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

The Business Planning Process 6 Steps to Create a New Plan

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

What is Business Planning?

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

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

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

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The Better Business Planning Process

The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:

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

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

1. Do Your Research

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

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

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

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

2. Strategize

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

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

3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast

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

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

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

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

4. Draft Your Plan

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

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

5. Revise & Proofread

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

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

6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation

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

Business Planning Process Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Use This Simple Business Plan Template

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

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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

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

What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Steps

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

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

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

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

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

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

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

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

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

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

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

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

Step 1: Executive Summary

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

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

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

Step 2: Description of Business

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

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

Step 3: Market Analysis

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

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

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

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

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

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

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

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

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

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

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

Step 7: Marketing Plan

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

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

Step 8: Sales Plan

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

Start by answering the following questions:

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

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

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

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

Step 10: Financial Projections

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

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

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

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

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

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

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

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

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

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

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

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

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

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

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

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

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

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

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

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

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What Is Business Planning?

Why Business Planning Isn't Just for Startups

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.

business planning activities

Morsa Images / Getty Images

Business planning takes place when the key stakeholders in a business sit down and flesh out all the goals , strategies, and actions that they envision taking to ensure the business’s survival, prosperity, and growth.

Here are some strategies for business planning and the ways it can benefit your business.

Business planning can play out in many different ways. Anytime upper management comes together to plan for the success of a business, it is a form of business planning. Business planning commonly involves collecting ideas in a formal business plan that outlines a summary of the business's current state, as well as the state of the broader market, along with detailed steps the business will take to improve performance in the coming period.

Business plans aren't just about money. The business plan outlines the general planning needed to start and run a successful business, and that includes profits, but it also goes beyond that. A plan should account for everything from scoping out the competition and figuring out how your new business will fit into the industry to assessing employee morale and planning for how to retain talent.

How Does Business Planning Work?

Every new business needs a business plan —a blueprint of how you will develop your new business, backed by research, that demonstrates how the business idea is viable. If your new business idea requires investment capital, you will have a better chance of obtaining debt or equity financing from financial institutions, angel investors , or venture capitalists if you have a solid business plan to back up your ideas.

Businesses should prepare a business plan, even if they don't need to attract investors or secure loans.

Post-Startup Business Planning

The business plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it planning exercise. It should be a living document that is updated throughout the life cycle of your business.

Once the business has officially started, business planning will shift to setting and meeting goals and targets. Business planning is most effective when it’s done on a consistent schedule that revisits existing goals and projects throughout the year, perhaps even monthly. In addition to reviewing short-term goals throughout the year, it's also important to establish a clear vision and lay the path for your long-term success.

Daily business planning is an incredibly effective way for individuals to focus on achieving both their own goals and the goals of the organization.

Sales Forecasting

The sales forecast is a key section of the business plan that needs to be constantly tracked and updated. The sales forecast is an estimate of the sales of goods and services your business is likely to achieve over the forecasted period, along with the estimated profit from those sales. The forecast should take into account trends in your industry, the general economy, and the projected needs of your primary customers.

Cash Flow Analysis

Another crucial component of business planning is cash flow analysis. Avoiding extended cash flow shortages is vital for businesses, and many business failures can be blamed on cash flow problems.

Your business may have a large, lucrative order on the books, but if it can't be invoiced until the job is completed, then you may run into cash flow problems. That scenario can get even worse if you have to hire staff, purchase inventory, and make other expenditures in the meantime to complete the project.

Performing regular cash flow projections is an important part of business planning. If managed properly, cash flow shortages can be covered by additional financing or equity investment.

Business Contingency Planning

In addition to business planning for profit and growth, your business should have a contingency plan. Contingency business planning (also known as business continuity planning or disaster planning) is the type of business planning that deals with crises and worst-case scenarios. A business contingency plan helps businesses deal with sudden emergencies, unexpected events, and new information that could disrupt your business.

The goals of a contingency plan are to:

  • Provide for the safety and security of yourself, your employees, and your customers in the event of a fire, flood, robbery, data breach, illness, or some other disaster
  • Ensure that your business can resume operations after an emergency as quickly as possible

Business Succession Planning

If your business is a family enterprise or you have specific plans for who you want to take over in the event of your retirement or illness, then you should have a plan in place to hand over control of the business . The issues of management, ownership, and taxes can cause a great deal of discord within families unless a succession plan is in place that clearly outlines the process.

Key Takeaways

  • Business planning is when key stakeholders review the state of their business and plan for how they will improve the business in the future.
  • Business planning isn't a one-off event—it should be an ongoing practice of self-assessment and planning.
  • Business planning isn't just about improving sales; it can also address safety during natural disasters or the transfer of power after an owner retires.

Table of Contents

What is a business plan, the advantages of having a business plan, the types of business plans, the key elements of a business plan, best business plan software, common challenges of writing a business plan, become an expert business planner, business planning: it’s importance, types and key elements.

Business Planning: It’s Importance, Types and Key Elements

Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the  World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database  shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.

Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.

Several  other statistics  expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.

This isn’t surprising at all. 

Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%)  don't have a formal business plan in place. 

It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.  

But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.  

Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.

No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.  

More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.

A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained. 

However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes. 

Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.

Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.

  • Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals. 
  • Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
  • Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
  • Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
  • Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
  • Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest. 

Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.

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Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.  

Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans. 

  • Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
  • Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments. 
  • Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
  • Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
  • Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.

There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them. 

Here are the key elements of a good business plan:

  • Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.  
  • Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
  • Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
  • Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time. 
  • Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.

The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:

  • Business Sorter

The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:

  • Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
  • Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
  • Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
  • You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.

Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success. 

Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.

While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.   

Simpliearn’s Executive Certificate Program in General Management will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive general management program by IIM Indore can serve as a career catalyst, equipping professionals with a competitive edge in the ever-evolving business environment.

What Is Meant by Business Planning?

Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.

What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?

The following are the four types of business plans:

Operational Planning

This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.

Strategic Planning

Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.

Tactical Planning

Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.

Contingency Planning

When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.

What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?

The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:

Conduct Research

If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.

Have a Goal

The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.

Create a Company Profile

Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.

Describe the Company in Detail

Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.

Create a marketing plan ahead of time.

A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.

Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience

Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.

Incorporate Your Motivation

Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.

What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?

These are the basic steps in business planning:

Summary and Objectives

Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.

Services and Products

Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.

Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.

Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.

How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.

Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

Bizee

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

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

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

business planning activities

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

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

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

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

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

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

business planning activities

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.

Pursue funding

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.

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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. 

Executive summary

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. 

Market analysis

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.

Financial projections

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 .

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Kody Wirth

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6 strategic planning activities for your organization

An image of a group of people meeting around a table in an office

Thomas Edison once said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” In the business world, where chaos and opportunity often go together, Edison's words echo the importance of aligning foresight with action. 

That's where strategic planning comes into play.

Strategic planning operates as a guiding compass that steers organizations through the ever-changing landscape of the business world. It involves the meticulous process of goal setting, making informed decisions, and plotting a course of action to achieve those goals. By combining careful analysis, thoughtful foresight, and decisive action, strategic planning empowers organizations to navigate uncertainty and seize opportunities.

In this blog post, we'll delve into six key strategic planning activities. These activities serve as bridges that connect opportunities with planning, enabling your organization to thrive in a rapidly evolving business environment. When you embrace these strategic planning activities, you can unlock the full potential of your organization and position it for long-term growth and prosperity.

1. Set yourself up for success with a strategic analysis

Strategic analysis is a vital component of the strategic planning process. It involves a comprehensive evaluation of both internal and external factors that can impact your company's success. 

One notable type of strategic analysis is the PESTLE analysis, which assesses Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors.

During the strategic analysis phase, organizations typically perform a SWOT analysis , which involves identifying and analyzing internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. 

For example, a company may discover that its internal strengths lie in its strong brand reputation and skilled workforce, while its weaknesses may include outdated technology infrastructure. External opportunities could include emerging markets or new customer segments, while threats may come from increased competition or changing regulatory environments.

The insights gained from your SWOT analysis lay the groundwork for strategic decision-making. It's about understanding where the organization stands and how it can navigate its unique landscape effectively.

Once armed with a clearer understanding, you can formulate strategies that harness strengths, address weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and mitigate threats. This process isn't about predicting the future, but instead adapting to it by making informed choices based on the current business environment.

2. Assess your rivals with a competitive analysis

A thorough competitive analysis is essential for identifying your organization's position in the market and anticipating challenges and opportunities.

  • Start by identifying the key players in your industry, dissecting their market share, and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. By knowing who your competitors are, you can better position your organization to stand out in the market.
  • Next, delve into your competitors' strategies to identify what works and what doesn't. Look at their marketing tactics, product offerings, pricing strategies, and customer engagement methods. This insight can help you refine your organization's approach and uncover new opportunities. 

Consider organizing a planning meeting with your team to dissect your competitors' strategies and brainstorm actionable insights. By understanding their successes and failures, you can learn from their experiences and make informed decisions that'll give your organization a competitive edge.

3. Get the lay of the business landscape with a market analysis

To thrive in a competitive landscape, you need to understand the market inside-out. Here’s how to do it:

Conduct market research

Dive into your customer needs, preferences, and behaviors using surveys, focus groups, customer journey maps , and data analysis. These insights will guide you in crafting products and services that resonate with their hearts and minds.

Analyze market size and growth

Assess the size of your target market and its growth potential. This information helps you set realistic goals and allows for strategic initiatives that align with the market's trajectory. For example, you can analyze market trends, competitor analysis, and customer demographics to gain a comprehensive understanding of the market landscape. This analysis will help you identify opportunities for growth and potential challenges that may arise.  

Evaluate market growth saturation

Understanding the dynamics of market growth and saturation is critical. It helps you identify when and where to enter new markets or when adjustments are needed in existing ones. You can use various tools and metrics to evaluate market growth and saturation. This includes analyzing the size of the target market, customer buying patterns, market share, and market segmentation. Additionally, you should consider industry trends, such as new product offerings and disruptive technologies. With this information, you can determine the potential for market saturation, levels of competition, and the overall market landscape.

4. Chart a course to success by setting a strategic direction

With a deep understanding of both internal dynamics and external market factors, the next step is defining the organization's path forward.

Define mission, vision, and values

Crafting a clear mission statement, vision , and values provides a foundation for decision-making . These elements serve as guiding principles, aligning the team's efforts with the organization's core beliefs.

Related: Check out Mural’s Vision Mission Strategy Values Pyramid template to help define your path forward with your team

Imagine a healthcare company whose mission is to improve the well-being of communities by providing accessible and affordable healthcare services. Its vision could be a world where everyone has equal access to good healthcare, and its core values might include compassion, integrity, and innovation. These powerful statements not only inspire the team but also resonate with customers and stakeholders, creating a strong sense of identity and purpose.

Establish strategic goals and objectives

To turn your organization’s vision into reality, it's crucial to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). These goals should be aligned with your organization's mission and provide a clear direction for everyone involved.

Let's say you're leading a technology startup aiming to disrupt the e-commerce industry. A SMART goal could be to achieve a 20% increase in monthly active users within the next six months by implementing targeted marketing campaigns, enhancing the user experience, and expanding product offerings. This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to the organization's mission, and has a defined timeframe, providing a clear target for the team to work toward to align with core competencies and market opportunities.

5. Optimize for efficiency with resource allocation

Effective resource allocation makes sure that resources are used efficiently and that your organization's efforts are focused on the most impactful projects. The following steps outline a process for effective resource allocation:

Assess available resources

Begin with a comprehensive assessment of the resources at your disposal — financial, human, and technological. Just as a traveler checks their supplies before setting out, assessing available resources allows for realistic planning. For instance, a startup entering a competitive market would carefully evaluate its financial capacity, available talent, and technological infrastructure to navigate challenges effectively.

Prioritize strategic initiatives

Not all initiatives are created equal. Prioritize strategic initiatives based on their alignment with organizational goals and resource availability. This step provides that efforts are concentrated where they matter most. For example, a marketing team might prioritize campaigns that align with the company's core objectives and have the potential for high returns.

Allocate resources effectively

Once priorities are established, allocate resources efficiently. This includes: 

  • Financial resource allocation : Develop a comprehensive financial budget that aligns with the strategic priorities of the organization. Allocate funds to different projects and initiatives based on their importance and potential return on investment. 
  • Human capital allocation: Assess the skills, expertise, and capacity of your workforce to allocate human capital effectively. Identify key talent and assign them to projects that align with their strengths and expertise. This ensures that the right people are working on the right initiatives, maximizing productivity and output. 
  • Infrastructure optimization: Evaluate your technology infrastructure and allocate resources to optimize its efficiency and effectiveness. This may involve investing in new technologies, upgrading existing systems, or streamlining processes to enhance productivity.  

Effectively allocating financial resources enables your organization to achieve its strategic goals while maximizing the return on investment. 

6. Develop action plans to achieve organizational goals

Each strategic goal needs a detailed action plan. Define specific steps, assign responsibilities to team members, and establish timelines. The following steps will help you create a clear action plan that ensures everyone is on the same page regarding what needs to be done.

Create a roadmap with timelines and milestones

Think of your strategic plan as a team-building road trip. Your roadmap becomes the GPS that guides you. You outline timelines, milestones, and key deliverables, just like plotting stops along your journey. This visual representation helps you track progress and make adjustments as needed, making sure you stay on the right path, just like navigating a road trip.

Monitor progress and make adjustments

Strategic planning isn't a set-it-and-forget-it process. Regularly monitor progress against the established roadmap. This allows for timely adjustments, providing that the organization stays on course even in the face of unforeseen challenges. 

Communication and collaboration are essential components of the process. Establish clear channels of communication and decision-making protocols that involve all stakeholders. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can provide input on the direction the organization should take. By implementing regular reviews, progress can be tracked and adjustments can be made as needed.

Elevate your strategic planning with Mural's collaborative platform

To safeguard the success of your strategic plans, it's important to foster a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration.

Integrating Mural into your strategic planning process transforms it into a dynamic and engaging experience. Teams can collaborate seamlessly, share ideas visually, and make real-time adjustments to the plan. Leverage the power of Mural for effective team-building, planning sessions, and problem-solving. It's the tool that turns your strategic objectives into actionable plans, guiding your leadership team toward long-term goals and increased profitability.

Ready to dive in? Bring Mural into your next strategic planning meeting and experience the impact of collaborative and visual planning. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

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550+ Business Plan Examples to Launch Your Business

550+ Free Sample Business Plans

Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 industry-specific business plan examples for inspiration. Go even further with LivePlan , which harnesses AI-assisted writing features and SBA-approved plan examples to get you funded.

Find your business plan example

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View all sample business plans

Example business plan format

Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.

Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).

Products & services

The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.

This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.

Market analysis

Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.

Competition

Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don't then you're either in a very young industry or there's a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.

To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are, how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you're business will be positioned. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.

Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.

The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.

Milestones & metrics

The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.

A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You'll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that's attached. You don't need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.

You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.

Company & team

Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.

Financial projections

Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.

Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.

The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.

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. 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 in any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.

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 format 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.

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.

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.

Growth planning

Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's 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, forecast, review, and refine based on your 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 more detailed plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of growth planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the growth planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.

It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Download a free sample business plan template

Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2024.

This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.

How to use an example business plan to help you write your own

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How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.

Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company

You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.

For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.

Use a business plan example as a guide

Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.

One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.

You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.

If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .

Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document

Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool

Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.

If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.

Prepare to pitch your business

If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.

Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.

With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .

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business planning activities

24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

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I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

business planning activities

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

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Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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Team Building Exercises – Strategy and Planning

Engaging ways to build core skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

business planning activities

No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.– Reid Hoffman.

How does your company approach strategic planning?

Traditionally, strategy is developed by an executive team and rolled out to the rest of the company for implementation. But today's rapidly changing commercial environment, coupled with the growing popularity of agile business practices, means that many organizations are now moving away from a formal, top-down approach.

Our current climate calls for a more flexible method that allows teams to shape their own path (while following organizational goals and guidelines). So, it's important that your team has the strategic thinking and planning skills it needs to contribute effectively.

Individuals with strong skills in these areas are also better at aligning their efforts with the broader objectives of the organization, so that their work contributes to a meaningful end goal.

This article explores three team building exercises that can help your people develop their strategic thinking and planning skills.

Strategic Thinking and Planning Exercises

Use the exercises below to strengthen your team's strategic thinking and planning skills. The activities should also help to improve communication and collaboration skills.

You can use them in various ways, for example with a group of new managers, or to refresh the skills of senior leaders.

Exercise 1: Early Bird vs. Second Mouse

This exercise was inspired by the saying (often attributed to American comedian Stephen Wright): "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

In it, two teams explore the implications of the phrase through presentation, debate and discussion.

This exercise helps teams analyze different strategic positions. It also emphasizes teamwork , presentation , argument and debate, and group decision making .

People and Materials

  • Between eight and 30 people.
  • A presenter from each team.
  • Two flip charts, with pens.
  • Flexible, typically 30-60 minutes.

Instructions

  • Divide the group into two equal teams. Make one the "early bird" and the other the "second mouse."
  • Give both teams five to 10 minutes to develop a short presentation outlining why their strategy is the best for business.
  • A member of each team gives their presentation.
  • When the presentations are over, ask each team to elect someone to debate the question, "Is it better in business to be the early bird or the second mouse?"
  • Combine the teams into one big group and ask for a show of hands to determine which strategy is, indeed, the best.

Advice for the Facilitator

This simple exercise can be adapted in various different ways, depending on your objectives. For example, you may wish to make the exercise about generic business practice or specific to a particular industry or situation. You could also try debating which strategy is best for a particular scenario and then, after the vote, ask if people's opinions would be different if you changed the scenario.

You could ask the group to vote on which strategy is best at the beginning of the exercise and again at the end of the debate, to see if opinions change.

Possible topics for discussion after the exercise include different strategies for different situations, the relative virtues of adaptability versus consistency, how much people's values influence their choice of strategy, and so on.

Exercise 2: United Hearts

In this exercise, teams develop a strategy and compete for points in a card game. The United Hearts Game was published in " Quick Team Building Activities for Busy Managers ," by Brian Cole Miller. This is an adaptation of his original game.

This game strengthens strategic thinking skills. It also reminds players to stay flexible with their strategy and adjust it according to events.

  • Between six and 15 people.
  • One deck of cards.
  • Thirty minutes.

Rules of the Game

The aim is to get as close to 30 points as possible by winning hearts. Aces are low, Jacks are worth 11, Queens 12, and Kings 13 points. All other cards have face value.

Each round begins when the dealer places a heart card face up on the table. Team leaders then pick a card from their own deck and place it face down. When all three have laid down a card, they flip them over and the highest card (irrespective of suit) wins the heart. The rest of the cards from that round are discarded.

When all of the cards have been played (13 rounds in all), teams count up the number of hearts they have won. The closest to 30 wins.

In the event of a tie, the team with the highest value heart is the winner.

  • Put people into three teams of two to five members – group sizes don't need to be equal – and ask each to designate a "leader" who will play for them.
  • Remove the hearts from the deck, and give each team a suit of cards.
  • Explain the rules of the game, and give each team three minutes to plan how they will play.
  • Before the game begins, each team is given time to discuss their strategies but, once it gets underway, discussion is no longer allowed, although team members can indicate which card to play through non-verbal gestures.
  • Interrupt the game after the fifth and ninth rounds to allow the groups to analyze their progress and, if necessary, adjust their strategies.

When the game is over, ask the members of each team to describe what their initial strategy was, whether they thought it was successful, and how it evolved over time.

Discuss how their strategies would have differed if the aim of the game had been to get as high a score or as low a score as possible.

Ask them if other roles, besides leader, emerged within the team. For example, one person may have decided to keep track of which hearts had already been played, while another could have kept track of their competitors' running totals.

Adapted from "Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Exercises That Get Results in Just 15 Minutes." by Brian Cole Miller. ©️ 2003 by Brian Cole Miller. Used by permission of HarperCollins Leadership. www.harpercollinsleadership.com

Exercise 3: Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag is a classic outdoor game for larger groups. The goal is to successfully capture the other team's flag, without being caught on "enemy territory."

This game is excellent for building strategic thinking and communication skills. Teams assign roles (such as guards and raiders) and use battlefield tactics to successfully capture the opposing flag. It can be a great exercise to help new teams get to know each other, or to break down barriers between hierarchies or departments.

This game only works if all participants are prepared to play a vigorous outdoor game. You won't build a happy, engaged team if you try to force unwilling people to play.

  • Enough people for at least two groups of five.
  • Two "flags" – anything from a towel to a company flag.
  • Boundary markers (if necessary).
  • A large outdoor space, ideally one with trees, hills or buildings.
  • Flexible, typically 30-45 minutes.

The rules of the game are simple. The group is divided into two opposing teams. Within each team, there are guards and raiders. Guards stay on their own territory and capture any enemies who try to take their flag. Raiders infiltrate enemy territory to locate and capture their opponents' flag. Both roles report to the team leader, who makes sure everyone follows the overall strategy.

Guards capture trespassing raiders by tagging them. The prisoner must then stay where he is put until a member from his own team sets him free by tagging him again. Once a prisoner is set free, he must return to his home territory before resuming play.

If a flag is successfully captured, it must be taken back to the team's home territory. If the flag bearer is caught before she reaches her territory, the flag is returned to its original hiding place, the bearer goes to prison, and the game continues.

  • Begin by dividing the available space up into three parts, with team territories at opposite ends and a neutral "no man's land" in the middle. Mark where each territory begins.
  • Explain the rules, then split the group into two teams.
  • Give each team 10 minutes to choose a leader, assign roles, and discuss their strategy. Teams can decide for themselves how many guards and raiders to have but, once roles have been allocated, they remain for the duration of the game.
  • Instruct each team to place its flag in plain sight. It should present a challenge, but not be impossible to find.
  • Each team then waits in its home territory until you blow the whistle to signal that the game has begun.
  • The game ends when one team successfully brings the other's flag into its home territory. Blow the whistle again to show that the game is over.

Bear in mind that this game may not suit everyone. It can be quite physical, with lots of running and, depending on the terrain, climbing and scrambling over trails, rocks and trees.

It's important that team members approach their roles with sensitivity towards others – both their team members and their "enemies." Make sure that guards understand that they must "tag," not "tackle," enemy raiders, so that no one gets hurt.

Encourage the team to be creative with their roles, so that everyone, regardless of physical ability, can make a positive contribution. For example, some guards could act as "lookouts," while raiders could be divided into "scouts," who use stealth to discover the whereabouts of the flag or prisoners being held captive, and "runners," who create a diversion while others go after the prize.

At the end of the game, gather the group together to discuss how it went. Ask how each person's role contributed to the overall strategy. Examine each team's strategy (or lack of one) and how well it worked out for them, and identify what gave the winning team their competitive advantage.

Team building exercises work best when, as well as improving team work, they help people to develop skills that benefit them in their day-to-day jobs, too. Check out our other team building resources for skills such as creativity , problem solving and decision making , and communication .

Strategic thinking is important for aligning your own and your team's daily activities are aligned with the long-term goals and objectives of your organization.

The games in this article can help your team members learn how to think more strategically, and work together.

Apply This to Your Life

  • Think about how you could incorporate one of these games into your next team meeting, Away Day , or company retreat .

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  • Business Essentials

Business Activities: Definition and 3 Main Types

business planning activities

What Are Business Activities?

Business activities include any activity a business engages in for the primary purpose of making a profit. This is a general term that encompasses all the economic activities carried out by a company during the course of business. Business activities, including operating, investing, and financing activities, are ongoing and focused on creating value for shareholders .

Key Takeaways

  • Business activities are any events that are undertaken by a corporation for the purpose of earning a profit.
  • Operating activities relate directly to the business providing its goods to the market, including manufacturing, distributing, marketing, and selling; they provide most of the company's cash flow and hugely influence its profitability.
  • Investing activities relate to the long-term use of cash , such as buying or selling a property or piece of equipment, or gains and losses from investments in financial markets and operating subsidiaries.
  • Financing activities include sources of cash from investors or banks, and the uses of cash paid to shareholders, such as payment of dividends or stock repurchases, and the repayment of loans.

Investopedia / Matthew Collins

Understanding Business Activities

There are three main types of business activities: operating, investing, and financing. The cash flows used and created by each of these activities are listed in the  cash flow statement . The cash flow statement is meant to be a reconciliation of net income on an accrual basis to cash flow. Net income is taken from the bottom of the income statement, and the cash impact of balance sheet changes are identified to reconcile back to actual cash inflows and outflows.

Non-cash items previously deducted from net income are added back to determine cash flow; non-cash items previously added to net income are deducted to determine cash flows. The result is a report that gives the investor a summary of business activities within the company on a cash basis, segregated by the specific types of activity.

Operating Business Activities

The first section of the cash flow statement is cash flow from operating activities . These activities include many items from the income statement and the current portion of the balance sheet. The cash flow statement adds back certain non-cash items such as depreciation and amortization . Then changes in balance sheet line items, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable, are either added or subtracted based on their previous impact on net income.

These line items impact the net income on the income statement but do not result in a movement of cash in or out of the company. If cash flows from operating business activities are negative, it means the company must be financing its operating activities through either investing activities or financing activities. Routinely negative operating cash flow is not common outside of nonprofits .

Investing Business Activities

Investing activities are in the second section of the statement of cash flows. These are business activities that are capitalized over more than one year. The purchase of long-term assets is recorded as a use of cash in this section. Likewise, the sale of real estate is shown as a source of cash. The line item " capital expenditures " is considered an investing activity and can be found in this section of the cash flow statement.

Financing Business Activities

The cash flow statement's final section includes financing activities . These include initial public offerings, secondary offerings, and debt financing. The section also lists the amount of cash being paid out for dividends, share repurchases, and interest. Any business activity related to financing and fundraising efforts is included in this section of the cash flow statement.

How Is the Cash Flow Statement Linked to Business Activities?

The cash flows used and created by each of the three main classifications of business activities—operating, investing, and financing—are listed in the cash flow statement. This financial statement is meant to be a reconciliation of net income on an accrual basis to cash flow.

Net income is taken from the bottom of the income statement, and the cash impact of balance sheet changes are identified to reconcile back to actual cash inflows and outflows. Non-cash items previously deducted from or added to net income are added or deducted respectively to determine cash flows. The result is a report that gives the investor a summary of business activities within the company on a cash basis, segregated by the specific types of activity.

What Are Operating Business Activities?

Cash flow from operating business activities, usually the first section of the cash flow statement, includes many items from the income statement and the current portion of the balance sheet. The cash flow statement adds back certain non-cash items such as depreciation and amortization. Then changes in balance sheet line items, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable, are either added or subtracted based on their previous impact on net income. These line items impact the net income on the income statement but do not result in a movement of cash in or out of the company. Routinely negative operating cash flow is not common outside of nonprofits.

What Are Investing Business Activities?

Investing business activities are those that are capitalized over more than one year and usually appear as the second section of the cash flow statement. The purchase of long-term assets is recorded as a use of cash in this section. Likewise, the sale of real estate is shown as a source of cash. The line item "capital expenditures" is considered an investing activity and can be found in this section of the cash flow statement.

What Are Financing Business Activities?

The cash flow statement's final section includes financing business activities. These include initial public offerings, secondary offerings, and debt financing. The section also lists the amount of cash being paid out for dividends, share repurchases, and interest. Any business activity related to financing and fundraising efforts is included in this section of the cash flow statement.

business planning activities

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4 Strategic Planning Exercises That You Should Do Annually Start with a SWOT framework for every department. That's short for 'strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.'

By David Ciccarelli • Jan 22, 2016

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Strategic planning, carried out by senior members of a company's leadership team, is typically used to reaffirm corporate objectives and establish new ones, set goals, align resources and articulate in detail the direction, tactics and activities that the entire organization will engage in.

Related: A SWOT Analysis Provides a Full Picture When Looking at a Product and a Brand

The strategic plans that result are common to established organizations with a few years under their belts; they differ from the business plans startups use as they work to get off the ground.

Indeed, strategic plans draw on their companies' historical data, institutional knowledge and their employees' collective experience. In the end, these factors result in a robust and clear vision for how the upcoming year will play out.

If you yourself have completed a strategic plan of your own, one of two things likely happened. Either the plan was completed, with everyone seemingly buying into it before it was stored somewhere in the depths of your company where it collected dust.

Or else the plan became a living document and was referred to at monthly and quarterly meetings, then at year's end, when it was revisited during another annual strategic review.

It's the latter kind of plan that is obviously more effective. To achieve it, here are four exercises you can engage your leadership team in, and if appropriate, loop in more members from the rest of your organization.

1. SWOT analysis, on a department-by-department basis

Time: 30 minutes x number of departments

Who: executive team

It's possible that you got your own first exposure to business management tools with the SWOT framework (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), a two-by-two grid where strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are put under the microscope.

In order to not miss vital details, you should conduct a SWOT analysis for each department. For instance, a SWOT analysis, seen through the lens of the finance department will differ greatly than that of the IT group. As you can imagine, the opportunities available to your sales department vary from those being explored by your customer service people.

By engaging the entire executive team, you'll create a venue for a healthy dialogue about every individual department.

Related: Add This Dimension to a Traditional Business Analysis for a Fuller Marketing Plan

2. Start, stop, continue

Time: 60 minutes x number of departments

Who: Small groups in each department

In most organizations, there's an intuitive sense of what's working and what isn't. To capture this sentiment in a safe environment, try a Start, Stop and Continue session. This session is best kept to an hour, with 20 minutes dedicated to each section.

Begin with the "Start," a brainstorm of all those activities you should start doing, and add the tools and technologies that you should at least start investigating. You'll likely hear requests for upgraded technology, cutting-edge software tools and new positions. All suggestions are valid.

Since time is finite, you'll need to make room for these new initiatives, which leads to "Stop," a list of those activities, bad habits and other issues that everyone agrees should stop immediately. This can even include declaring that a project once and for all is dead and that everyone will stop wasting time discussing it. End the session on a brighter note by identifying those activities that people are actively engaged in and are most meaningful.

During the "Continue" portion of the working session, management should express appreciation for all the great things everyone is doing, but put out the challenge for all staffers to raise their game.

At our company, we've identified excellence as a core value, and as such have embraced the notion of continuous improvement. It's this idea that encourages us to strive for greater heights.

3. Employee engagement survey

Time: 60 minutes per person

Who: entire company

Each year, we request feedback across the entire company in an anonymous employee engagement survey. This CORE Strategy assessment (CORE = climate, organization, relationships, employees) was developed to facilitate a strategic-planning process.

This particular survey includes more than 100 questions, asking participants to rate how likely they agree or disagree with a statement. Questions are grouped by themes, such as training, equipment, management, financial health, career opportunities and more.

Knowing the perceptions of the employees and leadership team will provide incredible insight to your company's operations. It's also imperative that you discuss the findings, summarize the key takeaways and commit to improving those issues clearly identified by all those who completed the survey.

Never be afraid to discuss a matter revealed in the survey, especially if it comes up multiple times. Your employees know you're struggling in that area because it was their words that identified it in the first place.

So, acknowledge the issue and set about making positive change.

4. Updating of your plan

Finally, it's time to launch your strategic plan, whether this occurs by way of a Word document, Google Doc or Apple Pages file. Go to the source document and start typing. Expect to dedicate 40 to 100 hours to do it correctly. What's crucial is that you put your ideas down in writing.

Own your organization's strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Commit to starting new initiatives, stopping others and renewing efforts in well-performing areas. All the while, consider vital input from employees.

By repeating these processes annually, you'll transform your organization from one where the status quo is acceptable to one that involves everyone and embraces the change that has been presented, discussed and committed to.

Related: Use These 3 Analysis Tools to Prepare a Killer Business Plan

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  • 6 steps for operations leaders to build ...

6 steps for operations leaders to build a better annual plan

Julia Martins contributor headshot

An effective annual plan is critical to keep your teams, departments, and company together, working toward the same goals. 

As an operations leader, you oversee how your organization runs its business. By reviewing how your company performed in the past year, you and your operations teams can identify which strategies worked—and which fell short—to build an effective annual plan designed to maximize the impact of every department.

Here’s what you need to know about building a successful annual plan.

Connect everyone's work to company-wide goals

87% of workers with individual goals tied to company-wide goals say their business is well-prepared to meet customer expectations. Discover how Asana can transform the way your organization aligns work to goals.

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Annual plans drive clarity and accountability 

With an annual plan, departments can start the year off with a strong understanding of the overall vision and how their work contributes to larger business goals. Without an overarching plan, it can be difficult to understand how a specific project or initiative moves the business forward. 

Clear goals establish benchmarks for project progress

Your annual plan shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it goal. Rather, periodically check project progress against your annual plan so you can see how your operations teams are doing. Doing this throughout the year will not only give you a sense of how your teams are tracking towards their overall goals—it can also help you understand if they’re ahead or behind schedule, and adjust accordingly. 

If you notice that a specific initiative is not on track to meet the strategic goals outlined in your company’s annual plan, you can use this data to pivot and double down on—or divest from—specific initiatives. 

Establish concrete goals for a specific time period

The more specific your goal, the more concrete your action plan. Providing detailed and specific goals gives your employees a clear understanding of what work to prioritize and what deliverables they’re responsible for. 

Make sure your goals are measurable, as well. Clear KPIs and OKRs demonstrate how tangible work connects back to larger business goals. 

6 steps for annual business planning

The annual planning process often takes place near the end of the calendar year or at the end of your company’s fiscal year. As you get closer to annual planning time, consider these six steps of the annual planning process. 

1. Reflect on previous strategies—and develop new ones

Before your business can start planning for next year, ask yourself, your stakeholders, and your operations teams: How did we perform against the strategies laid out in last year’s annual plan?

No matter the answer, use these recent data points to steer your decision-making when building your next annual plan. That could mean doubling down on big programs or initiatives born in the last year—or going a different direction entirely. 

A well-built annual plan factors in reflection on what did and didn’t work—and improves off of it.

2. Transform your business’s greatest needs into goals

After reflecting on last year’s performance, hone in on the most significant growth and improvement opportunities. Use this for guidance as you construct company- and department-wide goals.

It helps to have a consistent framework for goals across the business, to accelerate the goal-setting process and ensure greater understanding of goals within all corners of the organization.

The exact goal framework you use will depend on your company, but a few good ones to consider are: 

The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method , which helps your business set goals using the framework “I will [objective] as measured by [key result].”

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) , which use leading and lagging indicators to track how you’re performing towards your goals. 

The SMART goals framework , which helps ensure the goals your organization sets are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

3. Create an action plan to maximize impact

The next step is to create an action plan for your business to achieve the goals outlined in step three. Your action plan should outline the list of steps your teams need to take to accomplish their goals. Think of an action plan like the map you’ll use to arrive at your final destination. 

From there, delegate the work laid out in the action plan to specific teams and departments. Connecting the work that your operations teams complete to larger company goals makes it easier for each team to understand the impact their work has on the business.

4. Ensure the annual plan is everyone’s plan

Not everyone can be involved in building the annual plan for your company—but every team member should feel like their work is seen and accounted for in the plan. 

As the annual plan comes together, meet with leaders and employees across the business to ensure varying perspectives and priorities are factored into the final product. This step is critical for getting buy-in and generating excitement across the business. 

You don’t want to be in a position where you’re just telling everyone what the annual plan is—you want to bring every department along for the journey and get them excited about what they’re working toward in the coming year. Consider conducting a presentation to not only share the company plan and why this plan matters, but also to outline timelines and how departments will use it to achieve the company’s goals. 

5. Execute your strategy, monitor metrics, and adjust as needed

At this point, your organization’s annual plan is completed, but nothing is ever fully set in stone. As the year progresses, make sure you’re continually monitoring success metrics and KPIs. If the results of your strategies are not behaving as you expected them to, it’s important to adjust so your business will still hit the goals outlined in your annual plan. 

6. Repeat again for next year 

At the end of the year, it’s time to start the process over again. Align with your strategic plan, look back at the past year’s results, and create another plan to achieve those business goals. 

What does a good annual plan include?

Effective annual plans should contain components that are essential for completing the work outlined in the plan itself, and context for why this plan will be effective. Here are a few examples of components you would find in an annual plan:

Reports of the previous year’s performance: Your company’s annual plan for the upcoming year should be based on the data from the previous year’s performance. This provides context for your teams as to what they’re capable of doing within one calendar year.

Budget estimates: A common KPI investors track is return on investment (ROI). Knowing how much money different teams are spending makes it easier for your organization to calculate ROI and adjust strategies. Providing budget estimations also gives departments the context they need for the amount of resources they have at their disposal for the year.

Clear and specific goals: Annual plans should use the SMART goal framework so that your company can easily measure progress and report back on it later. 

Important milestones: Your business can accomplish a lot of work within one year—but to do that, each department needs to know how they're doing. Milestones operate like checkpoints, giving teams and departments a sense of direction and an idea of how they're pacing against annual goals.

Project buffers and contingency plans: Unexpected things happen all the time, and it’s better to be prepared than caught off guard. Develop a contingency plan for how your organization will get back on track in the event of an unexpected roadblock. Also set aside some resource buffers, such as a small portion of your company’s budget, to accommodate for unexpected expenses.

Gear up for next year

After a year of hard work, it’s time to reflect back and plan for more great things in the future. While annual planning takes time, collaboration, and thoughtful strategy, the efforts show in the form of your business success. 

Still have questions? We have answers. 

What is annual planning.

Annual planning is the act of developing a strategy for the upcoming year based on the learnings from the current year’s performance. This provides an opportunity for your operations teams to iterate on strategy from the past year and incorporate those learnings into your upcoming plans. 

In essence, your annual plan should contain: 

The goals your business needs to achieve

A strategy for how your organization will hit those goals

Clear tactics for what each department will work on

Any important milestones that benchmark progress

What’s the difference between annual planning and strategic planning? 

Strategic planning and annual planning are both important business planning methods that help set your team's strategy for the future. However, the scale of these planning strategies are different.

Strategic planning is the long-term strategy for your business. This encompasses a basic roadmap of how business should develop within three to five years. You will use your strategic planning process to inform your annual plan. 

Annual planning represents all of the goals and strategies that you want your business to achieve, similar to a strategic goal. The main difference here is that an annual plan only encompasses one calendar year, instead of a few years. If you think of it like a pie, annual planning is just one slice of the larger strategic plan pie.

When should your operations teams start annual planning?

Begin your annual planning process during Q4, so you can begin day one of Q1 with your plan in hand. If that’s not an option, do your annual planning as close to the start of the new year as possible. 

There are two benefits to planning earlier. First off, you’ll beat the end-of-year crunch, and avoid the stress that traditionally comes with the end of the year. Additionally, if you run an efficient annual planning process with your leadership team, your operations teams will still be free to execute on high-impact projects throughout Q4.

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80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

Ebook , Compilations , Strategy , Tools , Creativity , Performance , Fun Strategic Planning , Strategic Planning , Strategic Thinking , Collaboration

Do you dread strategy meetings, especially the ones without any fun strategic planning activities ?

Really, we’re among friends, so you can be completely truthful in your answer: Do you REALLY, REALLY DREAD strategy meetings?

Of course, you dread them. Every executive dreads strategic planning. I know I do.

The reason is while it is important for organizations, participants hardly ever see the connection between participation and positive changes for brands and customers.

fun strategic planning activities , ideas, and food

While a strategic planning process may promise to deliver real objectives and tactics, it often never happens as promised. Senior executives may say they want disruptive ideas, but they really want ideas that are easy to grasp and fit the current system. And who wants to waste precious time on trying to imagine and plan things an organization should pursue but ultimately never will?

That is why wrapping strategy meetings in creative thinking exercises and the appropriate amount of fun and diversion is optimum.

80+ Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

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We’ve been facilitating fun strategic planning activities for years, so it's good to define how we think about it. 

Fun strategic planning is an experience that :

  • Is highly collaborative among engaged groups
  • Is mentally stimulating for everyone who participates
  • Fosters people who are eager to participate in future strategic planning initiatives
  • Leads to action and results 

While that definition may sound impossible, it's absolutely a reality when you approach strategic planning in a new way.  Across our client engagements , here are links to 80+ activities and ideas for making strategy more fun!

10 Moments Begging for Fun Strategic Planning

11 boring details for making strategy planning fun, 4 things to always have ready for fun strategic planning activities, 11 things about toys during strategy planning meetings, 3 stuffed toys that are ideal for strategy activities, 4 times to avoid toys, 6 last-minute creative ideas for fun strategy exercises, 9 ways to keep strategy meetings fresh, 12 ideas for spicing up strategy meetings in the boardroom via the bedroom, 11 ideas for fun strategic planning activities, 8 icebreaker activities, 5 fun strategic planning activities, 3 short, funny strategy questions, 7 types of strategy planning fun, 11 fun strategic planning approaches that are not stuffy for work, 7 ways groups can collaborate on fun strategic planning, new ways to productively translate fun strategic planning activities into virtual and hybrid meetings.

Even though fun strategy meetings seem elusive, we routinely make them productive, enjoyable, and fun for the organizations, senior executives, and teams with which we work. Enjoy this dive into our most successful approaches.

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IMAGES

  1. Key Planning Activities

    business planning activities

  2. 4 ways to plan for your business in 2020 and beyond

    business planning activities

  3. The Best 10 Business Planning Tools for Startups

    business planning activities

  4. Express Business Planning Workshop

    business planning activities

  5. Top 3 Planning Activities Carried out in Firms

    business planning activities

  6. Business Readiness Plan With Key Activities And Outcomes

    business planning activities

VIDEO

  1. Business planning

  2. Strategic Planning: Business Plan in 1 Minute

  3. Introduction to Construction Planning and Scheduling

  4. Business Plan Presentation

  5. New Business Plan

  6. business plan

COMMENTS

  1. Write your business plan

    Key activities. List the ways your business will gain a competitive advantage. Highlight things like selling direct to consumers, or using technology to tap into the sharing economy. ... Example lean business plan. Before you write your business plan, read this example business plan written by a fictional business owner, Andrew, who owns a toy ...

  2. The Business Planning Process: Steps To Creating Your Plan

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

  3. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

  4. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  5. Definition & Examples of Business Planning

    Business planning commonly involves collecting ideas in a formal business plan that outlines a summary of the business's current state, as well as the state of the broader market, along with detailed steps the business will take to improve performance in the coming period. Business plans aren't just about money.

  6. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    Download a free one-page plan template to write a useful business plan in as little as 30-minutes. Explore over 500 real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries. Try the business planning and growth tool trusted by over 1-million business owners.

  7. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals. Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract...

  8. Business Planning: It's Importance, Types and Key Elements

    What Is a Business Plan? No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.

  9. Business Plan: What it Is, How to Write One

    7. Perform a business financial analysis. 8. Make financial projections. 9. Add additional information to an appendix. Business plan tips and resources. MORE LIKE THIS Small Business. A business ...

  10. What is Strategic Planning? A 5-Step Guide [2024] • Asana

    Strategic planning is a business process that helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. During the strategic planning process, stakeholders review and define the organization's mission and goals, conduct competitive assessments, and identify company goals and objectives.

  11. Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills

    Strategic planning and business modeling: This includes identifying growth opportunities, setting targets, ... They should keep up with market dynamics, competition activity, and other industry ...

  12. What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Essentials Explained

    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 ...

  13. Organizational Planning Guide: Types of Plans, Steps, and Examples

    Theoretically, activities carried out on a day-to-day basis (defined by the operational plan) should help reach tactical goals, which in turn supports the overall strategic plan. ... Organizational Planning is Vital for a Successful Business. While organizational planning is a long and complex process, it's integral to the success of your ...

  14. 6 strategic planning activities for your organization

    1. Set yourself up for success with a strategic analysis Strategic analysis is a vital component of the strategic planning process. It involves a comprehensive evaluation of both internal and external factors that can impact your company's success.

  15. 550+ Sample Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own

    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 format in favor of a cell-based template.

  16. Practical Business Planning

    Business planning is an essential activity when thinking about a new business venture or project. By taking the time to discover all of the key facts and figures described in the seven business planning areas above, you'll gain an excellent grasp of how you're going to implement your ideas, and what financial investment, and gains, you can ...

  17. 7 Strategic Planning Models and 8 Frameworks To Start [2023] • Asana

    1. Basic model. The basic strategic planning model is ideal for establishing your company's vision, mission, business objectives, and values. This model helps you outline the specific steps you need to take to reach your goals, monitor progress to keep everyone on target, and address issues as they arise.

  18. 24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

    This is a fantastic template for an existing business that's strategically shifting directions. If your company has been around for a while, and you're looking to improve your bottom line or revitalize your strategy, this is an excellent template to use and follow. 5. BPlan's Free Business Plan Template.

  19. Team Building Exercises

    Use the exercises below to strengthen your team's strategic thinking and planning skills. The activities should also help to improve communication and collaboration skills. You can use them in various ways, for example with a group of new managers, or to refresh the skills of senior leaders. Exercise 1: Early Bird vs.

  20. Business Activities: Definition and 3 Main Types

    There are three main types of business activities: operating, investing, and financing. The cash flows used and created by each of these activities are listed in the cash flow statement. The...

  21. 4 Strategic Planning Exercises That You Should Do Annually

    To achieve it, here are four exercises you can engage your leadership team in, and if appropriate, loop in more members from the rest of your organization. 1. SWOT analysis, on a department-by ...

  22. Annual Planning: 6 Steps to Plan a Fiscal Year [2024] • Asana

    Annual plans drive clarity and accountability Annual planning gives your business a needed roadmap or template for the upcoming year. Seventy-five percent of successful companies have a formal and pre-established system to inform on and manage their strategy. It builds a connection between your employees' goals and work, making it easier for them to generate results-based outcomes and ...

  23. Business Activities

    Recommended Articles Key Takeaways Business activities refer to all kinds of activities firms conduct to achieve their purpose. It generates revenue and ensures business continuity. Examples include production, marketing, and sales. The three types of activities are operating, investing, and financing activities.

  24. A Checklist for Business Analysis Planning

    The most significant project dynamics include: The methodology, or sequence of stages or major milestones, and the business analysis products or outcomes that are expected by the end of each stage/milestone (and before starting the next).

  25. 80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

    9 Ways to Keep Strategy Meetings Fresh 12 Ideas for Spicing Up Strategy Meetings in the Boardroom via the Bedroom 11 Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning Activities 8 Icebreaker Activities 5 Fun Strategic Planning Activities 3 Short, Funny Strategy Questions 7 Types of Strategy Planning Fun

  26. What Is a Marketing Plan? And How to Create One

    A marketing plan is a document that a business uses to execute a marketing strategy. It is tactical in nature, and, as later sections of this article explore, it typically includes campaign objectives, buyer personas, competitive analysis, key performance indicators, an action plan, and a method for analyzing campaign results.

  27. Three Exercises For Your Annual Team Planning Day

    Exercise One: The One-Page Strategy And Plan This is exactly what it sounds like.