copying from someone else. The template should give you ideas and jumpstart your brainstorming. Looking at a variety of business plan templates will show you options you hadn’t even considered.
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.
Choose from our extensive library of best sample business plans to find the one that perfectly fits your business.
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.
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.
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.
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.