How to Write a Small Business Financial Plan

Stairs leading up to a dollar sign. Represents creating a financial plan to achieve profitability.

Noah Parsons

4 min. read

Updated April 22, 2024

Creating a financial plan is often the most intimidating part of writing a business plan.

It’s also one of the most vital. Businesses with well-structured and accurate financial statements are more prepared to pitch to investors, receive funding, and achieve long-term success.

Thankfully, you don’t need an accounting degree to successfully create your budget and forecasts.

Here is everything you need to include in your financial plan, along with optional performance metrics, funding specifics, mistakes to avoid , and free templates.

  • Key components of a financial plan

A sound financial plan is made up of six key components that help you easily track and forecast your business financials. They include your:

Sales forecast

What do you expect to sell in a given period? Segment and organize your sales projections with a personalized sales forecast based on your business type.

Subscription sales forecast

While not too different from traditional sales forecasts—there are a few specific terms and calculations you’ll need to know when forecasting sales for a subscription-based business.

Expense budget

Create, review, and revise your expense budget to keep your business on track and more easily predict future expenses.

How to forecast personnel costs

How much do your current, and future, employees’ pay, taxes, and benefits cost your business? Find out by forecasting your personnel costs.

Profit and loss forecast

Track how you make money and how much you spend by listing all of your revenue streams and expenses in your profit and loss statement.

Cash flow forecast

Manage and create projections for the inflow and outflow of cash by building a cash flow statement and forecast.

Balance sheet

Need a snapshot of your business’s financial position? Keep an eye on your assets, liabilities, and equity within the balance sheet.

What to include if you plan to pursue funding

Do you plan to pursue any form of funding or financing? If the answer is yes, then there are a few additional pieces of information that you’ll need to include as part of your financial plan.

Highlight any risks and assumptions

Every entrepreneur takes risks with the biggest being assumptions and guesses about the future. Just be sure to track and address these unknowns in your plan early on.

Plan your exit strategy

Investors will want to know your long-term plans as a business owner. While you don’t need to have all the details, it’s worth taking the time to think through how you eventually plan to leave your business.

  • Financial ratios and metrics

With your financial statements and forecasts in place, you have all the numbers needed to calculate insightful financial ratios.

While including these metrics in your plan is entirely optional, having them easily accessible can be valuable for tracking your performance and overall financial situation.

Key financial terms you should know

It’s not hard. Anybody who can run a business can understand these key financial terms. And every business owner and entrepreneur should know them.

Common business ratios

Unsure of which business ratios you should be using? Check out this list of key financial ratios that bankers, financial analysts, and investors will want to see.

Break-even analysis

Do you want to know when you’ll become profitable? Find out how much you need to sell to offset your production costs by conducting a break-even analysis.

How to calculate ROI

How much could a business decision be worth? Evaluate the efficiency or profitability by calculating the potential return on investment (ROI).

  • How to improve your financial plan

Your financial statements are the core part of your business plan that you’ll revisit most often. Instead of worrying about getting it perfect the first time, check out the following resources to learn how to improve your projections over time.

Common mistakes with business forecasts

I was glad to be asked about common mistakes with startup financial projections. I read about 100 business plans per year, and I have this list of mistakes.

How to improve your financial projections

Learn how to improve your business financial projections by following these five basic guidelines.

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Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

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  • What to include for funding

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  • Creating a Small Business Financial Plan

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Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by subject matter experts.

Updated on September 02, 2023

Get Any Financial Question Answered

Table of contents, financial plan overview.

A financial plan is a comprehensive document that charts a business's monetary objectives and the strategies to achieve them. It encapsulates everything from budgeting and forecasting to investments and resource allocation.

For small businesses, a solid financial plan provides direction, helping them navigate economic challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and ensure sustainable growth.

The strength of a financial plan lies in its ability to offer a clear roadmap for businesses.

Especially for small businesses that may not have a vast reserve of resources, prioritizing financial goals and understanding where every dollar goes can be the difference between growth and stagnation.

It lends clarity, ensures informed decision-making, and sets the stage for profitability and success.

Understanding the Basics of Financial Planning for Small Businesses

Role of financial planning in business success.

Financial planning is the backbone of any successful business endeavor. It serves as a compass, guiding businesses toward profitability, stability, and growth.

With proper financial planning, businesses can anticipate potential cash shortfalls, make informed investment decisions, and ensure they have the capital needed to seize new opportunities.

For small businesses, in particular, tight financial planning can mean the difference between thriving and shuttering. Given the limited resources, it's vital to maximize every dollar and anticipate financial challenges.

Through diligent planning, small businesses can position themselves competitively, adapt to market changes, and drive consistent growth.

Core Components of a Financial Plan for Small Businesses

Every financial plan comprises several core components that, together, provide a holistic view of a business's financial health and direction. These include setting clear objectives, estimating costs , preparing financial statements , and considering sources of financing.

Each component plays a pivotal role in ensuring a thorough and actionable financial strategy .

For small businesses, these components often need a more granular approach. Given the scale of operations, even minor financial missteps can have significant repercussions.

As such, it's essential to tailor each component, ensuring they address specific challenges and opportunities that small businesses face, from initial startup costs to revenue forecasting and budgetary constraints.

Setting Clear Small Business Financial Objectives

Identifying business's short-term and long-term financial goals.

Every business venture starts with a vision. Translating this vision into actionable financial goals is the essence of effective planning.

Short-term goals could range from securing initial funding and achieving a set monthly revenue to covering startup costs. These targets, usually spanning a year or less, set the immediate direction for the business.

On the other hand, long-term financial goals delve into the broader horizon. They might encompass aspirations like expanding to new locations, diversifying product lines, or achieving a specific market share within a decade.

By segmenting goals into short-term and long-term, businesses can craft a step-by-step strategy, making the larger vision more attainable and manageable.

Understanding the Difference Between Profitability and Cash Flow

Profitability and cash flow, while closely linked, are distinct concepts in the financial realm. Profitability pertains to the ability of a business to generate a surplus after deducting all expenses.

It's a metric of success and indicates the viability of a business model . Simply put, it answers whether a business is making more than it spends.

In contrast, cash flow represents the inflow and outflow of cash within a business. A company might be profitable on paper yet struggle with cash flow if, for instance, clients delay payments or unexpected expenses arise.

For small businesses, maintaining positive cash flow is paramount. It ensures that they can cover operational costs, pay employees, and reinvest in growth, even if they're awaiting payments or navigating financial hiccups.

Estimating Small Business Startup Costs (for New Businesses)

Fixed vs variable costs.

When embarking on a new business venture, understanding costs is paramount. Fixed costs remain consistent regardless of production levels. They include expenses like rent, salaries, and insurance . These are predictable outlays that don't fluctuate with business performance.

Variable costs , conversely, change in direct proportion to production or business activity. Think of costs associated with materials for manufacturing or commission for sales .

For a startup, delineating between fixed and variable costs aids in crafting a more dynamic budget, allowing for adaptability as the business scales and evolves.

One-Time Expenditures vs Ongoing Expenses

Startups often grapple with numerous upfront costs. From purchasing equipment and setting up a workspace to initial marketing campaigns, these one-time expenditures lay the foundation for business operations.

They differ from ongoing expenses like utility bills, raw materials, or employee wages that recur monthly or annually.

For a small business owner, distinguishing between these costs is critical. One-time expenditures often demand a larger chunk of initial capital, while ongoing expenses shape the monthly and annual budget.

By categorizing them separately, businesses can strategize funding needs more effectively, ensuring they're equipped to meet both immediate and recurrent financial obligations.

Funding Sources for Small Businesses

Personal savings.

This is often the most straightforward way to fund a startup. Entrepreneurs tap into their personal savings accounts to jumpstart their business.

While this method has the benefit of not incurring debt or diluting company ownership, it intertwines the individual's personal financial security with the business's fate.

The entrepreneur must be prepared for potential losses, and there's the evident psychological strain of putting one's hard-earned money on the line.

Loans can be sourced from various institutions, from traditional banks to credit unions . They offer a substantial sum of money that can be paid back over time, usually with interest .

The main advantage of taking a loan is that the entrepreneur retains full ownership and control of the business.

However, there's the obligation of monthly repayments, which can strain a business's cash flow, especially in its early days. Additionally, securing a loan often requires collateral and a sound credit history.

Investors, including angel investors and venture capitalists , offer capital in exchange for equity or a stake in the company.

Angel investors are typically high-net-worth individuals who provide funding in the initial stages, while venture capitalists come in when there's proven business potential, often injecting larger sums. The advantage is substantial funding without the immediate pressure of repayments.

However, in exchange for their investment, they often seek a say in business decisions, which might mean compromising on some aspects of the original business vision.

Grants are essentially 'free money' often provided by government programs, non-profit organizations, or corporations to promote innovation and support businesses in specific sectors.

The primary advantage of grants is that they don't need to be repaid, nor do they dilute company ownership. However, they can be highly competitive and might come with stipulations on how the funds should be used.

Moreover, the application process can be lengthy and requires showcasing the business's potential or alignment with the specific goals or missions of the granting institution.

Funding Sources for Small Businesses

Preparing Key Financial Statements for Small Businesses

Income statement (profit & loss).

An Income Statement , often termed as the Profit & Loss statement , showcases a business's financial performance over a specific time frame. It details revenues , expenses, and ultimately, profits or losses.

By analyzing this statement, business owners can pinpoint revenue drivers, identify exorbitant costs, and understand the net result of their operations.

For small businesses, this document is instrumental in making informed decisions. For instance, if a certain product line is consistently unprofitable, it might be prudent to discontinue it. Conversely, if another segment is thriving, it might warrant further investment.

The Income Statement, thus, serves as a financial mirror, reflecting the outcomes of business strategies and decisions.

Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet offers a snapshot of a company's assets , liabilities , and equity at a specific point in time.

Assets include everything the business owns, from physical items like equipment to intangible assets like patents .

Liabilities, on the other hand, encompass what the company owes, be it bank loans or unpaid bills.

Equity represents the owner's stake in the business, calculated as assets minus liabilities.

This statement is crucial for small businesses as it offers insights into their financial health. A robust asset base, minimal liabilities, and growing equity signify a thriving enterprise.

In contrast, mounting liabilities or dwindling assets could be red flags, signaling the need for intervention and strategy recalibration.

Cash Flow Statement

While the Income Statement reveals profitability, the Cash Flow Statement tracks the actual movement of money.

It categorizes cash flows into operating (day-to-day business), investing (buying/selling assets), and financing (loans or equity transactions) activities. This statement unveils the liquidity of a business, indicating whether it has sufficient cash to meet immediate obligations.

For small businesses, maintaining positive cash flow is often more vital than showcasing profitability.

After all, a business might be profitable on paper yet struggle if clients delay payments or unforeseen expenses emerge.

By regularly reviewing the Cash Flow Statement, small business owners can anticipate cash crunches and strategize accordingly, ensuring seamless operations irrespective of revenue cycles.

Preparing Key Financial Statements for Small Businesses

Small Business Budgeting and Expense Management

Importance of budgeting for a small business.

Budgeting is the financial blueprint for any business, detailing anticipated revenues and expenses for a forthcoming period. It's a proactive approach, enabling businesses to allocate resources efficiently, plan for investments, and prepare for potential financial challenges.

For small businesses, a meticulous budget is often the linchpin of stability, ensuring they operate within their means and avoid financial pitfalls.

Having a well-defined budget also fosters discipline. It curtails frivolous spending, emphasizes cost-efficiency, and sets clear financial boundaries.

For small businesses, where every dollar counts, a stringent budget is the gateway to financial prudence, ensuring that funds are utilized judiciously, fostering growth, and minimizing wastage.

Strategies for Reducing Costs and Optimizing Expenses

Bulk purchasing.

When businesses buy supplies in large quantities, they often benefit from discounts due to economies of scale . This can significantly reduce per-unit costs.

However, while bulk purchasing leads to immediate savings, businesses must ensure they have adequate storage and that the products won't expire or become obsolete before they're used.

Renegotiating Vendor Contracts

Regularly reviewing and renegotiating contracts with suppliers or service providers can lead to better terms and lower costs. This might involve exploring volume discounts, longer payment terms, or even bartering services.

Building strong relationships with vendors often paves the way for such negotiations.

Adopting Energy-Saving Measures

Simple changes, like switching to LED lighting or investing in energy-efficient appliances, can lead to long-term savings in utility bills. Moreover, energy conservation not only reduces costs but also minimizes the environmental footprint, which can enhance the business's reputation.

Embracing Technology

Modern software and technology can streamline business processes. Automation tools can handle repetitive tasks, reducing labor costs.

Meanwhile, data analytics tools can provide insights into customer preferences and behavior, ensuring that marketing budgets are used effectively and target the right audience.

Streamlining Operations

Regularly reviewing and refining business processes can eliminate redundancies and improve efficiency. This might mean merging roles, cutting down on unnecessary meetings, or simplifying supply chains. A leaner operation often translates to reduced expenses.

Outsourcing Non-core Tasks

Instead of maintaining an in-house team for every function, businesses can outsource tasks that aren't central to their operations.

For instance, functions like accounting , IT support, or digital marketing can be outsourced to specialized agencies, often leading to cost savings and access to expert skills.

Cultivating a Culture of Frugality

Encouraging employees to adopt a cost-conscious mindset can lead to collective savings. This can be fostered through incentives, regular training, or even simple practices like recycling and reusing office supplies.

When everyone in the organization is attuned to the importance of cost savings, the cumulative effect can be substantial.

Strategies for Reducing Costs and Optimizing Expenses in a Small Business

Forecasting Small Business Revenue and Cash Flow

Techniques for predicting future sales in a small business, past sales data analysis.

Historical sales data is a foundational element in any forecasting effort. By reviewing previous sales figures, businesses can identify patterns, understand seasonal fluctuations, and recognize the effects of past initiatives.

This information offers a baseline upon which to build future projections, accounting for known recurring variables in the business cycle .

Market Research

Understanding the larger market dynamics is crucial for accurate forecasting. This involves tracking industry trends, monitoring shifts in consumer behavior, and being aware of potential market disruptions.

For instance, a sudden technological advancement can change consumer preferences or regulatory changes might impact an industry.

Local Trend Analysis

For small businesses, localized insights can be especially impactful. Observing local competitors, understanding regional consumer preferences, or noting shifts in the local economy can offer precise data points.

These granular details, when integrated into a larger forecasting model, can enhance prediction accuracy.

Customer Feedback

Direct feedback from customers is an invaluable source of insights. Surveys, focus groups, or even informal chats can reveal customer sentiments, preferences, and potential future purchasing behavior.

For instance, if a majority of loyal customers express interest in a new product or service, it can be indicative of future sales potential.

Moving Averages

This technique involves analyzing a series of data points (like monthly sales) by creating averages from different subsets of the full data set.

For yearly forecasting, a 12-month moving average can be used to smooth out short-term fluctuations and highlight longer-term trends or cycles.

Regression Analysis

Regression analysis is a statistical tool used to identify relationships between variables. In sales forecasting, it can help understand how different factors (like marketing spend, seasonal variations, or competitor actions) relate to sales figures.

Once these relationships are understood, businesses can predict future sales based on planned actions or expected external events.

Techniques for Predicting Future Sales in a Small Business

Understanding the Cash Cycle of Business

The cash cycle encompasses the time it takes for a business to convert resource investments, often in the form of inventory, back into cash.

This involves the processes of purchasing inventory, selling it, and subsequently collecting payment. A shorter cycle implies quicker cash turnarounds, which are vital for liquidity.

For small businesses, a firm grasp of the cash cycle can aid in managing cash flow more effectively.

By identifying bottlenecks or delays, businesses can strategize to expedite processes. This might involve renegotiating payment terms with suppliers, offering discounts for prompt customer payments, or optimizing inventory levels to prevent overstocking.

Ultimately, understanding and optimizing the cash cycle ensures that a business remains liquid and agile.

Preparing for Seasonality and Unexpected Changes

Seasonality affects many businesses, from the ice cream vendor witnessing summer surges to the retailer bracing for holiday shopping frenzies.

By analyzing historical data and market trends, businesses can prepare for these cyclical shifts, ensuring they stock up, staff appropriately, and market effectively.

Small businesses, often operating on tighter margins , need to be especially vigilant. Beyond seasonality, they must also brace for unexpected changes – a local construction project obstructing store access, a sudden competitor emergence, or unforeseen regulatory changes.

Building a financial buffer, diversifying product or service lines, and maintaining flexible operational strategies can equip small businesses to weather these unforeseen challenges with resilience.

Securing Small Business Financing and Capital

Role of debt and equity financing.

When businesses seek external funding, they often grapple with the debt vs. equity conundrum. Debt financing involves borrowing money, typically via loans. While it doesn't dilute ownership, it necessitates regular interest payments, potentially impacting cash flow.

Equity financing, on the other hand, entails selling a stake in the business to investors. It might not demand regular repayments, but it dilutes ownership and might influence business decisions.

Small businesses must weigh these options carefully. While loans offer a structured repayment plan and retained control, they might strain finances if the business hits a rough patch.

Equity financing, although relinquishing some control, might bring aboard strategic partners, offering expertise and networks in addition to funds.

The optimal choice hinges on the business's financial health, growth aspirations, and the founder's comfort with sharing control.

Choosing Between Different Types of Loans

A staple in the lending arena, term loans offer businesses a fixed amount of capital that is paid back over a specified period with interest. They're often used for significant one-time expenses, such as purchasing machinery, real estate , or even business expansion.

With predictable monthly payments, businesses can plan their budgets accordingly. However, they might require collateral and a robust credit history for approval.

Lines of Credit

Unlike term loans that provide funds in a lump sum, a line of credit grants businesses access to a pool of funds up to a certain limit.

Businesses can draw from this line as needed, only paying interest on the amount they use. This makes it a versatile tool, especially for managing cash flow fluctuations or unexpected expenses. It serves as a financial safety net, ready for use whenever required.

As the name suggests, microloans are smaller loans designed to cater to businesses that might not need substantial amounts of capital. They're particularly beneficial for startups, businesses with limited credit histories, or those in need of a quick, small financial boost.

Since they are of a smaller denomination, the approval process might be more lenient than traditional loans.

Peer-To-Peer Lending

A contemporary twist to the traditional lending model, peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms connect borrowers directly with individual lenders or investor groups.

This direct model often translates to quicker approvals and competitive interest rates as the overheads of traditional banking structures are removed. With technology at its core, P2P lending can offer a more user-friendly, streamlined process.

However, creditworthiness still plays a pivotal role in determining interest rates and loan amounts.

Crowdfunding and Alternative Financing Options

In an increasingly digital age, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo have emerged as viable financing avenues.

These platforms enable businesses to raise small amounts from a large number of people, often in exchange for product discounts, early access, or other perks. This not only secures funds but also validates the business idea and fosters a community of supporters.

Other alternatives include invoice financing, where businesses get an advance on pending invoices, or merchant cash advances tailored for businesses with significant credit card sales.

Each financing mode offers unique advantages and constraints. Small businesses must meticulously evaluate their financial landscape, growth trajectories, and risk appetite to harness the most suitable option.

Small Business Tax Planning and Management

Basic tax obligations for small businesses.

Navigating the maze of taxation can be daunting, especially for small businesses. Yet, understanding and fulfilling tax obligations is crucial.

Depending on the business structure—whether sole proprietorship , partnership , LLC , or corporation—different tax rules apply. For instance, while corporations are taxed on their earnings, sole proprietors report business income and expenses on their personal tax returns.

In addition to income taxes, small businesses may also be responsible for employment taxes if they have employees. This covers Social Security , Medicare , federal unemployment, and sometimes state-specific taxes.

There might also be sales taxes, property taxes, or special state-specific levies to consider.

Consistently maintaining accurate financial records, being aware of filing deadlines, and setting aside funds for tax obligations are essential practices to avoid penalties and ensure compliance.

Advantages of Tax Planning and Potential Deductions

Tax planning is the strategic approach to minimizing tax liability through the best use of available allowances, deductions, exclusions, and breaks.

For small businesses, effective tax planning can lead to significant savings.

This might involve strategies like deferring income to a later tax year, choosing the optimal time to purchase equipment, or taking advantage of specific credits available to businesses in certain sectors or regions.

Several potential deductions can reduce taxable income for small businesses. These include expenses like rent, utilities, business travel, employee wages, and even certain meals.

By keeping abreast of tax law changes and actively seeking out eligible deductions, small businesses can optimize their financial landscape, ensuring they're not paying more in taxes than necessary.

Importance of Hiring a Tax Professional or Accountant

While it's feasible for small business owners to manage their taxes, the intricate nuances of tax laws make it beneficial to consult professionals.

An experienced accountant or tax consultant can not only ensure compliance but can proactively recommend strategies to reduce tax liability.

They can guide businesses on issues like whether to classify someone as an employee or a contractor, how to structure the business for optimal taxation, or when to make certain capital investments.

Beyond just annual tax filing, these professionals offer year-round counsel, helping businesses maintain clean financial records, stay updated on tax law changes, and plan for future financial moves.

The investment in professional advice often pays dividends , saving businesses from costly mistakes, penalties, or missed financial opportunities.

Regularly Reviewing and Adjusting the Small Business Financial Plan

Setting checkpoints and milestones.

Like any strategic blueprint, a financial plan isn't static. It serves as a guiding framework but should be flexible enough to adapt to evolving business realities.

Setting regular checkpoints— quarterly , half-yearly, or annually—can help businesses assess whether they're on track to meet their financial objectives.

Milestones, such as reaching a specific sales target, launching a new product, or expanding into a new market, offer tangible markers of progress. Celebrating these victories can bolster morale, while any shortfalls can serve as lessons, prompting strategy tweaks. F

or small businesses, where agility is an asset, regularly revisiting the financial plan ensures that the business remains aligned with its overarching financial goals while being responsive to the dynamic marketplace.

Using Financial Ratios to Monitor Business Health

Financial ratios offer a distilled snapshot of a business's health. Ratios like the current ratio ( current assets divided by current liabilities ) can shed light on liquidity, indicating whether a business can meet short-term obligations.

The debt-to-equity ratio , contrasting borrowed funds with owner's equity, offers insights into the business's leverage and potential financial risk.

Profit margin , depicting profitability relative to sales, can highlight operational efficiency. By consistently monitoring these and other pertinent ratios, small businesses can glean actionable insights, understanding their financial strengths and areas needing attention.

In a realm where early intervention can stave off major financial setbacks, these ratios serve as vital diagnostic tools, guiding informed decision-making.

Pivoting Strategies Based on Financial Performance

In the ever-evolving world of business, flexibility is paramount. If financial reviews indicate that certain strategies aren't yielding anticipated results, it might be time to pivot.

This could involve tweaking product offerings, revising pricing strategies, targeting a different customer segment, or even overhauling the business model.

For small businesses, the ability to pivot can be a lifeline. It allows them to respond swiftly to market changes, customer feedback, or internal challenges.

A robust financial plan, while offering direction, should also be pliable, accommodating shifts in strategy based on real-world performance. After all, in the business arena, adaptability often spells the difference between stagnation and growth.

Creating a Small Business Financial Plan

Bottom Line

Financial foresight is integral for the stability and growth of small businesses. Effective revenue and cash flow forecasting, anchored by historical sales data and enhanced by market research, local trends, and customer feedback, ensures businesses are prepared for future demands.

With the unpredictability of the business environment, understanding the cash cycle and preparing for unforeseen challenges is essential.

As businesses contemplate external financing, the decision between debt and equity and the myriad of loan types, should be made judiciously, keeping in mind the business's health, growth aspirations, and risk appetite.

Furthermore, diligent tax planning, with professional guidance, can lead to significant financial benefits. Regular reviews using financial ratios allow businesses to gauge their performance, adapt strategies, and pivot when necessary.

Ultimately, the agility to adapt, guided by a well-structured financial plan, is pivotal for businesses to thrive in a dynamic marketplace.

Creating a Small Business Financial Plan FAQs

What is the importance of a financial plan for small businesses.

A financial plan offers a structured roadmap, guiding businesses in making informed decisions, ensuring growth, and navigating financial challenges.

How do forecasting revenue and understanding cash cycles aid in financial planning?

Forecasting provides insights into expected income, aiding in budget allocation, while understanding cash cycles ensures effective liquidity management.

What are the core components of a financial plan for small businesses?

Core components include setting objectives, estimating startup costs, preparing financial statements, budgeting, forecasting, securing financing, and tax management.

Why is tax planning vital for small businesses?

Tax planning ensures compliance, optimizes tax liabilities through available deductions, and helps businesses save money and avoid penalties.

How often should a small business review its financial plan?

Regular reviews, ideally quarterly or half-yearly, ensure alignment with business goals and allow for strategy adjustments based on real-world performance.

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide , a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University , where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon , Nasdaq and Forbes .

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How to Create a Small Business Financial Plan (w/ Example)

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy but in any given year, thousands of small businesses close their doors. There are many reasons that may happen, but one is a lack of proper financial planning.

At Select Funding, small business owners are at the heart of what we do. We understand how crucial it is for any business to have a financial plan that spells out the company’s business goals, plans for financial management , and all other relevant information. With that in mind, here is your guide to creating a small business financial plan. We’ve even included a template to help you create your own financial plan.

What is Small Business Financial Planning?

Small business financial planning involves reviewing the financial status of your small business to get an overview and determine whether you have the resources you need to turn your small business into a success story.

The process of financial planning, while challenging, can help you understand how much cash and other resources you have to enable you to measure your progress and meet your business goals. It’s a key step in determining whether your business idea is sustainable.

The document that you need to create is a small business financial plan, which should incorporate key figures including information about your business income and cash flow and other details that will provide you with a clear picture of your finances.

We will share a full template to create a financial plan with you later in this post, but for now, the most important thing to understand is that your financial plan is an overview of your business finances and resources.

Free Download: Small Business Budget Template

Why is it Important for a Small Business to Have a Financial Plan?

We believe that it’s beneficial and essential for every small business to have a financial plan. Here are some of the most important reasons to have one.

Benefit #1: It Helps You Assess Your Business Financial Needs

A small business financial plan is essential because it helps business owners to assess their business’s financial needs. Without a clear overview of your financial status and prospects, it may be difficult to know when it’s time to obtain additional small business financing.

Benefit #2: It Helps You Project Your Growth

It’s difficult to get a small business off the ground and grow it into a successful and sustainable organization. Having a small business financial plan puts the financial facts at your fingertips, making it easy to project your future growth and – just as importantly – set realistic and achievable financial goals.

Benefit #3: It Helps You Recognize Opportunities

When you own and run a small business, it’s essential to have the agility ( and resources ) to recognize and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Without proper financial management, including the creation of a financial plan, it’s likely that you’ll miss opportunities or lack the resources to take advantage of them when you spot them.

Benefit #4: It Helps You Evaluate Your Progress

If you’re not tracking key metrics such as cash flow and revenue, you may not realize how far your company has come – or how far it could go. A small business financial plan is a living document that you can use to assess your progress, celebrate your achievements, and reallocate resources when necessary.

Benefit #5: It Empowers You for Crisis Management

Even the most successful companies experience a crisis now and again. An example is what happened when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many businesses or required them to pivot to survive in unforeseen circumstances. Having a financial plan allows small business owners to review their finances and resources quickly, so they can make informed decisions that benefit the company and ensure its survival.

Benefit #6: It Helps with Risk Management

Running a business comes with some unavoidable risks, but some risks are avoidable and having a business financial plan can help you identify them and avoid them before they damage your company. For example, you can put guidelines in place to avoid overspending and create a contingency plan and emergency fund to use if you experience a sales slump or some other crisis.

Benefit #7: It Helps with Fundraising

Finally, every small business needs an injection of cash at some point. The cash may come from small business financing such as a term loan or a line of credit or it may come from a private investor. Either way, having a financial plan will help you determine how much cash you need. It will also make you more attractive to lenders and investors when you have a handle on your finances.

What Does a Small Business Financial Plan Include?

Before we get into the steps required to write a small business financial plan, here’s an overview of the things that should be included in such a plan:

  • Balance sheet. Your balance sheet serves as a snapshot of your company’s financial position, showing the differences between your assets and liabilities at the moment it is created. The difference between what you have and what you owe is your business’s net worth. The balance sheet should also include a snapshot of equity, including your equity as an owner and that of any investors.
  • Break-even analysis. Your break-even analysis is essential because it tells you how long it will take you to break even, or recoup your investments in your company. These investments may include startup costs and expenses for ongoing operations. The break-even should include a breakdown of both fixed and variable costs. You’ll need to use your sales projection to determine how long it will take you to break even.
  • Cash flow statement. Your cash flow statement should reveal both where your cash is coming from and where it’s going. If you’re starting a business, you may not have very much information, but you should include your funding sources and your start-up expenses. An established business can use bank statements to analyze cash flow.
  • Sales forecast. Your sales forecast is useful because it requires you to look ahead and determine how many sales you expect to make and how much money those sales will generate. 
  • Personnel plan. Finally, your personnel plan serves as an overview of departments within your business, individual positions within those departments, and information about the purpose of each. This element may not be necessary if your business has only a few employees.

Another way of looking at it is that your financial plan should serve as a complete overview of your business’s financial position and projections.

Download the Small Business Budget Template

How Do You Write a Small Business Financial Plan?

Before we share our small business financial plan template with you, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to create your small business financial plan:

  • Create a list of your existing business assets, liabilities, and equity. Make sure to include any cash you have on hand, including money from investors, as well as a list of any debts you have incurred.
  • Think about your strategic goals and what you hope to achieve. For each goal, estimate what resources, financial and otherwise, you will need to achieve it. You should also think about the impact each goal will have on your cash flow .
  • Work on your financial projections. These should include sales projections and income projections. It’s our recommendation to create a projection based on your most optimistic assumptions, one created based on your most pessimistic assumptions, and one that illustrates the most likely and realistic scenario.
  • Do the necessary calculations. Looking at the list of reports that should be included in your financial plan as outlined in the previous section, do the necessary calculations, so you can include correct figures in your plan.
  • Plan for contingencies. Think about what you will do if you run into a cash shortage or fail to meet one of your goals. Deciding ahead of time where you’ll find the money to make up a shortfall makes it less likely that you’ll take the wrong steps.

Once your small business financial plan is complete, it’s essential to revisit it periodically and update it with new cash flow projections, etc. Remember, your financial plan is a living document.

Small Business Financial Plan Template

Here is a basic template that you can use to create your small business financial plan.

Financial Overview: Use this space to provide an overview with key points and takeaways of the financial data included in your plan.

Key Financial Ratios and Indicators: Calculate key ratios and input them here, including ratios for debt, profitability, operations, liquidity, and working capital.

Break-Even Analysis

Financial Statements

Profit and Loss Statement

Cash Flow Statement

Balance Sheet

Sales Forecast

Assumptions

Use this section to support the values provided in your financial plan.

Keep in mind that creating a complete small business financial plan will increase the chances that you can meet financial challenges as they arise and attain your business goals.

Have You Done Financial Planning for Your Business?

Creating a small business financial plan is something that can help you as a business owner. Doing the calculations and making the recommended financial projections decreases the likelihood that you’ll stumble when faced with a crisis and increases your chances of success.

Do you need help with financial planning for your small business? Select Funding has the financing solutions you need. Click here to learn about our small business financing and begin the application process today.

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Free Financial Templates for a Business Plan

By Andy Marker | July 29, 2020

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In this article, we’ve rounded up expert-tested financial templates for your business plan, all of which are free to download in Excel, Google Sheets, and PDF formats.

Included on this page, you’ll find the essential financial statement templates, including income statement templates , cash flow statement templates , and balance sheet templates . Plus, we cover the key elements of the financial section of a business plan .

Financial Plan Templates

Download and prepare these financial plan templates to include in your business plan. Use historical data and future projections to produce an overview of the financial health of your organization to support your business plan and gain buy-in from stakeholders

Business Financial Plan Template

Business Financial Plan Template

Use this financial plan template to organize and prepare the financial section of your business plan. This customizable template has room to provide a financial overview, any important assumptions, key financial indicators and ratios, a break-even analysis, and pro forma financial statements to share key financial data with potential investors.

Download Financial Plan Template

Word | PDF | Smartsheet

Financial Plan Projections Template for Startups

Startup Financial Projections Template

This financial plan projections template comes as a set of pro forma templates designed to help startups. The template set includes a 12-month profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement for you to detail the current and projected financial position of a business.

‌ Download Startup Financial Projections Template

Excel | Smartsheet

Income Statement Templates for Business Plan

Also called profit and loss statements , these income statement templates will empower you to make critical business decisions by providing insight into your company, as well as illustrating the projected profitability associated with business activities. The numbers prepared in your income statement directly influence the cash flow and balance sheet forecasts.

Pro Forma Income Statement/Profit and Loss Sample

create a small business financial plan

Use this pro forma income statement template to project income and expenses over a three-year time period. Pro forma income statements consider historical or market analysis data to calculate the estimated sales, cost of sales, profits, and more.

‌ Download Pro Forma Income Statement Sample - Excel

Small Business Profit and Loss Statement

Small Business Profit and Loss Template

Small businesses can use this simple profit and loss statement template to project income and expenses for a specific time period. Enter expected income, cost of goods sold, and business expenses, and the built-in formulas will automatically calculate the net income.

‌ Download Small Business Profit and Loss Template - Excel

3-Year Income Statement Template

3 Year Income Statement Template

Use this income statement template to calculate and assess the profit and loss generated by your business over three years. This template provides room to enter revenue and expenses associated with operating your business and allows you to track performance over time.

Download 3-Year Income Statement Template

For additional resources, including how to use profit and loss statements, visit “ Download Free Profit and Loss Templates .”

Cash Flow Statement Templates for Business Plan

Use these free cash flow statement templates to convey how efficiently your company manages the inflow and outflow of money. Use a cash flow statement to analyze the availability of liquid assets and your company’s ability to grow and sustain itself long term.

Simple Cash Flow Template

create a small business financial plan

Use this basic cash flow template to compare your business cash flows against different time periods. Enter the beginning balance of cash on hand, and then detail itemized cash receipts, payments, costs of goods sold, and expenses. Once you enter those values, the built-in formulas will calculate total cash payments, net cash change, and the month ending cash position.

Download Simple Cash Flow Template

12-Month Cash Flow Forecast Template

create a small business financial plan

Use this cash flow forecast template, also called a pro forma cash flow template, to track and compare expected and actual cash flow outcomes on a monthly and yearly basis. Enter the cash on hand at the beginning of each month, and then add the cash receipts (from customers, issuance of stock, and other operations). Finally, add the cash paid out (purchases made, wage expenses, and other cash outflow). Once you enter those values, the built-in formulas will calculate your cash position for each month with.

‌ Download 12-Month Cash Flow Forecast

3-Year Cash Flow Statement Template Set

3 Year Cash Flow Statement Template

Use this cash flow statement template set to analyze the amount of cash your company has compared to its expenses and liabilities. This template set contains a tab to create a monthly cash flow statement, a yearly cash flow statement, and a three-year cash flow statement to track cash flow for the operating, investing, and financing activities of your business.

Download 3-Year Cash Flow Statement Template

For additional information on managing your cash flow, including how to create a cash flow forecast, visit “ Free Cash Flow Statement Templates .”

Balance Sheet Templates for a Business Plan

Use these free balance sheet templates to convey the financial position of your business during a specific time period to potential investors and stakeholders.

Small Business Pro Forma Balance Sheet

create a small business financial plan

Small businesses can use this pro forma balance sheet template to project account balances for assets, liabilities, and equity for a designated period. Established businesses can use this template (and its built-in formulas) to calculate key financial ratios, including working capital.

Download Pro Forma Balance Sheet Template

Monthly and Quarterly Balance Sheet Template

create a small business financial plan

Use this balance sheet template to evaluate your company’s financial health on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. You can also use this template to project your financial position for a specified time in the future. Once you complete the balance sheet, you can compare and analyze your assets, liabilities, and equity on a quarter-over-quarter or year-over-year basis.

Download Monthly/Quarterly Balance Sheet Template - Excel

Yearly Balance Sheet Template

create a small business financial plan

Use this balance sheet template to compare your company’s short and long-term assets, liabilities, and equity year-over-year. This template also provides calculations for common financial ratios with built-in formulas, so you can use it to evaluate account balances annually.

Download Yearly Balance Sheet Template - Excel

For more downloadable resources for a wide range of organizations, visit “ Free Balance Sheet Templates .”

Sales Forecast Templates for Business Plan

Sales projections are a fundamental part of a business plan, and should support all other components of your plan, including your market analysis, product offerings, and marketing plan . Use these sales forecast templates to estimate future sales, and ensure the numbers align with the sales numbers provided in your income statement.

Basic Sales Forecast Sample Template

Basic Sales Forecast Template

Use this basic forecast template to project the sales of a specific product. Gather historical and industry sales data to generate monthly and yearly estimates of the number of units sold and the price per unit. Then, the pre-built formulas will calculate percentages automatically. You’ll also find details about which months provide the highest sales percentage, and the percentage change in sales month-over-month. 

Download Basic Sales Forecast Sample Template

12-Month Sales Forecast Template for Multiple Products

create a small business financial plan

Use this sales forecast template to project the future sales of a business across multiple products or services over the course of a year. Enter your estimated monthly sales, and the built-in formulas will calculate annual totals. There is also space to record and track year-over-year sales, so you can pinpoint sales trends.

Download 12-Month Sales Forecasting Template for Multiple Products

3-Year Sales Forecast Template for Multiple Products

3 Year Sales Forecast Template

Use this sales forecast template to estimate the monthly and yearly sales for multiple products over a three-year period. Enter the monthly units sold, unit costs, and unit price. Once you enter those values, built-in formulas will automatically calculate revenue, margin per unit, and gross profit. This template also provides bar charts and line graphs to visually display sales and gross profit year over year.

Download 3-Year Sales Forecast Template - Excel

For a wider selection of resources to project your sales, visit “ Free Sales Forecasting Templates .”

Break-Even Analysis Template for Business Plan

A break-even analysis will help you ascertain the point at which a business, product, or service will become profitable. This analysis uses a calculation to pinpoint the number of service or unit sales you need to make to cover costs and make a profit.

Break-Even Analysis Template

Break Even Analysis

Use this break-even analysis template to calculate the number of sales needed to become profitable. Enter the product's selling price at the top of the template, and then add the fixed and variable costs. Once you enter those values, the built-in formulas will calculate the total variable cost, the contribution margin, and break-even units and sales values.

Download Break-Even Analysis Template

For additional resources, visit, “ Free Financial Planning Templates .”

Business Budget Templates for Business Plan

These business budget templates will help you track costs (e.g., fixed and variable) and expenses (e.g., one-time and recurring) associated with starting and running a business. Having a detailed budget enables you to make sound strategic decisions, and should align with the expense values listed on your income statement.

Startup Budget Template

create a small business financial plan

Use this startup budget template to track estimated and actual costs and expenses for various business categories, including administrative, marketing, labor, and other office costs. There is also room to provide funding estimates from investors, banks, and other sources to get a detailed view of the resources you need to start and operate your business.

Download Startup Budget Template

Small Business Budget Template

create a small business financial plan

This business budget template is ideal for small businesses that want to record estimated revenue and expenditures on a monthly and yearly basis. This customizable template comes with a tab to list income, expenses, and a cash flow recording to track cash transactions and balances.

Download Small Business Budget Template

Professional Business Budget Template

create a small business financial plan

Established organizations will appreciate this customizable business budget template, which  contains a separate tab to track projected business expenses, actual business expenses, variances, and an expense analysis. Once you enter projected and actual expenses, the built-in formulas will automatically calculate expense variances and populate the included visual charts. 

‌ Download Professional Business Budget Template

For additional resources to plan and track your business costs and expenses, visit “ Free Business Budget Templates for Any Company .”

Other Financial Templates for Business Plan

In this section, you’ll find additional financial templates that you may want to include as part of your larger business plan.

Startup Funding Requirements Template

Startup Funding Requirements Template

This simple startup funding requirements template is useful for startups and small businesses that require funding to get business off the ground. The numbers generated in this template should align with those in your financial projections, and should detail the allocation of acquired capital to various startup expenses.

Download Startup Funding Requirements Template - Excel

Personnel Plan Template

Personnel Plan Template

Use this customizable personnel plan template to map out the current and future staff needed to get — and keep — the business running. This information belongs in the personnel section of a business plan, and details the job title, amount of pay, and hiring timeline for each position. This template calculates the monthly and yearly expenses associated with each role using built-in formulas. Additionally, you can add an organizational chart to provide a visual overview of the company’s structure. 

Download Personnel Plan Template - Excel

Elements of the Financial Section of a Business Plan

Whether your organization is a startup, a small business, or an enterprise, the financial plan is the cornerstone of any business plan. The financial section should demonstrate the feasibility and profitability of your idea and should support all other aspects of the business plan. 

Below, you’ll find a quick overview of the components of a solid financial plan.

  • Financial Overview: This section provides a brief summary of the financial section, and includes key takeaways of the financial statements. If you prefer, you can also add a brief description of each statement in the respective statement’s section.
  • Key Assumptions: This component details the basis for your financial projections, including tax and interest rates, economic climate, and other critical, underlying factors.
  • Break-Even Analysis: This calculation helps establish the selling price of a product or service, and determines when a product or service should become profitable.
  • Pro Forma Income Statement: Also known as a profit and loss statement, this section details the sales, cost of sales, profitability, and other vital financial information to stakeholders.
  • Pro Forma Cash Flow Statement: This area outlines the projected cash inflows and outflows the business expects to generate from operating, financing, and investing activities during a specific timeframe.
  • Pro Forma Balance Sheet: This document conveys how your business plans to manage assets, including receivables and inventory.
  • Key Financial Indicators and Ratios: In this section, highlight key financial indicators and ratios extracted from financial statements that bankers, analysts, and investors can use to evaluate the financial health and position of your business.

Need help putting together the rest of your business plan? Check out our free simple business plan templates to get started. You can learn how to write a successful simple business plan  here . 

Visit this  free non-profit business plan template roundup  or download a  fill-in-the-blank business plan template  to make things easy. If you are looking for a business plan template by file type, visit our pages dedicated specifically to  Microsoft Excel ,  Microsoft Word , and  Adobe PDF  business plan templates. Read our articles offering  startup business plan templates  or  free 30-60-90-day business plan templates  to find more tailored options.

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When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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How to Conduct Small Business Financial Planning Effectively

September 14, 2023

by Joanne Camarce

small business financial planning

In this post

  • Why is financial planning important for a small business?

How to craft a strong financial plan for your small business

  • Financial planning considerations small businesses make
  • Financial planning tips for small businesses

As a small business owner, financial planning can feel overwhelming.

But financial planning is crucial for small businesses. Not only does it provide you with an entire overview of your financial health, but it helps you figure out how to grow and develop your business as efficiently as possible. 

There are many budgeting and forecasting software for small businesses that can estimate future revenue and expenses by planning the financial resources you need. 

What is small business financial planning?

Small business financial planning is the process of reviewing revenue, turnover, assets, capital, inventory, and anything else concerning a business's financial affairs. It summarizes the financial health of a business and outlines its financial goals for the future. 

Whether it's a long-term investment plan or a short-term plan for revenue growth, your financial plan will be clear as to what your goals are and how you can plan to achieve them. 

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about financial planning as a small business . We’ll cover what financial planning is, whether you need a financial advisor, and how to create a solid financial plan for your business.

We’ve also got some valuable tips for financial planning as a small business and an overview of a few essential things to bear in mind when creating a financial plan. 

Why is financial planning important for a small business? 

You just finished registering your business through a qualified registered agent . Now, you’ve got a lot on your plate running the actual business, and finance is a complex subject. Here are a few reasons to plan your finances: 

  • Understanding your financial situation: As a small-to-mid-size business, it’s important to have clear oversight of your financial health. With oversight of your finances, you’ll know what resources you have available, what areas of your business are doing well, and what areas need improvement. 
  • Identifying areas of growth: Financial planning is a great way to identify areas of growth. It shows you where you can improve your business and how to spend your money. And as a small business owner, you need to make sure you’re spending your money as efficiently as possible. 
  • Thinking about the long term: Financial planning is the perfect opportunity to think about the long-term growth of your small business. You can create a step-by-step plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be. 

Do you need a financial advisor as a small business owner? 

A financial advisor helps you make informed decisions about what to do with your money and other assets. 

But the question is: do you need one?  In short, no. You don’t need a financial advisor. But there are benefits to using one if you’re running a small business.

These include:

  • Saving time: With a financial advisor taking care of your money, you can spend less time managing your finances and more time running your business.
  • Evaluating market trends: Financial advisors know the industry inside and out. They’re on top of all the latest economic trends that influence the way you run your business. 
  • Saving money: Using a financial advisor isn’t cheap, but it can help you save money in the long run. With such a wide range of industry knowledge, they’ll find ways you can cut costs that you might not have considered.

Even though a financial advisor isn’t a necessity, there are certainly reasons you should think about using one as a small business owner. It might seem like a lot of money to spend, but it’ll save you both time and money. 

Unfortunately, there isn't a one-track system to create a successful financial plan. Every company is different, which means financial plans change from business to business.  But there are some best practices you can follow to make sure your financial plan is as strong and stable as possible. 

Identify any capital required 

First things first, you must identify the capital you need to help your business grow.  Knowing what capital you need helps you plan your finances more efficiently and maximize your resources. 

Not to mention, it allows small business owners to figure out how much they have (in terms of money, resources, and assets) in comparison with what they need. 

So how can you identify the capital you need? First, you need to figure out what capital you already have. This will give you a solid starting point to find the capital you need to get to where you want to be. 

Spend some time reviewing what your business already has, and go from there. Once you know what resources you have available, you can think about what capital you need. 

Create a balance sheet 

A balance sheet reveals your company’s assets, liabilities, and equity. It adds your liabilities (any debt or losses) to your equity (what your business is worth) to determine the value of your assets. 

Here’s an example of a balance sheet in action: 

balance-sheet

When combined with other documents, such as an income statement or cash flow statement , small business owners get a pretty clear picture of their financial health.

How can you create a balance sheet? Follow these steps to create your own: 

  • List all your assets along with their current market value
  • Outline all your debts and liabilities
  • Subtract the value of your liabilities from the total value of all your assets

What you’re left with is the equity ( net worth ) of the business. 

To keep things simple, the free balance sheet template is also available.

Produce a cash flow statement 

As a small business owner, it’s important to keep on top of your operating cash flow . 

Having a healthy cash flow is an important part of running a successful business. It gives you a buffer for emergencies, allows you to pay your employees on time, and provides you with the funds you need to run your business. 

To keep track of your cash flow, you need to create a cash flow statement. A cash flow statement is a financial document that summarizes all the cash going in and out of your company. It shows how the company's operations are running, where money is coming from, and how it’s being spent.

Here’s an example: 

cash-flow-statement

With a cash flow statement in place, you can easily measure how well your company manages its cash position. 

Project your future earnings 

Part of the financial planning process involves projecting your future earnings. The most efficient way to do this is to create an earnings forecast. Based on how your company has performed in the past, you make predictions about future earnings over a specific period. 

In other words, you use past data to predict your future earnings.

But how is this useful for a small business? There are a few ways: 

  • Find your future goals: Forecasting helps you figure out where you want your company to be further down the road and map out the journey to get there. 
  • Align your team: When you conduct an earnings forecast, you create a goal for everyone to work toward. By doing this, you align your company to hit certain targets. 
  • Show investors your roadmap: As a small business, you might be thinking about getting investors involved . An earnings forecast outlines the course of your business development, which investors will certainly want to see. 

Financial planning considerations small businesses make 

For your outline, you only need bullet point descriptions of content you plan to write. When it comes to financial planning, there are certain considerations small businesses need to keep in mind that large companies won’t. 

Or if a large corporation needs to take the same consideration, they’ll probably review it from an entirely different perspective. Let’s take a look at some of the financial planning considerations you need to be aware of as a small business owner. 

1. Retirement planning 

We know what you’re thinking. Isn’t retirement planning important for every business, not just small businesses? You’re right. Every business owner should think about retirement planning. But small business owners need to do it sooner rather than later. 

Large corporations have retirement planning and processes in place for employees. But as a small business owner, this job is up to you. 

Here are a couple of things to think about when it comes to retirement planning: 

  • Distribute your finances: Preparing for retirement involves saving, distributing, and investing your money. The most common investments are usually retirement accounts, which allow you to grow your money with tax benefits and interest. If you’re giving away any assets to friends or family, be sure to check whether they are tax deductible . 
  • Create a will or trust: Retirement planning takes life expectancy into account. Having a living will or trust in place will protect your assets in the event of an accident or incapacitation. 

Get your ducks in a row as soon as possible to make sure you can enjoy a long and happy retirement. The sooner you factor it into your financial plan, the more chance you will reach your goal. 

2. Risk management

Every business faces risk. Whether that’s losing market share to a new competitor or taking a hit in product sales, there’s always a possibility things won’t go to plan. 

But the potential loss for a small business can be detrimental if you don’t have a risk management plan. A risk management plan outlines the possible financial issues your business might face and how to mitigate them. This will ensure that you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario. 

And if you’re thinking about getting an investor on board, they’ll be pleased to know you have a plan to tackle any challenges that come your way.

So when it comes to your financial planning, make sure you think about integrating a risk management plan, too. It might seem like a lot of effort, but if things don’t go your way, you’ll be glad to have a plan of action in place. 

3. Tax planning 

No one wants unexpected fines and charges, especially if you’re a small business. A large fine from the authorities could be the difference between a successful year or cutting costs across the company. 

Fortunately, this is where tax planning can help. 

Tax planning involves organizing your finances in the most tax-efficient way. It identifies areas where you can save money and claim money back. It also reduces your likelihood of getting unwanted fines. As a result, you can put more money back into your business. And as a small business, the more money you can invest in your growth, the better. 

If you’re not sure where to start with tax planning, don’t worry. There’s a lot of tax software out there that can help you out. 

Financial planning tips for small businesses 

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, so let’s wrap things up by looking at four of our most useful financial planning tips for small businesses. 

1. Review your operating expenses 

Operating expenses are costs incurred from your core business operations. For example, the rent you pay for your workspace or your inventory costs.

Taking stock of your operating expenses allows you to identify the cost of running your business, which is vital for financial planning. With this information, you can work out your net profit. This means you can figure out how much money you have leftover after all your expenses are settled. 

And as a small business, keeping on top of your net profit is the key to success. Without an SMB accounting system, you won’t know what money you have available, which could result in overspending. 

If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of expense management platforms out there to make the job easier. 

2. Outline your business goals 

Clearly outlining your business goals gives your financial planning direction. When you have company goals in place, you can tailor your financial plan to achieve those goals. 

Imagine your business goal is to increase your annual turnover by 10% within the next year. As a result, your financial plan outlines how you can cut costs on production to offer a lower price to consumers. 

Take a look at the pricing page from ActiveCampaign . This software is entirely online, meaning it can offer services for a very reasonable price. 

Offering a lower price has a higher chance of increasing your conversions and getting a higher annual turnover. 

Make sure you’re clear on what your company goals are before you create a financial plan. By aligning business goals with the financial planning process, you have a higher chance of achieving them. 

3. Consider your funding options 

If you haven’t already, make sure you explore the loans and grants that are available  to small businesses. 

Securing funding can help you reinvest your capital, grow your company, and improve your financial health. The good news is that there’s a variety of funding options out there for small businesses.

Organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Association and the U.S. Government (among others) offer funding options for small businesses. You’ve got nothing to lose by applying, so take a look at what’s out there. 

4. Build your credit score 

If you consider funding or investment, you don’t want poor business credit to be a problem. Investors and shareholders aren’t going to invest in a business with a bad credit score. It could also cause problems with acquisitions and other business transactions further down the road. 

So what can you do to improve your credit score and keep it strong? Pay your bills on time. Don't miss credit card payments. Don't accept any loans with interest rates you can't afford. This will make sure your credit rating stays above the line.

When cents make sense

You’ve now got a pretty solid understanding of small business financial planning and some best practices to follow when creating a financial plan. 

Now it’s time to put all this knowledge into practice.

If you’re worried about taking on this arduous task, don’t be. There are ways to make the process easier to manage. With the right platform, you can streamline the planning process and keep everything stored in one location.

Take a look at the best financial analysis software for small businesses to monitor your financial performance efficiently.

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Use the right budgeting and forecasting software for your small business to plan your finances accurately.

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Financial Planning for Small Business Owners

Learn the basics of creating a financial plan for small business owners.

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A small business owner puts up an Open sign.

There are many different kinds of small business owners in all stages of their business. Some have just started putting their ideas into action in a startup, while others are in the growth stage or even planning an exit strategy.

No matter which stage your business is in and whether you're a dreamer or more of a pragmatist, there is one thing you can't afford not to do. You need a holistic financial plan that takes into account where your business is now and what the plan is for the future.

For small business owners, establishing a financial plan comes with an added complexity, which is the business. In some ways, the business and personal sides of your financial plan will be mutually exclusive.

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Separate your personal financial goals from your business goals 

Before making any plans, it's critical to understand that you are not your business. Most small business owners have goals for their business, but it's important to also make financial goals for yourself and to keep them separate.

It can be tempting to combine the two, especially for sole proprietors or single-member LLC owners whose business is included on their individual income tax return. However, by not separating your business from your personal financial goals, you could be missing out on some amazing personal achievements.

For example, some personal financial goals might include setting up and contributing to an education fund for your child, boosting your retirement savings, funding and going on a vacation, and buying your first home or downsizing when your children move out of the house.

On the other hand, some financial goals for your business might include increasing sales to a particular amount, finding more customers, or establishing a certain percentage of growth rate.

Consider alternative funding options to diversify your business-related risk 

You may also want to look at other places where you can further separate yourself personally from your business. The easiest place to look is at the many available funding options for your business.

Most small business owners invest in their own businesses using their own money and time, which may be appropriate in certain situations. However, just as you would diversify your investment portfolio, so you may also want to diversify your business-related risks.

Using your own capital, or, in a worst-case scenario, your own credit cards, places you at significant personal financial risk if something happens to the business. In some cases, though, it might make sense to cede some of that risk to another party. After all, today's digital world has brought a wider array of potential funding options that range from venture capital and private equity to crowdfunding, business loans, and even more creative options like a small business incubator or accelerator.

The Small Business Administration is also an excellent resource for business owners, not only for information and guidance but also, in some cases, for low-interest business loans.

Remember to plan for retirement

For small business owners, retirement planning actually sits at the crossroads between personal and business financial planning. It can be tempting to just keep pouring your money back into the business, but that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to save for retirement.

Many small business owners don't save for retirement because they believe they'll be able to sell their business and live off the proceeds of the sale in retirement. However, most overestimate what their business might be worth, especially when looking decades into the future.

Simplified Employee Pension ( SEP ) IRAs and individual 401(k)s both enable small business owners to plan ahead for the days when they finally retire.

Diversify everywhere 

Another important thing small business owners should remember when creating their personal financial plans for themselves and their business is diversification. A small business is a piece of a larger investment portfolio, but many business owners don't recognize this.

Being in business represents a significant risk, even if it seems like you're in a safe industry. As a result, it makes sense for small business owners to target low-risk investments for the rest of their investment portfolio.

Prepare your exit strategies 

Finally, small business owners should prepare their exit strategies — for both their personal legacy and their business. From a personal perspective, business owners can't afford not to have a will and estate plan to ensure the business doesn't fold upon their death. Many also want to leave their business to the next generation, but without a will, ownership succession becomes hazy.

In terms of the business, you should also create a succession plan designating who will take over when you retire or pass. The financial reasons for creating a succession plan are similar to those for creating a will and estate plan, although these plans differ from a practical standpoint. In terms of your personal financial plan, you're designating heirs, while for your business financial plan, you're designating the next CEO or manager. They could be the same person or different people, depending on your situation.

Don't be too busy to plan

These guidelines are only the very basics of what a small business owner needs to consider when creating a financial plan. Some other factors that may play a role in your personal and business financial plans include insurance (property, professional, and otherwise), preparations for growth, planning for disability, and more. No two financial plans are the same, and these other factors may fall under some of the earlier headings.

Unfortunately, many small business owners find themselves tapped out when it comes to financial planning. It takes so much energy and enthusiasm to keep the business going that they sacrifice their personal financial wellbeing. However, your busiest times will be when you need these financial plans the most, and having separate personal and business financial plans will make everything much easier.

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Jacob is the founder and CEO of ValueWalk. What started as a hobby 10 years ago turned into a well-known financial media empire focusing in particular on simplifying the opaque world of the hedge fund world. Before doing ValueWalk full time, Jacob worked as an equity analyst specializing in mid and small-cap stocks. Jacob also worked in business development for hedge funds. He lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey. Full Disclosure: Jacob only invests in broad-based ETFs and mutual funds to avoid any conflict of interest.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

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.

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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

create a small business financial plan

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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Small Business Financial Plan Template

Small Business Financial Plan Template

What is a Small Business Financial Plan?

A small business financial plan outlines a strategy for achieving future financial goals. It should include an assessment of historical performance, current resources, and target goals that must be achieved. Additionally, a financial plan should include a budget, cash flow projections, and strategies to manage risks and maximize opportunities. The financial plan should be tailored to the individual needs of the business. It should be reviewed regularly and adjusted to reflect changes in the business.

What's included in this Small Business Financial Plan template?

  • 3 focus areas
  • 6 objectives

Each focus area has its own objectives, projects, and KPIs to ensure that the strategy is comprehensive and effective.

Who is the Small Business Financial Plan template for?

The Small Business Financial Plan template is designed for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in various industries. It provides an easy-to-follow framework for creating a comprehensive financial plan that can be used to manage cash flow, plan for growth, and ensure the long-term success of the business.

1. Define clear examples of your focus areas

Focus areas are the broad topics that a financial plan should address. For example, a focus area for a small business might be cash flow management, market expansion, or employee retention. Under each focus area, there should be specific objectives and related tasks that will help the business achieve its goals.

2. Think about the objectives that could fall under that focus area

Objectives are specific goals that a small business should strive to achieve in order to improve its financial health. They should be related to the focus area and should be measurable so that progress can be tracked. Examples of some objectives for the focus area of Cash Flow Management could be: Increase Cash Reserves, and Improve Profit Margins.

3. Set measurable targets (KPIs) to tackle the objective

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are measurements of progress towards objectives. They help to track progress and measure success. KPIs should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. An example of a KPI for the focus area of Cash Flow Management could be: Decrease operational costs by 15%.

4. Implement related projects to achieve the KPIs

Projects are the specific actions that will help a business achieve its objectives. Examples of projects for a small business include reducing operational costs, increasing sales, and increasing customer acquisition. Each project should have a measurable target, an initial value, and a target value.

5. Utilize Cascade Strategy Execution Platform to see faster results from your strategy

Cascade Strategy Execution Platform is an easy-to-use solution that helps small businesses quickly create and manage a financial plan. With Cascade, businesses can track progress, measure success, and make adjustments to ensure that their financial goals are achieved on time.

create a small business financial plan

How to Create a Financial Plan for Your Business

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Home » Blog » How to Create a Financial Plan for Your Business

A wise old Certified Public Accountant gave me some priceless advice when I began my entrepreneurial journey.

“If the math doesn’t work, neither will your business.” 

Upon seeing my blank expression, he explained it a little further.

“A successful business earns more than it spends, and you ensure that happens (within reason) by creating a financial plan that controls every dollar you make.”

How so? I asked.

“Because your financial plan empowers you to control your cash flow, prepare for uncertainties, and take advantage of future opportunities.”

That’s when I knew I needed one.

If so, my step-by-step guide explains how to create a business financial plan that reflects your goals and controls every dollar you make.

What is a financial plan?

At its most basic level, a business financial plan is a document that shows you what money flows in and out of your business, how you earn it, and where you spend it. 

Similar to businesses, no 2 financial plans are the same.

However, a solid financial plan contains several components, including an income statement, cash flow statement, personnel plan, balance sheet, financial projections, and break-even analysis. 

Together, these enable you to control your budget, highlight potential future risks, set goals, calculate your funding requirements, and implement strategies to achieve them. 

While there’s no such thing as a sure thing in life, your financial plan brings your future into your present so that you can control it now.

Why is a financial plan important for a small business?

As you know (or will when you start your business ), entrepreneurs work long hours and make many decisions to ensure their business is on track. A business financial plan helps remove uncertainty from those decisions, replacing it with figures you can rely on and preparing you to take full advantage of investment opportunities when they arise. 

Here’s what Warren Buffet says about opportunities:

“Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.”

Your financial plan ensures you’ve got a bucket!

We also use a financial plan to control our cash flow, forecast our future financial business performance (including our income, expenses, and profitability), and stay within budget. 

Together, these help us maximize our assets, confidently navigate any problems during our entrepreneurial journey, and convince investors to believe in our vision. 

What is the difference between a business financial plan and a personal financial plan?

While most financial plans include the same information, some essential differences exist between business and personal plans because your goals likely differ from those of your SMB.

For example, an individual’s financial plan might include retirement, investment strategies, a minimum annual income to reduce tax liabilities, and securing an estate for their children.

In contrast, a business’s financial plan might focus on hiring additional staff, increasing inventory, bringing new products online, expanding into other markets, and even a new brick-and-mortar location. 

As you can see, the goals differ from one to the other, as might yours. That’s why a financial plan is as unique as the business it serves; however, some elements are vital for every financial business plan! 

The key components of a business financial plan

We now know that a thorough financial plan is imperative to the success and stability of your small business. 

Here are the components that can help make that happen:

  • Income Statement: Contains information on your revenue, profits, and losses.
  • Cash flow statement: Documents how money flows in and out of your business. 
  • Balance sheet: Shows your business assets and expenses at a specific time.
  • Financial projections: This helps predict your future income and expenses.
  • Personnel plan: Identifies if and when you should hire employees.
  • Break-Even Analysis: Confirms when you’ll make a profit.

Okay, now let’s look at how you use them to create yours:

How to Create a Business Financial Plan

To create your business financial plan, you must first collect financial information relevant to the 6 critical components you’ll use for its structure. 

Budding entrepreneurs who have yet to start their businesses might be wondering, `How do I collect information I haven’t got?` 

Good point!

Here’s where your business plan comes into play because it contains a financial section that includes your startup and running costs , financial projections, and break-even analysis. 

And those are 3 of the critical components in your business financial plan!

1. Income statement

An income statement (also known as a pro forma income or profit-and-loss statement) contains information on revenue, profits, losses, and fixed and variable operating expenses over a specific period, such as monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

It includes 2 columns containing your income and expenses and, at the bottom, your net profit or loss total.

Here’s an example of how it should look:

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) and operating expenses: These are the direct costs of producing your goods or services and the costs for running your business, such as rent, utilities, wages, insurance, licenses, etc.
  • Revenue streams: Usually direct sales or ongoing subscriptions/
  • Total net profit or loss: Subtract your costs (and taxes) from your total gross profit.
  • Net income: Your total income after you subtract your expenses and taxes.

Next comes your cash flow statement, which might initially look like your income statement, but there are distinct differences.

Your income statement calculates your business’s revenues, expenses, and profits and reflects its financial performance. Your cash flow statement shows where you earn and spend your money, which is essential for staying within budget and paying your bills. 

2. Cash flow statement

Most small businesses need regular cash injections to survive.

But did you know that a lack of cash is the number one reason 82% of small US businesses fail? Source: USChamber.com .

So, it’s crucial to control it using a cash flow statement. 

A cash flow statement for established businesses could include bank statements showing credits (profits) and debits (expenditures). Startups with little cash flow information could include their startup and running costs and any funding sources. 

You can create a cash flow statement using two columns, one for your income and the other for your expenditures. 

And add the name, date, and invoice/receipt number to each transaction to make it easy to follow and correlate with your invoices and receipts. Trust me, your bookkeeper will love you for it!

3. Balance sheet

Your balance sheet is a financial snapshot of your business at a specific moment that lets you view your liabilities, assets, equity, and any up-and-coming extra expenses.

You use a balance sheet to subtract your debts (liabilities) from what you own (assets) to show you your net worth, also known as equity.

Let’s break those down so you know what they involve:

Liabilities: 

Your liabilities are business debts, such as outstanding inventory fees, utility bills, employee wages or compensation, and unpaid taxes.

These fall into 2 categories: current and fixed. 

  • Your current assets can include your business bank balance, available cash, and outstanding invoices, known as accounts receivable.
  • Your fixed assets include tangible things like your business property, equipment, vehicles, or land.

Note: Some businesses also have intangible assets, such as patents and copyrights.

Your business equity is the value of your assets minus your liabilities, which could also include any stock and share options.

4. Financial projections

A financial projection (also called an income projection) forecasts how much money you think might flow in and out of your business over a set period based on past performances or for startups on their business plan’s market research .

Financial projections can help you in several ways, including:

  • Many small businesses need financial projections to identify and prepare for slow sales because of low seasonal demand or a shift in consumer buying trends.
  • Your financial projections help you understand the cash you need to reach your business goals by estimating their costs.
  • Most new businesses need solid (believable) financial projections to get funding, as they help show you can repay your debts.
  • And to help entrepreneurs running a side hustle know when they can take it full-time .

To create your income projection, estimate your future sales income minus your fixed and variable expenses.

5. Personnel plan

Most businesses need the right people to meet their goals and maintain a healthy cash flow.

You use a personnel plan to determine whether to hire employees and if they should be full-time, part-time, freelancers, or contractors on a need-only basis. 

Your personnel plan also calculates employee costs like wages, benefits, worker’s compensation insurance, and payroll taxes to ensure you only hire when you can afford to.

6. Break-even analysis

Your break-even analysis projects when you’ll recoup your investment and earn more than your spending to run your business.

You calculate your break-even date by dividing your variable and fixed costs by your gross profit margin to get a financial figure your business must make to break even.

Need help to determine what your fixed and variable costs are?

No worries:

  • Your fixed costs include expenses that remain the same regardless of how many products or services you sell. These include your rent, insurance policies, license and permit expenses , accounting fees, and wages.
  • Your variable costs fluctuate relative to your sales or production volume.

The takeaway:

Your break-even analysis tells you the number of products or services you must sell to cover your business and production costs. 

Tips on creating an effective financial plan for your business

Preparation is the key to creating a business financial plan, and you prepare by setting goals, assessing present and future credit needs, estimating every business expense, planning for contingencies, and seeking professional financial advice if required. 

And once your plan is in place, regular monitoring helps ensure your business is on its financial target.

Let’s look at how you do it:

Set your financial goals

Your goals are relative to your business. Some examples include forming an LLC , hiring employees, expanding your product range or services, entering a new marketplace, opening a new branch, or trading abroad.

You must define them (regardless of what they are) because your financial plan aims to help you achieve them.

Consider this proverb when choosing your financial business goals:

“The art is not in making money, but making your money work for you.”

And that’s pretty much the secret to how people get rich!

That’s why now is the time to define your goals and create a strategically driven financial business plan that guides every business decision and ensures you maximize your investments.

Speaking of which!

Know your credit needs 

Your business credit needs are any loans you require when starting, running, or expanding your business.

As most small business owners know, the golden rule in running a small business is to minimize your expenditures because the less money you borrow, the higher your profits and the more accurate your business financial plan will be.

But sometimes, we must borrow to exploit market opportunities , buy equipment, or expand, and knowing your credit needs (and score) can help you get the best deals.

Include those little expenses

No income or expense is too small to consider when running a business that relies on a consistent cash flow.

Benjamin Franklin put it this way:

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” 

The problem many new business owners experience is that it’s easy to account for significant expenses (especially fixed costs), but it’s the small, variable everyday ones that can catch us out and scupper our budget. 

To avoid a sinking feeling, evaluate your monthly fixed and variable expenditures and avoid unnecessary, unbudgeted expenses at all costs.

Monitor your goals

Creating your financial plan is your first step, implementing it the second, and monitoring it the third because that’s how you ensure your strategies are achieving your financial goals. 

To monitor your goals, use those key elements of your business financial plan, including your income and cash flow statement, balance sheet, and financial projections, as they provide an up-to-date assessment.

Regular monitoring also helps you identify potential problems and implement any changes before they harm your business’s financial health. 

Plan for contingencies

Planning for problems relative to your niche, like seasonal fluctuations and new competitors, is standard best business practice. But as recent history has taught us, we must also prepare for the unforeseeable!

You can spot worst-case scenarios (like a falling income) by evaluating your business financial plan’s balance sheet and cash flow statement.

Some ways to plan for contingencies are to have a credit line available and cash reserves that can help keep you afloat should the going get rough. 

Consider hiring help 

Many of the most successful business leaders have a shared secret to their success!

They surround themselves with people who know more than they do about every aspect of their business. 

Steve Jobs explains it perfectly:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Fortunately, financial experts are available to help you create your business financial plan.

Consider hiring a financial advisor to inform you of prudent financial decisions and investments, and your bank manager can help assess your creditworthiness while considering any past problems that could affect present loan applications.

Financial planning FAQs

What is a business financial plan.

An effective business financial plan contains your business goals and outlines your strategies.

It’s a GPS that guides your SMB’s financial activities by ensuring you make informed decisions on how and where to invest your resources. 

How do you write a business financial plan?

Your financial plan begins with a strategic plan that contains your business goals and what you’ll need to achieve them.

Next, you must create your financial projections, plan for contingencies, and monitor to assess your actual results against your projections to adjust if required. 

What are the 6 components of a financial plan?

Financial plans are as unique as the business they serve. However, 6 components you must include are:

  • Cash flow statement: Documents how money flows in and out of your business.
  • Personnel plan: Identifies whether you should hire employees.
  • Break-Even Analysis: Confirms when you'll make a profit.

What is the best financial statement for a small business?

Your income statement best assesses your business’s financial performance, containing your profits, losses, and equity.

Your balance sheet and cash flow statement are also crucial for running a profitable business. 

Entrepreneurs need many skills, and one of the most important is financial intelligence because it ensures we keep our fingers on our businesses’ financial pulse.

Learning how to create a business financial plan is a great way to gain that skill.

And when you control your income and expenditures, you take control of your business’s financial destiny. Sweet.

One last thing to remember when creating a business financial plan.

The numbers never lie!

This portion of our website is for informational purposes only. Tailor Brands is not a law firm, and none of the information on this website constitutes or is intended to convey legal advice. All statements, opinions, recommendations, and conclusions are solely the expression of the author and provided on an as-is basis. Accordingly, Tailor Brands is not responsible for the information and/or its accuracy or completeness.

Terry O'Toole

Terry OToole

Terry is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building businesses across multiple industries – construction, real estate, e-commerce, hotelier, and now digital media. When not working, Terry likes to kick back and relax with family, explore Taoism’s mysteries, or savor the taste of fine Italian red wine.

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6 Elements of a Successful Financial Plan for a Small Business

Improve your chances of growth by covering these bases in your plan.

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Many small businesses lack a full financial plan, even though evidence shows that it is essential to the long-term success and growth of any business. 

For example, a study in the New England Journal of Entrepreneurship found that entrepreneurs with a business plan are more successful than those without one. If you’re not sure how to get started, read on to learn the six key elements of a successful small business financial plan.

What is a business financial plan, and why is it important? 

A business financial plan is an overview of a business’s financial situation and a forward-looking projection for growth. A business financial plan typically has six parts: sales forecasting, expense outlay, a statement of financial position, a cash flow projection, a break-even analysis and an operations plan.

A good financial plan helps you manage cash flow and accounts for months when revenue might be lower than expected. It also helps you budget for daily and monthly expenses and plan for taxes each year.

Importantly, a financial plan helps you focus on the long-term growth of your business. That way, you don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day activities that you lose sight of your goals. Focusing on the long-term vision helps you prioritize your financial resources. 

The 6 components of a successful financial plan for business

1. sales forecasting.

You should have an estimate of your sales revenue for every month, quarter and year. Identifying any patterns in your sales cycles helps you better understand your business, and this knowledge is invaluable as you plan marketing initiatives and growth strategies . 

For instance, a seasonal business can aim to improve sales in the off-season to eventually become a year-round venture. Another business might become better prepared by understanding how upticks and downturns in business relate to factors such as the weather or the economy.

Sales forecasting is also the foundation for setting company growth goals. For instance, you could aim to improve your sales by 10 percent over each previous period.

2. Expense outlay

A full expense plan includes regular expenses, expected future expenses and associated expenses. Regular expenses are the current ongoing costs of your business, including operational costs such as rent, utilities and payroll. 

Regular expenses relate to standard business activities that occur each year, such as conference attendance, advertising and marketing, and the office holiday party. It’s a good idea to distinguish essential expenses from expenses that can be reduced or eliminated if needed.

Expected future expenses are known future costs, such as tax rate increases, minimum wage increases or maintenance needs. Generally, a part of the budget should also be allocated to unexpected future expenses, such as damage to your business caused by fire, flood or other unexpected disasters. Planning for future expenses ensures your business is financially prepared via budget reduction, increases in sales or financial assistance.

Associated expenses are the estimated costs of various initiatives, such as acquiring and training new hires, opening a new store or expanding delivery to a new territory. An accurate estimate of associated expenses helps you properly manage growth and prevents your business from exceeding your cost capabilities. 

As with expected future expenses, understanding how much capital is required to accomplish various growth goals helps you make the right decision about financing options.

3. Statement of financial position (assets and liabilities)

Assets and liabilities are the foundation of your business’s balance sheet and the primary determinants of your business’s net worth. Tracking both allows you to maximize your business’s potential value. 

Small businesses frequently undervalue their assets (such as machinery, property or inventory) and fail to properly account for outstanding bills. Your balance sheet offers a more complete view of your business’s health than a profit-and-loss statement or a cash flow report. 

A profit-and-loss statement shows how the business performed over a specific time period, while a balance sheet shows the financial position of the business on any given day.

4. Cash flow projection

You should be able to predict your cash flow on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Projecting cash flow for the full year allows you to get ahead of any financial struggles or challenges. 

It can also help you identify a cash flow problem before it hurts your business. You can set the most appropriate payment terms, such as how much you charge upfront or how many days after invoicing you expect payment .

A cash flow projection gives you a clear look at how much money is expected to be left at the end of each month so you can plan a possible expansion or other investments. It also helps you budget, such as by spending less one month for the anticipated cash needs of another month.

5. Break-even analysis

A break-even analysis evaluates fixed costs relative to the profit earned by each additional unit you produce and sell. This analysis is essential to understanding your business’s revenue and potential costs versus profits of expansion or growth of your output. 

Having your expenses fully fleshed out, as described above, makes your break-even analysis more accurate and useful. A break-even analysis is also the best way to determine your pricing.

In addition, a break-even analysis can tell you how many units you need to sell at various prices to cover your costs. You should aim to set a price that gives you a comfortable margin over your expenses while allowing your business to remain competitive.

6. Operations plan

To run your business as efficiently as possible, craft a detailed overview of your operational needs. Understanding what roles are required for you to operate your business at various volumes of output, how much output or work each employee can handle, and the costs of each stage of your supply chain will aid you in making informed decisions for your business’s growth and efficiency.

It’s important to tightly control expenses, such as payroll or supply chain costs, relative to growth. An operations plan can also make it easier to determine if there is room to optimize your operations or supply chain via automation, new technology or superior supply chain vendors.

For this reason, it is imperative for a business owner to conduct due diligence and become knowledgeable about merchant services before acquiring an account. Once the owner signs a contract, it cannot be changed, unless the business owner breaks the contract and acquires a new account with a new merchant services provider. 

Tips on writing a business financial plan

Business owners should create a financial plan annually to ensure they have a clear and accurate picture of their business’s finances and a realistic view for future growth or expansion. A financial plan helps the business’s leaders make informed decisions about purchases, debt, hiring, expense control and overall operations for the year ahead. 

A business financial plan is essential if a business owner is looking to sell their business, attract investors or enter a partnership with another business. Here are some tips for writing a business financial plan.

Review the previous year’s plan.

It’s a good idea to compare the previous year’s plan against actual performance and finances to see how accurate the previous plan and forecast were. That way, you can address any discrepancies or overlooked elements in next year’s plan.

Collaborate with other departments.

A business owner or other individual charged with creating the business financial plan should collaborate with the finance department, human resources department, sales team , operations leader, and those in charge of machinery, vehicles or other significant business tools. 

Each division should provide the necessary data about projections, value and expenses. All of these elements come together to create a comprehensive financial picture of the business.

Use available resources.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, the SBA’s nonprofit partner, are two excellent resources for learning about financial plans. Both can teach you the elements of a comprehensive plan and how best to work with the different departments in your business to collect the necessary information. Many websites, including business.com , and service providers, such as Intuit, offer advice on this matter. 

If you have questions or encounter challenges while creating your business financial plan, seek advice from your accountant or other small business owners in your network. Your city or state has a small business office that you can contact for help.

Business financial plan templates

Many business organizations offer free information that small business owners can use to create their financial plan. For example, the SBA’s Learning Platform offers a course on how to create a business plan. It also offers worksheets and templates to help you get started. You can seek additional help and more personalized service from your local office.

SCORE is the largest volunteer network of business mentors. It began as a group of retired executives (SCORE stands for “Service Corps of Retired Executives”) but has expanded to include business owners and executives from many industries. Advice is free and available online, and there are SBA district offices in every U.S. state. In addition to participating in group or at-home learning, you can be paired with a mentor for individualized help. 

SCORE offers templates and tips for creating a small business financial plan. SCORE is an excellent resource because it addresses different levels of experience and offers individualized help.

Other templates can be found in Microsoft Office’s template library, QuickBooks’ online resources, Shopify’s blog and other places. You can also ask your accountant for guidance, since many accountants provide financial planning services in addition to their usual tax services.

Diana Wertz contributed to the writing and research in this article.

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How to Prepare a Financial Plan for Startup Business (w/ example)

Financial Statements Template

Free Financial Statements Template

Ajay Jagtap

  • December 7, 2023

13 Min Read

financial plan for startup business

If someone were to ask you about your business financials, could you give them a detailed answer?

Let’s say they ask—how do you allocate your operating expenses? What is your cash flow situation like? What is your exit strategy? And a series of similar other questions.

Instead of mumbling what to answer or shooting in the dark, as a founder, you must prepare yourself to answer this line of questioning—and creating a financial plan for your startup is the best way to do it.

A business plan’s financial plan section is no easy task—we get that.

But, you know what—this in-depth guide and financial plan example can make forecasting as simple as counting on your fingertips.

Ready to get started? Let’s begin by discussing startup financial planning.

What is Startup Financial Planning?

Startup financial planning, in simple terms, is a process of planning the financial aspects of a new business. It’s an integral part of a business plan and comprises its three major components: balance sheet, income statement, and cash-flow statement.

Apart from these statements, your financial section may also include revenue and sales forecasts, assets & liabilities, break-even analysis , and more. Your first financial plan may not be very detailed, but you can tweak and update it as your company grows.

Key Takeaways

  • Realistic assumptions, thorough research, and a clear understanding of the market are the key to reliable financial projections.
  • Cash flow projection, balance sheet, and income statement are three major components of a financial plan.
  • Preparing a financial plan is easier and faster when you use a financial planning tool.
  • Exploring “what-if” scenarios is an ideal method to understand the potential risks and opportunities involved in the business operations.

Why is Financial Planning Important to Your Startup?

Poor financial planning is one of the biggest reasons why most startups fail. In fact, a recent CNBC study reported that running out of cash was the reason behind 44% of startup failures in 2022.

A well-prepared financial plan provides a clear financial direction for your business, helps you set realistic financial objectives, create accurate forecasts, and shows your business is committed to its financial objectives.

It’s a key element of your business plan for winning potential investors. In fact, YC considered recent financial statements and projections to be critical elements of their Series A due diligence checklist .

Your financial plan demonstrates how your business manages expenses and generates revenue and helps them understand where your business stands today and in 5 years.

Makes sense why financial planning is important to your startup, doesn’t it? Let’s cut to the chase and discuss the key components of a startup’s financial plan.

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Key Components of a Startup Financial Plan

Whether creating a financial plan from scratch for a business venture or just modifying it for an existing one, here are the key components to consider including in your startup’s financial planning process.

Income Statement

An Income statement , also known as a profit-and-loss statement(P&L), shows your company’s income and expenditures. It also demonstrates how your business experienced any profit or loss over a given time.

Consider it as a snapshot of your business that shows the feasibility of your business idea. An income statement can be generated considering three scenarios: worst, expected, and best.

Your income or P&L statement must list the following:

  • Cost of goods or cost of sale
  • Gross margin
  • Operating expenses
  • Revenue streams
  • EBITDA (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation , & amortization )

Established businesses can prepare annual income statements, whereas new businesses and startups should consider preparing monthly statements.

Cash flow Statement

A cash flow statement is one of the most critical financial statements for startups that summarize your business’s cash in-and-out flows over a given time.

This section provides details on the cash position of your business and its ability to meet monetary commitments on a timely basis.

Your cash flow projection consists of the following three components:

✅ Cash revenue projection: Here, you must enter each month’s estimated or expected sales figures.

✅ Cash disbursements: List expenditures that you expect to pay in cash for each month over one year.

✅ Cash flow reconciliation: Cash flow reconciliation is a process used to ensure the accuracy of cash flow projections. The adjusted amount is the cash flow balance carried over to the next month.

Furthermore, a company’s cash flow projections can be crucial while assessing liquidity, its ability to generate positive cash flows and pay off debts, and invest in growth initiatives.

Balance Sheet

Your balance sheet is a financial statement that reports your company’s assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity at a given time.

Consider it as a snapshot of what your business owns and owes, as well as the amount invested by the shareholders.

This statement consists of three parts: assets , liabilities, and the balance calculated by the difference between the first two. The final numbers on this sheet reflect the business owner’s equity or value.

Balance sheets follow the following accounting equation with assets on one side and liabilities plus Owner’s equity on the other:

Here is what’s the core purpose of having a balance-sheet:

  • Indicates the capital need of the business
  • It helps to identify the allocation of resources
  • It calculates the requirement of seed money you put up, and
  • How much finance is required?

Since it helps investors understand the condition of your business on a given date, it’s a financial statement you can’t miss out on.

Break-even Analysis

Break-even analysis is a startup or small business accounting practice used to determine when a company, product, or service will become profitable.

For instance, a break-even analysis could help you understand how many candles you need to sell to cover your warehousing and manufacturing costs and start making profits.

Remember, anything you sell beyond the break-even point will result in profit.

You must be aware of your fixed and variable costs to accurately determine your startup’s break-even point.

  • Fixed costs: fixed expenses that stay the same no matter what.
  • Variable costs: expenses that fluctuate over time depending on production or sales.

A break-even point helps you smartly price your goods or services, cover fixed costs, catch missing expenses, and set sales targets while helping investors gain confidence in your business. No brainer—why it’s a key component of your startup’s financial plan.

Having covered all the key elements of a financial plan, let’s discuss how you can create a financial plan for your startup.

How to Create a Financial Section of a Startup Business Plan?

1. determine your financial needs.

You can’t start financial planning without understanding your financial requirements, can you? Get your notepad or simply open a notion doc; it’s time for some critical thinking.

Start by assessing your current situation by—calculating your income, expenses , assets, and liabilities, what the startup costs are, how much you have against them, and how much financing you need.

Assessing your current financial situation and health will help determine how much capital you need for your startup and help plan fundraising activities and outreach.

Furthermore, determining financial needs helps prioritize operational activities and expenses, effectively allocate resources, and increase the viability and sustainability of a business in the long run.

Having learned to determine financial needs, let’s head straight to setting financial goals.

2. Define Your Financial Goals

Setting realistic financial goals is fundamental in preparing an effective financial plan. So, it would help to outline your long-term strategies and goals at the beginning of your financial planning process.

Let’s understand it this way—if you are a SaaS startup pursuing VC financing rounds, you may ask investors about what matters to them the most and prepare your financial plan accordingly.

However, a coffee shop owner seeking a business loan may need to create a plan that appeals to banks, not investors. At the same time, an internal financial plan designed to offer financial direction and resource allocation may not be the same as previous examples, seeing its different use case.

Feeling overwhelmed? Just define your financial goals—you’ll be fine.

You can start by identifying your business KPIs (key performance indicators); it would be an ideal starting point.

3. Choose the Right Financial Planning Tool

Let’s face it—preparing a financial plan using Excel is no joke. One would only use this method if they had all the time in the world.

Having the right financial planning software will simplify and speed up the process and guide you through creating accurate financial forecasts.

Many financial planning software and tools claim to be the ideal solution, but it’s you who will identify and choose a tool that is best for your financial planning needs.

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Enter your Financial Assumptions, and we’ll calculate your monthly/quarterly and yearly financial projections.

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4. Make Assumptions Before Projecting Financials

Once you have a financial planning tool, you can move forward to the next step— making financial assumptions for your plan based on your company’s current performance and past financial records.

You’re just making predictions about your company’s financial future, so there’s no need to overthink or complicate the process.

You can gather your business’ historical financial data, market trends, and other relevant documents to help create a base for accurate financial projections.

After you have developed rough assumptions and a good understanding of your business finances, you can move forward to the next step—projecting financials.

5. Prepare Realistic Financial Projections

It’s a no-brainer—financial forecasting is the most critical yet challenging aspect of financial planning. However, it’s effortless if you’re using a financial planning software.

Upmetrics’ forecasting feature can help you project financials for up to 7 years. However, new startups usually consider planning for the next five years. Although it can be contradictory considering your financial goals and investor specifications.

Following are the two key aspects of your financial projections:

Revenue Projections

In simple terms, revenue projections help investors determine how much revenue your business plans to generate in years to come.

It generally involves conducting market research, determining pricing strategy , and cash flow analysis—which we’ve already discussed in the previous steps.

The following are the key components of an accurate revenue projection report:

  • Market analysis
  • Sales forecast
  • Pricing strategy
  • Growth assumptions
  • Seasonal variations

This is a critical section for pre-revenue startups, so ensure your projections accurately align with your startup’s financial model and revenue goals.

Expense Projections

Both revenue and expense projections are correlated to each other. As revenue forecasts projected revenue assumptions, expense projections will estimate expenses associated with operating your business.

Accurately estimating your expenses will help in effective cash flow analysis and proper resource allocation.

These are the most common costs to consider while projecting expenses:

  • Fixed costs
  • Variable costs
  • Employee costs or payroll expenses
  • Operational expenses
  • Marketing and advertising expenses
  • Emergency fund

Remember, realistic assumptions, thorough research, and a clear understanding of your market are the key to reliable financial projections.

6. Consider “What if” Scenarios

After you project your financials, it’s time to test your assumptions with what-if analysis, also known as sensitivity analysis.

Using what-if analysis with different scenarios while projecting your financials will increase transparency and help investors better understand your startup’s future with its best, expected, and worst-case scenarios.

Exploring “what-if” scenarios is the best way to better understand the potential risks and opportunities involved in business operations. This proactive exercise will help you make strategic decisions and necessary adjustments to your financial plan.

7. Build a Visual Report

If you’ve closely followed the steps leading to this, you know how to research for financial projections, create a financial plan, and test assumptions using “what-if” scenarios.

Now, we’ll prepare visual reports to present your numbers in a visually appealing and easily digestible format.

Don’t worry—it’s no extra effort. You’ve already made a visual report while creating your financial plan and forecasting financials.

Check the dashboard to see the visual presentation of your projections and reports, and use the necessary financial data, diagrams, and graphs in the final draft of your financial plan.

Here’s what Upmetrics’ dashboard looks like:

Upmetrics financial projections visual report

8. Monitor and Adjust Your Financial Plan

Even though it’s not a primary step in creating a good financial plan, it’s quite essential to regularly monitor and adjust your financial plan to ensure the assumptions you made are still relevant, and you are heading in the right direction.

There are multiple ways to monitor your financial plan.

For instance, you can compare your assumptions with actual results to ensure accurate projections based on metrics like new customers acquired and acquisition costs, net profit, and gross margin.

Consider making necessary adjustments if your assumptions are not resonating with actual numbers.

Also, keep an eye on whether the changes you’ve identified are having the desired effect by monitoring their implementation.

And that was the last step in our financial planning guide. However, it’s not the end. Have a look at this financial plan example.

Startup Financial Plan Example

Having learned about financial planning, let’s quickly discuss a coffee shop startup financial plan example prepared using Upmetrics.

Important Assumptions

  • The sales forecast is conservative and assumes a 5% increase in Year 2 and a 10% in Year 3.
  • The analysis accounts for economic seasonality – wherein some months revenues peak (such as holidays ) and wanes in slower months.
  • The analysis assumes the owner will not withdraw any salary till the 3rd year; at any time it is assumed that the owner’s withdrawal is available at his discretion.
  • Sales are cash basis – nonaccrual accounting
  • Moderate ramp- up in staff over the 5 years forecast
  • Barista salary in the forecast is $36,000 in 2023.
  • In general, most cafes have an 85% gross profit margin
  • In general, most cafes have a 3% net profit margin

Projected Balance Sheet

Projected Balance Sheet

Projected Cash-Flow Statement

Cash-Flow Statement

Projected Profit & Loss Statement

Profit & Loss Statement

Break Even Analysis

Break Even Analysis

Start Preparing Your Financial Plan

We covered everything about financial planning in this guide, didn’t we? Although it doesn’t fulfill our objective to the fullest—we want you to finish your financial plan.

Sounds like a tough job? We have an easy way out for you—Upmetrics’ financial forecasting feature. Simply enter your financial assumptions, and let it do the rest.

So what are you waiting for? Try Upmetrics and create your financial plan in a snap.

Build your Business Plan Faster

with step-by-step Guidance & AI Assistance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How often should i update my financial projections.

Well, there is no particular rule about it. However, reviewing and updating your financial plan once a year is considered an ideal practice as it ensures that the financial aspirations you started and the projections you made are still relevant.

How do I estimate startup costs accurately?

You can estimate your startup costs by identifying and factoring various one-time, recurring, and hidden expenses. However, using a financial forecasting tool like Upmetrics will ensure accurate costs while speeding up the process.

What financial ratios should startups pay attention to?

Here’s a list of financial ratios every startup owner should keep an eye on:

  • Net profit margin
  • Current ratio
  • Quick ratio
  • Working capital
  • Return on equity
  • Debt-to-equity ratio
  • Return on assets
  • Debt-to-asset ratio

What are the 3 different scenarios in scenario analysis?

As discussed earlier, Scenario analysis is the process of ascertaining and analyzing possible events that can occur in the future. Startups or businesses often consider analyzing these three scenarios:

  • base-case (expected) scenario
  • Worst-case scenario
  • best case scenario.

About the Author

create a small business financial plan

Ajay is a SaaS writer and personal finance blogger who has been active in the space for over three years, writing about startups, business planning, budgeting, credit cards, and other topics related to personal finance. If not writing, he’s probably having a power nap. Read more

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How to create a business plan: examples & free template.

This is the ultimate guide to creating a comprehensive and effective plan to start a business . In today’s dynamic business landscape, having a well-crafted business plan is an important first step to securing funding, attracting partners, and navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

This guide has been designed to help you create a winning plan that stands out in the ever-evolving marketplace. U sing real-world examples and a free downloadable template, it will walk you through each step of the process.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or launching your very first startup, the guide will give you the insights, tools, and confidence you need to create a solid foundation for your business.

Table of Contents

How to Write a Business Plan

Embarking on the journey of creating a successful business requires a solid foundation, and a well-crafted business plan is the cornerstone. Here is the process of writing a comprehensive business plan and the main parts of a winning business plan . From setting objectives to conducting market research, this guide will have everything you need.

Executive Summary

business plan

The Executive Summary serves as the gateway to your business plan, offering a snapshot of your venture’s core aspects. This section should captivate and inform, succinctly summarizing the essence of your plan.

It’s crucial to include a clear mission statement, a brief description of your primary products or services, an overview of your target market, and key financial projections or achievements.

Think of it as an elevator pitch in written form: it should be compelling enough to engage potential investors or stakeholders and provide them with a clear understanding of what your business is about, its goals, and why it’s a promising investment.

Example: EcoTech is a technology company specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable products designed to reduce energy consumption and minimize waste. Our mission is to create innovative solutions that contribute to a cleaner, greener environment.

Our target market includes environmentally conscious consumers and businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. We project a 200% increase in revenue within the first three years of operation.

Overview and Business Objectives

business plan

In the Overview and Business Objectives section, outline your business’s core goals and the strategic approaches you plan to use to achieve them. This section should set forth clear, specific objectives that are attainable and time-bound, providing a roadmap for your business’s growth and success.

It’s important to detail how these objectives align with your company’s overall mission and vision. Discuss the milestones you aim to achieve and the timeframe you’ve set for these accomplishments.

This part of the plan demonstrates to investors and stakeholders your vision for growth and the practical steps you’ll take to get there.

Example: EcoTech’s primary objective is to become a market leader in sustainable technology products within the next five years. Our key objectives include:

  • Introducing three new products within the first two years of operation.
  • Achieving annual revenue growth of 30%.
  • Expanding our customer base to over 10,000 clients by the end of the third year.

Company Description

business plan

The Company Description section is your opportunity to delve into the details of your business. Provide a comprehensive overview that includes your company’s history, its mission statement, and its vision for the future.

Highlight your unique selling proposition (USP) – what makes your business stand out in the market. Explain the problems your company solves and how it benefits your customers.

Include information about the company’s founders, their expertise, and why they are suited to lead the business to success. This section should paint a vivid picture of your business, its values, and its place in the industry.

Example: EcoTech is committed to developing cutting-edge sustainable technology products that benefit both the environment and our customers. Our unique combination of innovative solutions and eco-friendly design sets us apart from the competition. We envision a future where technology and sustainability go hand in hand, leading to a greener planet.

Define Your Target Market

business plan

Defining Your Target Market is critical for tailoring your business strategy effectively. This section should describe your ideal customer base in detail, including demographic information (such as age, gender, income level, and location) and psychographic data (like interests, values, and lifestyle).

Elucidate on the specific needs or pain points of your target audience and how your product or service addresses these. This information will help you know your target market and develop targeted marketing strategies.

Example: Our target market comprises environmentally conscious consumers and businesses looking for innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Our ideal customers are those who prioritize sustainability and are willing to invest in eco-friendly products.

Market Analysis

business plan

The Market Analysis section requires thorough research and a keen understanding of the industry. It involves examining the current trends within your industry, understanding the needs and preferences of your customers, and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

This analysis will enable you to spot market opportunities and anticipate potential challenges. Include data and statistics to back up your claims, and use graphs or charts to illustrate market trends.

This section should demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the market in which you operate and that your business is well-positioned to capitalize on its opportunities.

Example: The market for eco-friendly technology products has experienced significant growth in recent years, with an estimated annual growth rate of 10%. As consumers become increasingly aware of environmental issues, the demand for sustainable solutions continues to rise.

Our research indicates a gap in the market for high-quality, innovative eco-friendly technology products that cater to both individual and business clients.

SWOT Analysis

business plan

A SWOT analysis in your business plan offers a comprehensive examination of your company’s internal and external factors. By assessing Strengths, you showcase what your business does best and where your capabilities lie.

Weaknesses involve an honest introspection of areas where your business may be lacking or could improve. Opportunities can be external factors that your business could capitalize on, such as market gaps or emerging trends.

Threats include external challenges your business may face, like competition or market changes. This analysis is crucial for strategic planning, as it helps in recognizing and leveraging your strengths, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and preparing for potential threats.

Including a SWOT analysis demonstrates to stakeholders that you have a balanced and realistic understanding of your business in its operational context.

  • Innovative and eco-friendly product offerings.
  • Strong commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
  • Skilled and experienced team with expertise in technology and sustainability.

Weaknesses:

  • Limited brand recognition compared to established competitors.
  • Reliance on third-party manufacturers for product development.

Opportunities:

  • Growing consumer interest in sustainable products.
  • Partnerships with environmentally-focused organizations and influencers.
  • Expansion into international markets.
  • Intense competition from established technology companies.
  • Regulatory changes could impact the sustainable technology market.

Competitive Analysis

business plan

In this section, you’ll analyze your competitors in-depth, examining their products, services, market positioning, and pricing strategies. Understanding your competition allows you to identify gaps in the market and tailor your offerings to outperform them.

By conducting a thorough competitive analysis, you can gain insights into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to develop strategies to differentiate your business and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Example: Key competitors include:

GreenTech: A well-known brand offering eco-friendly technology products, but with a narrower focus on energy-saving devices.

EarthSolutions: A direct competitor specializing in sustainable technology, but with a limited product range and higher prices.

By offering a diverse product portfolio, competitive pricing, and continuous innovation, we believe we can capture a significant share of the growing sustainable technology market.

Organization and Management Team

business plan

Provide an overview of your company’s organizational structure, including key roles and responsibilities. Introduce your management team, highlighting their expertise and experience to demonstrate that your team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.

Showcasing your team’s background, skills, and accomplishments instills confidence in investors and other stakeholders, proving that your business has the leadership and talent necessary to achieve its objectives and manage growth effectively.

Example: EcoTech’s organizational structure comprises the following key roles: CEO, CTO, CFO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, and R&D Manager. Our management team has extensive experience in technology, sustainability, and business development, ensuring that we are well-equipped to execute our business plan successfully.

Products and Services Offered

business plan

Describe the products or services your business offers, focusing on their unique features and benefits. Explain how your offerings solve customer pain points and why they will choose your products or services over the competition.

This section should emphasize the value you provide to customers, demonstrating that your business has a deep understanding of customer needs and is well-positioned to deliver innovative solutions that address those needs and set your company apart from competitors.

Example: EcoTech offers a range of eco-friendly technology products, including energy-efficient lighting solutions, solar chargers, and smart home devices that optimize energy usage. Our products are designed to help customers reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

business plan

In this section, articulate your comprehensive strategy for reaching your target market and driving sales. Detail the specific marketing channels you plan to use, such as social media, email marketing, SEO, or traditional advertising.

Describe the nature of your advertising campaigns and promotional activities, explaining how they will capture the attention of your target audience and convey the value of your products or services. Outline your sales strategy, including your sales process, team structure, and sales targets.

Discuss how these marketing and sales efforts will work together to attract and retain customers, generate leads, and ultimately contribute to achieving your business’s revenue goals.

This section is critical to convey to investors and stakeholders that you have a well-thought-out approach to market your business effectively and drive sales growth.

Example: Our marketing strategy includes digital advertising, content marketing, social media promotion, and influencer partnerships. We will also attend trade shows and conferences to showcase our products and connect with potential clients. Our sales strategy involves both direct sales and partnerships with retail stores, as well as online sales through our website and e-commerce platforms.

Logistics and Operations Plan

business plan

The Logistics and Operations Plan is a critical component that outlines the inner workings of your business. It encompasses the management of your supply chain, detailing how you acquire raw materials and manage vendor relationships.

Inventory control is another crucial aspect, where you explain strategies for inventory management to ensure efficiency and reduce wastage. The section should also describe your production processes, emphasizing scalability and adaptability to meet changing market demands.

Quality control measures are essential to maintain product standards and customer satisfaction. This plan assures investors and stakeholders of your operational competency and readiness to meet business demands.

Highlighting your commitment to operational efficiency and customer satisfaction underlines your business’s capability to maintain smooth, effective operations even as it scales.

Example: EcoTech partners with reliable third-party manufacturers to produce our eco-friendly technology products. Our operations involve maintaining strong relationships with suppliers, ensuring quality control, and managing inventory.

We also prioritize efficient distribution through various channels, including online platforms and retail partners, to deliver products to our customers in a timely manner.

Financial Projections Plan

business plan

In the Financial Projections Plan, lay out a clear and realistic financial future for your business. This should include detailed projections for revenue, costs, and profitability over the next three to five years.

Ground these projections in solid assumptions based on your market analysis, industry benchmarks, and realistic growth scenarios. Break down revenue streams and include an analysis of the cost of goods sold, operating expenses, and potential investments.

This section should also discuss your break-even analysis, cash flow projections, and any assumptions about external funding requirements.

By presenting a thorough and data-backed financial forecast, you instill confidence in potential investors and lenders, showcasing your business’s potential for profitability and financial stability.

This forward-looking financial plan is crucial for demonstrating that you have a firm grasp of the financial nuances of your business and are prepared to manage its financial health effectively.

Example: Over the next three years, we expect to see significant growth in revenue, driven by new product launches and market expansion. Our financial projections include:

  • Year 1: $1.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $200,000.
  • Year 2: $3 million in revenue, with a net profit of $500,000.
  • Year 3: $4.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $1 million.

These projections are based on realistic market analysis, growth rates, and product pricing.

Income Statement

business plan

The income statement , also known as the profit and loss statement, provides a summary of your company’s revenues and expenses over a specified period. It helps you track your business’s financial performance and identify trends, ensuring you stay on track to achieve your financial goals.

Regularly reviewing and analyzing your income statement allows you to monitor the health of your business, evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies, and make data-driven decisions to optimize profitability and growth.

Example: The income statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

  • Revenue: $1,500,000
  • Cost of Goods Sold: $800,000
  • Gross Profit: $700,000
  • Operating Expenses: $450,000
  • Net Income: $250,000

This statement highlights our company’s profitability and overall financial health during the first year of operation.

Cash Flow Statement

business plan

A cash flow statement is a crucial part of a financial business plan that shows the inflows and outflows of cash within your business. It helps you monitor your company’s liquidity, ensuring you have enough cash on hand to cover operating expenses, pay debts, and invest in growth opportunities.

By including a cash flow statement in your business plan, you demonstrate your ability to manage your company’s finances effectively.

Example:  The cash flow statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

Operating Activities:

  • Depreciation: $10,000
  • Changes in Working Capital: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Operating Activities: $210,000

Investing Activities:

  •  Capital Expenditures: -$100,000
  • Net Cash from Investing Activities: -$100,000

Financing Activities:

  • Proceeds from Loans: $150,000
  • Loan Repayments: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Financing Activities: $100,000
  • Net Increase in Cash: $210,000

This statement demonstrates EcoTech’s ability to generate positive cash flow from operations, maintain sufficient liquidity, and invest in growth opportunities.

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

business plan

1. Be clear and concise: Keep your language simple and straightforward. Avoid jargon and overly technical terms. A clear and concise business plan is easier for investors and stakeholders to understand and demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively.

2. Conduct thorough research: Before writing your business plan, gather as much information as possible about your industry, competitors, and target market. Use reliable sources and industry reports to inform your analysis and make data-driven decisions.

3. Set realistic goals: Your business plan should outline achievable objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Setting realistic goals demonstrates your understanding of the market and increases the likelihood of success.

4. Focus on your unique selling proposition (USP): Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition. Emphasize your USP throughout your business plan to showcase your company’s value and potential for success.

5. Be flexible and adaptable: A business plan is a living document that should evolve as your business grows and changes. Be prepared to update and revise your plan as you gather new information and learn from your experiences.

6. Use visuals to enhance understanding: Include charts, graphs, and other visuals to help convey complex data and ideas. Visuals can make your business plan more engaging and easier to digest, especially for those who prefer visual learning.

7. Seek feedback from trusted sources: Share your business plan with mentors, industry experts, or colleagues and ask for their feedback. Their insights can help you identify areas for improvement and strengthen your plan before presenting it to potential investors or partners.

FREE Business Plan Template

To help you get started on your business plan, we have created a template that includes all the essential components discussed in the “How to Write a Business Plan” section. This easy-to-use template will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

The template is divided into the following sections:

  • Mission statement
  • Business Overview
  • Key products or services
  • Target market
  • Financial highlights
  • Company goals
  • Strategies to achieve goals
  • Measurable, time-bound objectives
  • Company History
  • Mission and vision
  • Unique selling proposition
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Pain points
  • Industry trends
  • Customer needs
  • Competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Competitor products and services
  • Market positioning
  • Pricing strategies
  • Organizational structure
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Management team backgrounds
  • Product or service features
  • Competitive advantages
  • Marketing channels
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotional activities
  • Sales strategies
  • Supply chain management
  • Inventory control
  • Production processes
  • Quality control measures
  • Projected revenue
  • Assumptions
  • Cash inflows
  • Cash outflows
  • Net cash flow

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a strategic document that outlines an organization’s goals, objectives, and the steps required to achieve them. It serves as a roadmap as you start a business , guiding the company’s direction and growth while identifying potential obstacles and opportunities.

Typically, a business plan covers areas such as market analysis, financial projections, marketing strategies, and organizational structure. It not only helps in securing funding from investors and lenders but also provides clarity and focus to the management team.

A well-crafted business plan is a very important part of your business startup checklist because it fosters informed decision-making and long-term success.

business plan

Why You Should Write a Business Plan

Understanding the importance of a business plan in today’s competitive environment is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are five compelling reasons to write a business plan:

  • Attract Investors and Secure Funding : A well-written business plan demonstrates your venture’s potential and profitability, making it easier to attract investors and secure the necessary funding for growth and development. It provides a detailed overview of your business model, target market, financial projections, and growth strategies, instilling confidence in potential investors and lenders that your company is a worthy investment.
  • Clarify Business Objectives and Strategies : Crafting a business plan forces you to think critically about your goals and the strategies you’ll employ to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for success. This process helps you refine your vision and prioritize the most critical objectives, ensuring that your efforts are focused on achieving the desired results.
  • Identify Potential Risks and Opportunities : Analyzing the market, competition, and industry trends within your business plan helps identify potential risks and uncover untapped opportunities for growth and expansion. This insight enables you to develop proactive strategies to mitigate risks and capitalize on opportunities, positioning your business for long-term success.
  • Improve Decision-Making : A business plan serves as a reference point so you can make informed decisions that align with your company’s overall objectives and long-term vision. By consistently referring to your plan and adjusting it as needed, you can ensure that your business remains on track and adapts to changes in the market, industry, or internal operations.
  • Foster Team Alignment and Communication : A shared business plan helps ensure that all team members are on the same page, promoting clear communication, collaboration, and a unified approach to achieving the company’s goals. By involving your team in the planning process and regularly reviewing the plan together, you can foster a sense of ownership, commitment, and accountability that drives success.

What are the Different Types of Business Plans?

In today’s fast-paced business world, having a well-structured roadmap is more important than ever. A traditional business plan provides a comprehensive overview of your company’s goals and strategies, helping you make informed decisions and achieve long-term success. There are various types of business plans, each designed to suit different needs and purposes. Let’s explore the main types:

  • Startup Business Plan: Tailored for new ventures, a startup business plan outlines the company’s mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections. It helps entrepreneurs clarify their vision, secure funding from investors, and create a roadmap for their business’s future. Additionally, this plan identifies potential challenges and opportunities, which are crucial for making informed decisions and adapting to changing market conditions.
  • Internal Business Plan: This type of plan is intended for internal use, focusing on strategies, milestones, deadlines, and resource allocation. It serves as a management tool for guiding the company’s growth, evaluating its progress, and ensuring that all departments are aligned with the overall vision. The internal business plan also helps identify areas of improvement, fosters collaboration among team members, and provides a reference point for measuring performance.
  • Strategic Business Plan: A strategic business plan outlines long-term goals and the steps to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for the company’s direction. It typically includes a SWOT analysis, market research, and competitive analysis. This plan allows businesses to align their resources with their objectives, anticipate changes in the market, and develop contingency plans. By focusing on the big picture, a strategic business plan fosters long-term success and stability.
  • Feasibility Business Plan: This plan is designed to assess the viability of a business idea, examining factors such as market demand, competition, and financial projections. It is often used to decide whether or not to pursue a particular venture. By conducting a thorough feasibility analysis, entrepreneurs can avoid investing time and resources into an unviable business concept. This plan also helps refine the business idea, identify potential obstacles, and determine the necessary resources for success.
  • Growth Business Plan: Also known as an expansion plan, a growth business plan focuses on strategies for scaling up an existing business. It includes market analysis, new product or service offerings, and financial projections to support expansion plans. This type of plan is essential for businesses looking to enter new markets, increase their customer base, or launch new products or services. By outlining clear growth strategies, the plan helps ensure that expansion efforts are well-coordinated and sustainable.
  • Operational Business Plan: This type of plan outlines the company’s day-to-day operations, detailing the processes, procedures, and organizational structure. It is an essential tool for managing resources, streamlining workflows, and ensuring smooth operations. The operational business plan also helps identify inefficiencies, implement best practices, and establish a strong foundation for future growth. By providing a clear understanding of daily operations, this plan enables businesses to optimize their resources and enhance productivity.
  • Lean Business Plan: A lean business plan is a simplified, agile version of a traditional plan, focusing on key elements such as value proposition, customer segments, revenue streams, and cost structure. It is perfect for startups looking for a flexible, adaptable planning approach. The lean business plan allows for rapid iteration and continuous improvement, enabling businesses to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions. This streamlined approach is particularly beneficial for businesses in fast-paced or uncertain industries.
  • One-Page Business Plan: As the name suggests, a one-page business plan is a concise summary of your company’s key objectives, strategies, and milestones. It serves as a quick reference guide and is ideal for pitching to potential investors or partners. This plan helps keep teams focused on essential goals and priorities, fosters clear communication, and provides a snapshot of the company’s progress. While not as comprehensive as other plans, a one-page business plan is an effective tool for maintaining clarity and direction.
  • Nonprofit Business Plan: Specifically designed for nonprofit organizations, this plan outlines the mission, goals, target audience, fundraising strategies, and budget allocation. It helps secure grants and donations while ensuring the organization stays on track with its objectives. The nonprofit business plan also helps attract volunteers, board members, and community support. By demonstrating the organization’s impact and plans for the future, this plan is essential for maintaining transparency, accountability, and long-term sustainability within the nonprofit sector.
  • Franchise Business Plan: For entrepreneurs seeking to open a franchise, this type of plan focuses on the franchisor’s requirements, as well as the franchisee’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. It is crucial for securing a franchise agreement and ensuring the business’s success within the franchise system. This plan outlines the franchisee’s commitment to brand standards, marketing efforts, and operational procedures, while also addressing local market conditions and opportunities. By creating a solid franchise business plan, entrepreneurs can demonstrate their ability to effectively manage and grow their franchise, increasing the likelihood of a successful partnership with the franchisor.

Using Business Plan Software

business plan

Creating a comprehensive business plan can be intimidating, but business plan software can streamline the process and help you produce a professional document. These tools offer a number of benefits, including guided step-by-step instructions, financial projections, and industry-specific templates. Here are the top 5 business plan software options available to help you craft a great business plan.

1. LivePlan

LivePlan is a popular choice for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features. It offers over 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, and the ability to track your progress against key performance indicators. With LivePlan, you can create visually appealing, professional business plans that will impress investors and stakeholders.

2. Upmetrics

Upmetrics provides a simple and intuitive platform for creating a well-structured business plan. It features customizable templates, financial forecasting tools, and collaboration capabilities, allowing you to work with team members and advisors. Upmetrics also offers a library of resources to guide you through the business planning process.

Bizplan is designed to simplify the business planning process with a drag-and-drop builder and modular sections. It offers financial forecasting tools, progress tracking, and a visually appealing interface. With Bizplan, you can create a business plan that is both easy to understand and visually engaging.

Enloop is a robust business plan software that automatically generates a tailored plan based on your inputs. It provides industry-specific templates, financial forecasting, and a unique performance score that updates as you make changes to your plan. Enloop also offers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget.

5. Tarkenton GoSmallBiz

Developed by NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, GoSmallBiz is tailored for small businesses and startups. It features a guided business plan builder, customizable templates, and financial projection tools. GoSmallBiz also offers additional resources, such as CRM tools and legal document templates, to support your business beyond the planning stage.

Business Plan FAQs

What is a good business plan.

A good business plan is a well-researched, clear, and concise document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, target market, competitive advantages, and financial projections. It should be adaptable to change and provide a roadmap for achieving success.

What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan?

The three main purposes of a business plan are to guide the company’s strategy, attract investment, and evaluate performance against objectives. Here’s a closer look at each of these:

  • It outlines the company’s purpose and core values to ensure that all activities align with its mission and vision.
  • It provides an in-depth analysis of the market, including trends, customer needs, and competition, helping the company tailor its products and services to meet market demands.
  • It defines the company’s marketing and sales strategies, guiding how the company will attract and retain customers.
  • It describes the company’s organizational structure and management team, outlining roles and responsibilities to ensure effective operation and leadership.
  • It sets measurable, time-bound objectives, allowing the company to plan its activities effectively and make strategic decisions to achieve these goals.
  • It provides a comprehensive overview of the company and its business model, demonstrating its uniqueness and potential for success.
  • It presents the company’s financial projections, showing its potential for profitability and return on investment.
  • It demonstrates the company’s understanding of the market, including its target customers and competition, convincing investors that the company is capable of gaining a significant market share.
  • It showcases the management team’s expertise and experience, instilling confidence in investors that the team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.
  • It establishes clear, measurable objectives that serve as performance benchmarks.
  • It provides a basis for regular performance reviews, allowing the company to monitor its progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • It enables the company to assess the effectiveness of its strategies and make adjustments as needed to achieve its objectives.
  • It helps the company identify potential risks and challenges, enabling it to develop contingency plans and manage risks effectively.
  • It provides a mechanism for evaluating the company’s financial performance, including revenue, expenses, profitability, and cash flow.

Can I write a business plan by myself?

Yes, you can write a business plan by yourself, but it can be helpful to consult with mentors, colleagues, or industry experts to gather feedback and insights. There are also many creative business plan templates and business plan examples available online, including those above.

We also have examples for specific industries, including a using food truck business plan , salon business plan , farm business plan , daycare business plan , and restaurant business plan .

Is it possible to create a one-page business plan?

Yes, a one-page business plan is a condensed version that highlights the most essential elements, including the company’s mission, target market, unique selling proposition, and financial goals.

How long should a business plan be?

A typical business plan ranges from 20 to 50 pages, but the length may vary depending on the complexity and needs of the business.

What is a business plan outline?

A business plan outline is a structured framework that organizes the content of a business plan into sections, such as the executive summary, company description, market analysis, and financial projections.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

The five most common business plan mistakes include inadequate research, unrealistic financial projections, lack of focus on the unique selling proposition, poor organization and structure, and failure to update the plan as circumstances change.

What questions should be asked in a business plan?

A business plan should address questions such as: What problem does the business solve? Who is the specific target market ? What is the unique selling proposition? What are the company’s objectives? How will it achieve those objectives?

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan focuses on the overall vision, goals, and tactics of a company, while a strategic plan outlines the specific strategies, action steps, and performance measures necessary to achieve the company’s objectives.

How is business planning for a nonprofit different?

Nonprofit business planning focuses on the organization’s mission, social impact, and resource management, rather than profit generation. The financial section typically includes funding sources, expenses, and projected budgets for programs and operations.

Image: Envato Elements

bar business plan

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How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

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Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.

Advertising

Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

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Should You Get a Financial Advisor If You’re a Small-Business Owner? 5 Things To Consider

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As a small-business owner, you’re juggling numerous responsibilities, from managing daily operations to planning for future growth. One critical aspect that often gets overlooked is financial planning . This is where a financial advisor can play a pivotal role. But how do you know if hiring one is the right move for your business? Here are five key considerations to help you decide.

Assessing Your Financial Knowledge

Running a business requires a solid understanding of financial management. While you may excel in your industry, financial planning may not be your forte. A financial advisor brings expertise in various areas such as budgeting, tax planning and investment strategies. If you find yourself struggling with financial decisions or simply lack the time to manage your finances effectively, a financial advisor can provide the knowledge and guidance needed to keep your business financially sound.

Time Management and Efficiency

As a small-business owner, your time is precious. Every hour spent on financial planning is an hour less spent on growing your business. Financial advisors can take over the complex and time-consuming tasks of managing your finances, allowing you to focus on what you do best. They can streamline processes, implement effective financial strategies and ensure your financial goals are aligned with your business objectives, ultimately saving you time and enhancing productivity.

Navigating Tax Complexities

Tax laws are constantly changing, and staying compliant can be a daunting task for small-business owners. Financial advisors stay up to date with the latest tax regulations and can help you navigate the complexities of tax planning. They can identify tax-saving opportunities, ensure you take advantage of available deductions and help you avoid costly mistakes. This not only helps in reducing your tax liability but also ensures that you remain compliant with all tax laws.

Planning for the Future

A financial advisor can assist in creating a comprehensive financial plan that includes both short-term and long-term goals. They can help you with retirement planning, succession planning and investment strategies that align with your business objectives. By having a clear financial plan in place, you can ensure the stability and growth of your business, even in uncertain times. Financial advisors can also provide valuable insights into market trends and economic forecasts, helping you make informed decisions about the future of your business.

Risk Management and Mitigation

Every business faces risks, from economic downturns to unexpected expenses. A financial advisor can help you identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. They can advise on appropriate insurance coverage, create emergency funds and implement risk management plans to protect your business from unforeseen events. By proactively managing risks, you can safeguard your business’ financial health and ensure its long-term sustainability.

While hiring a financial advisor entails an additional expense, the benefits of professional financial guidance can far outweigh the costs. A financial advisor can provide expertise, save you time, help you navigate taxes, plan for the future and manage risks, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of your business. 

If these considerations resonate with your current situation, it might be time to seek the assistance of a financial advisor to take your business to the next level.

Editor's note: This article was produced via automated technology and then fine-tuned and verified for accuracy by a member of GOBankingRates' editorial team.

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How to Start a Small Business in 10 Steps

A woman learns how to start a small business in a floral shop.

Learn how to start a small business from scratch with expert guidance. Get essential tips and steps for launching your dream journey successfully.

create a small business financial plan

Brett Grossfeld

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Do you have a killer idea that you think would be perfect for launching a small business? If you believe what you see on TikTok, becoming an entrepreneur is just about as easy as posting a 30-second video. But in the real world, launching a small business can be a bit more challenging.

Starting a small business may seem daunting, but if you ask those same business owners if it’s worth the risk — few would trade the opportunity to shape their own destiny.

But where to start? Thankfully, you don’t need to have everything figured out before going out on your own. Successful small business owners are constantly learning from their mistakes — and improving their ideas and dreams along the way.

If you’re ready to take the leap and become a small business owner, keep reading.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

What is a small business, how much does it cost to start a small business, how to start a small business in 10 steps, what do you need to start a small business, start small — but think big.

Small businesses are generally defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as independent operations having fewer than 200 employees. And the majority of small businesses in the United States have fewer than five employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . 

But the number — or lack — of employees doesn’t necessarily define a “small business.” A business’s size can also be determined by the number of sales, the range of individual business locations, and other factors.

Along with size requirements, the SBA considers a company to be small if it’s:

  • Independently owned and operated
  • Not dominant in its field
  • Physically located and operated in the U.S. (or a U.S. territory)

If your company meets the SBA’s definition of a small business, many government programs offer resources and local assistance for you to turn your dreams into reality.

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If you’re skilled in a certain trade — say, bookkeeping — you can launch a business with almost no money . But if your idea needs to be fleshed out and developed by researchers, scientists, and engineers, your startup costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond. But most startup costs fall somewhere in the middle. 

Factors that influence cost

A sole proprietor working from home is going to have very different startup costs than a Silicon Valley startup flush with venture capital funds. But it doesn’t matter if you have $1,000 or $1 million to launch your small business — you’ll need to have a budget.

Are you moving the clutter out of your garage to make room for a desk? Or are you going to hire an architect to remodel a warehouse space in a trendy neighborhood? Obviously, both businesses are going to have wildly different expenses.

Think about your budget and what you can afford to get started. And it’s good to assume that unexpected expenses will pop up along the way — especially in your first year of business.

What kinds of costs to expect

The SBA has a worksheet that will help you calculate typical expenses for a small business, including one-time expenses such as:

  • Rent : This includes security deposit, first month’s rent and utilities. If you’re working from home, you can deduct a percentage of your rent or mortgage on your taxes .
  • Improvement costs: Anything that you might spend on your physical place of business to make it suitable for work.
  • Inventory : If you’re selling a product, you’ll need goods to keep up with customer demand.
  • Employees : This includes payroll, payroll taxes, and health insurance.
  • Professional services: Accountants, lawyers, and consultants will all need to be paid
  • Supplies : Think office supplies, such as paper and pencils, and operating supplies, like computers and printers.
  • Marketing: Business cards, stationery, flyers, and advertising all fall under this category.
  • Miscellaneous : This includes licenses, permits, legal fees, signage, technology, and accounting software. Everything else — liability insurance, repairs, maintenance, and dues.

The most difficult part of starting a small business is committing to your vision. It’s easier if you break down the process into small, achievable goals. Here are 10 steps that will get you on your way:

1. Do your research

If you don’t do basic market research before you launch your business, you may be down for the count before you even get started. Ask neighbors, friends, and even your barista if they would be interested in your product or service — and ask how much they’d be willing to pay for it. 

Conduct competitor research, local and global searches, and even offer surveys to consumers to see what the need versus want ratio is. 

2. Write a business plan

A business plan is your roadmap; it helps guide you as you start and grow your company. If you need capital to get started, most investors will want to review a business plan before they commit to any financing. 

To organize your ideas, download and fill out a business plan template . A well-written business plan provides clarity, confirms the math, and helps you establish goals so your business has the best chance of success.

3. Choose a business name

Finding the perfect brand name is a vital step in launching a new business. But hiring a professional naming company doesn’t come cheap — it can cost as much as $100,000 , according to Fast Company. 

If that’s outside your budget, there are countless AI-powered business name generators available online, and Fiverr has entrepreneurs who will help brainstorm business names for three figures or less.

4. Decide on your location

Take a look at the taxes, zoning laws, and regulations in your location. You may find that operating your business in a different location could offer financial advantages. Review the fees, costs, and tax benefits of each state to see which location makes the most sense for your business . A strategic move may put you ahead of the game before you even open the doors.

5. Get your finances in order

Startup costs discourage many would-be entrepreneurs, but the reality is that many successful businesses got started with little more than a vision, discipline, and hard work. However, if you really need cash for that newly opened business bank account, here are four ways of getting that money:

  • Self-funding: If you have the means, you may use your own earnings to kickstart your business or see out financial counsel to work it into your budget.
  • Outside investors: For a stake in your company, relatives or venture capitalists may be willing to invest in your business.
  • Small business loans: If you want to keep full ownership of your business, a small business loan may be the way to go.
  • Crowdfunding: If you’re feeling creative and confident, try sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe to generate capital.

6. Take care of the legal stuff

Register your business in the state where it was formed — and make sure that you’re set up to pay state income and unemployment tax. Review whether your local municipality requires filing for a license or permit to operate your business. 

To satisfy Uncle Sam, apply for an EIN from the IRS . Confirm that no one else is using your business name by contacting your state filing office or online database. Some business structures require using a doing business as (DBA) name, and you may be required to open a business bank account.

7. Develop a marketing plan

Once you have a terrific name for your company locked down, you’ll want to create an online presence for your business. Be consistent on your social media channels , ideally creating accounts on the channels — meeting them online where they are. 

Develop a website that’s intuitive and filled with all the information your customers need. Your marketing may also include advertising campaigns and public relations.

8. Set up your CRM software

To enhance your marketing efforts and grow your small business, try customer relationship management ( CRM) for Small Business . This will be your solution for storing and managing prospect and customer information such as contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities — all in one single source of truth. 

With Salesforce’s Starter Suite , you can start in minutes and easily manage your marketing, sales, and customer service as your business scales.

9. Launch your product or service

Congratulations: You’ve done all the hard work and you’re ready to introduce your product to the world. Make sure to announce your launch on social media — and consider throwing a media-friendly bash to celebrate.

10. Keep your customers happy

When you use CRM software, you can keep track and personalize support for all your customers. And happy customers are good for business — 80% of them say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services .

The United States has more than 33 million small businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , and that number represents 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. And most of those small businesses started the same way — with an entrepreneur and an idea. But it takes more than just a dream to launch a small business.

So, where to start?

It’s time to take some notes. First, start outlining your business plan. If you’re stuck, ask yourself these four questions when developing your plan :

  • Goals : What do you need to accomplish to achieve your vision?
  • Methods : What are the steps you need to follow to get you there?
  • Measurements : How will you determine when each objective has been met?
  • Obstacles : What could throw you off course along the way?

Once you’ve written a business plan and are feeling confident, you’re ready to establish:

A name for your business

A great business name should succinctly identify your company and its audience. Brainstorm and get feedback from friends, family, and potential customers. And before you fall in love with your new company name, make sure that an established business in your industry isn’t already using that name.

A location for your business

Choosing where to conduct business is one of the most important decisions you can make for your small business. While staying close to home may be your first instinct, a change of venue may prove to be financially advantageous.

A business structure

For tax purposes and protection of personal assets, you need to choose a business structure that offers the right balance of legal protections and benefits. Common business structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, and cooperative.

A legal presence

If you want personal liability protection, legal protection, and tax benefits for your company, you’ll need to register your business with state and local governments.

Federal and state tax ID numbers

Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) works like a personal Social Security number, but for your business. You need an EIN to pay state and federal taxes for your company.

Licenses and permits

Whether your business needs to apply — and pay for — licenses and permits depends on your business activities, location, and government rules. Review regulations from city, state, and federal agencies.

A business bank account

Opening up a bank account exclusively for business use will help keep your personal finances separate, making life easier at tax time. There are several banks that will allow you to open a business checking account with a zero balance, but traditionally banks will require an opening deposit of anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000.

Start-up funds

Even if you open a business checking account with a zero balance, you’re going to want to have some funds to cover basic operating expenses. The SBA offers guidance on obtaining funding for your small business, including loans, grants, and investors.

Starting a new business may feel like a gamble, but business insurance will help you cover your bet. The right insurance policy will help protect you against accidents, natural disasters, and lawsuits.

You should also consider:

Customer relationship management

A CRM platform keeps your customer data organized and provides the foundation to build connected customer experiences (that can be made even better through artificial intelligence). Starting with a suite of sales, service, marketing, and commerce tools is easy.

Invoice and billing software

While it is possible to keep track of your financial records on a traditional paper ledger, modern invoice and billing software makes the process much, much easier.

A graphic designer

A well-designed logo can make or break a business. The Nike “swoosh” was created by a graphic design student — and the $35 Nike initially spent paid for itself many times over.

Many small businesses exist with just a presence on social media, but having a professionally designed website adds legitimacy to your business.

Marketing experts

Like graphic design, marketing expenses are costs that many small business owners initially want to avoid. But strategically investing in a marketing campaign can be a boon for a small business that wants to make noise in a crowded marketplace.

A Human Resources department

Once your business grows to a certain size, it’s time to create a human resources (HR) department — or, at least, to hire an HR professional. This professional can focus on things such as labor law compliance, employee recruitment, employee engagement and development, and compensation and benefits management while you manage your business.

An assistant

For most small businesses starting out, hiring an assistant to perform administrative and clerical duties is something of a luxury. If your budget is tight, consider a virtual assistant .

What are some popular small business ideas?

If you have a unique idea for a small business, great. But some of the best small business ideas build on your strengths and experience. What do you love to do? What lights you up when you are helping the community? Do you have a pull to do something more?

What are the odds that my small business will succeed?

Starting a small business is no guarantee of success. Approximately 80% of small businesses survive their first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survival rate decreases to 50% after five years and 30% after 10 years.

What are some Fortune 500 companies that started small?

Not all big companies started with millions of dollars in venture capital. Some of America’s biggest brand names had far more modest beginnings . Apple famously got started in a Silicon Valley garage, while Mattel was building dollhouse furniture from picture frame scraps in its early days.

What are the most business-friendly states?

Before setting up shop in New York or California, consider launching your small business in North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, or North Carolina. These states offer the best conditions to start a business , according to Forbes Advisor.

What can I deduct for my small business at tax time?

(Almost) everyone knows that you can deduct entertainment and travel expenses as a small business owner. But you can also deduct software subscriptions, office furniture, and interest on small business loans, according to NerdWallet .

Taking the leap to start your own small business is just the first step on your entrepreneurial path. But you’re in good company. Nearly half of all U.S. employees are employed by a small business — and more than 80% of those small businesses are solo ventures , according to Forbes Advisor. There’s no better time than the present to start turning your dreams into reality.

Want to grow your new small business? Sign up for a Salesforce free trial .

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COMMENTS

  1. 4 Steps to Creating a Financial Plan for Your Small Business

    Writing a small business financial plan is a four-step process. It begins with creating a strategic plan, which covers the company's goals and what it needs to achieve them. The next step is to create financial projections, which are dependent on anticipating sales and expenses.

  2. How to Write a Financial Plan: Budget and Forecasts

    Here is everything you need to include in your financial plan, along with optional performance metrics, funding specifics, mistakes to avoid, and free templates. Key components of a financial plan. A sound financial plan is made up of six key components that help you easily track and forecast your business financials. They include your:

  3. Creating a Small Business Financial Plan

    Financial Plan Overview. A financial plan is a comprehensive document that charts a business's monetary objectives and the strategies to achieve them. It encapsulates everything from budgeting and forecasting to investments and resource allocation.. For small businesses, a solid financial plan provides direction, helping them navigate economic challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and ...

  4. Guide to Writing a Financial Plan for a Business

    The balance sheet portion of the financial plan aims to give an idea of what the business will be worth, considering all its assets and liabilities, at a future date. To do this, it uses figures from the income statement and cash flow statement. The essence of a balance sheet is found in the equation: Liabilities + Equity = Assets.

  5. Small Business Financial Plans

    A small business financial plan is an outline of the financial status of your business, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow information. A financial plan can help guide a small business toward sustainable growth. Financial plans can aid in business goal setting and metrics tracking, as well as provide proof of profitable ...

  6. How to Create a Small Business Financial Plan (w/ Example)

    The document that you need to create is a small business financial plan, which should incorporate key figures including information about your business income and cash flow and other details that will provide you with a clear picture of your finances. We will share a full template to create a financial plan with you later in this post, but for ...

  7. Business Plan Financial Templates

    This financial plan projections template comes as a set of pro forma templates designed to help startups. The template set includes a 12-month profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement for you to detail the current and projected financial position of a business. ‌. Download Startup Financial Projections Template.

  8. How to Conduct Small Business Financial Planning Effectively

    2. Outline your business goals. Clearly outlining your business goals gives your financial planning direction. When you have company goals in place, you can tailor your financial plan to achieve those goals. Imagine your business goal is to increase your annual turnover by 10% within the next year.

  9. Financial Planning for Small Business Owners

    These guidelines are only the very basics of what a small business owner needs to consider when creating a financial plan. Some other factors that may play a role in your personal and business ...

  10. How to Financially Plan for Your Business

    Financial planning & cash flow projection for your company. Start your quote. Or call 1-888-490-1549. "Businesses that don't plan thoroughly are more likely to struggle." This axiom is particularly true when it comes to financial planning. Financial planning analyzes current and future costs and income to help determine the best plan of action.

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

    Learn about the best business plan software. 1. Write an executive summary. This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your ...

  12. Small Business Financial Plan Template

    The Small Business Financial Plan template is designed for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in various industries. It provides an easy-to-follow framework for creating a comprehensive financial plan that can be used to manage cash flow, plan for growth, and ensure the long-term success of the business. 1.

  13. How to Create a Financial Plan for Your Small Business

    Planning is an essential part of operating a business, but a business plan isn't the only roadmap you need. Cortlon Cofield, CPA and owner of Cofield Advisors, a small business financial planning service, said, "Having a well thought out financial plan for your business is the blueprint to success.". Bradford Daniel Creger, chief economist and lead wealth strategist at TFR Group, a ...

  14. Write your business plan

    Traditional business plans use some combination of these nine sections. Executive summary. Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful. Include your mission statement, your product or service, and basic information about your company's leadership team, employees, and location.

  15. Small Business Planning

    Small Business Planning. Small-business owners have special financial-planning needs and opportunities. You can participate in tax-advantaged savings plans for yourself (and your employees, if you have them) and other tax benefits, but you also have additional tax and legal responsibilities. You can also plan for your debt and investing needs ...

  16. How to Create a Financial Plan for Your Business

    The key components of a business financial plan. We now know that a thorough financial plan is imperative to the success and stability of your small business. Here are the components that can help make that happen: Income Statement: Contains information on your revenue, profits, and losses. Cash flow statement: Documents how money flows in and ...

  17. 6 Elements of a Successful Financial Plan for a Small Business

    A business financial plan typically has six parts: sales forecasting, expense outlay, a statement of financial position, a cash flow projection, a break-even analysis and an operations plan. A good financial plan helps you manage cash flow and accounts for months when revenue might be lower than expected. It also helps you budget for daily and ...

  18. Business Financial Plan

    5. Build a budget. Building a budget is the most essential step in creating your financial plan. Take a look at the expenses such as product equipment, utilities and other services you pay for in order to maintain the business. Insurance and rent are major expenses for many businesses as well. Keep the budget in an Excel or Google spreadsheet ...

  19. How to Prepare a Financial Plan for Startup Business (w/ example)

    7. Build a Visual Report. If you've closely followed the steps leading to this, you know how to research for financial projections, create a financial plan, and test assumptions using "what-if" scenarios. Now, we'll prepare visual reports to present your numbers in a visually appealing and easily digestible format.

  20. How to Create a Business Plan: Examples & Free Template

    It offers financial forecasting tools, progress tracking, and a visually appealing interface. With Bizplan, you can create a business plan that is both easy to understand and visually engaging. 4. Enloop. Enloop is a robust business plan software that automatically generates a tailored plan based on your inputs. It provides industry-specific ...

  21. How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

    1. Create Your Executive Summary. The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans. Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

  22. Financial Planning for Small Business Owners

    Holistic financial planning for an individual or couple generally involves tax planning, risk management, investment planning, retirement planning, and gift and estate planning. For each of these areas, let's consider how business ownership takes this planning to another level. Tax Planning: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changes the tax ...

  23. 10 Tips for Efficiently Managing Your Small Business Finances from Day One

    Understanding your cash flow will help you develop a more accurate budget. 5. Track cash flow. Cash flow is what keeps your business afloat. Make sure you have enough money coming in to pay the ...

  24. Financial Forecasting: Its Critical Role In Small-Business Success

    getty. Running a small business can be unpredictable, but financial forecasting helps bring some clarity to the chaos. By looking into historical data and market trends, entrepreneurs can chart a ...

  25. How To Create Financial Projections for Your Business Plan

    Collect relevant historical financial data and market analysis. Forecast expenses. Forecast sales. Build financial projections. The following five steps can help you break down the process of developing financial projections for your company: 1. Identify the purpose and timeframe for your projections.

  26. Should You Get a Financial Advisor If You're a Small-Business Owner? 5

    Assessing Your Financial Knowledge. Running a business requires a solid understanding of financial management. While you may excel in your industry, financial planning may not be your forte. A financial advisor brings expertise in various areas such as budgeting, tax planning and investment strategies.

  27. 10 Steps for Starting a Small Business

    4. Plan Your New Business Budget. One of the most important steps in how to set up a business involves estimating your costs. The cost to start a business has two dimensions: estimating how much money you'll need to get the business up and running and how much you'll have to spend on an ongoing basis to maintain it.

  28. Start a Small Business With These 10 Steps

    To organize your ideas, download and fill out a business plan template. A well-written business plan provides clarity, confirms the math, and helps you establish goals so your business has the best chance of success. 3. Choose a business name. Finding the perfect brand name is a vital step in launching a new business.

  29. Plan your business

    Fund your business. It costs money to start a business. Funding your business is one of the first — and most important — financial choices most business owners make. How you choose to fund your business could affect how you structure and run your business. Choose a funding source.

  30. Global Expansion: Take Your Business To New Markets Successfully

    According to research, "shareholders do, in fact, reward companies who grow faster outside of the U.S ." Expanding to new markets can lead to economies of scale and lower production costs due to ...