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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

how business plan is written

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your 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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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

how business plan is written

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. It helps you develop a working business and avoid consequences that could stop you before you ever start.

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

Related Reading: 5 fundamental principles of business planning

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

The best way to start is by reviewing examples and downloading a business plan template. These resources will provide you with guidance and inspiration to help you write a plan.

We recommend starting with a simple one-page plan ; it streamlines the planning process and helps you organize your ideas. However, if one page doesn’t fit your needs, there are plenty of other great templates available that will put you well on your way to writing a useful business plan.

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Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

Start your business plan with the #1 plan writing software. Create your plan with Liveplan today.

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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how business plan is written

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

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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

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

What Is a Business Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Plan Steps

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

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

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

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

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

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

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

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

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

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

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

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

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

Step 1: Executive Summary

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

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

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

Step 2: Description of Business

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

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

Step 3: Market Analysis

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

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

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

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

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

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

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

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

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

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

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

Step 7: Marketing Plan

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

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

Step 8: Sales Plan

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

Start by answering the following questions:

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

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

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

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

Step 10: Financial Projections

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

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

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

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

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

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

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

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

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

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

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

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

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

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

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

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

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

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

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

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

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

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

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

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

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

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

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

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Written by Jesse Sumrak | May 14, 2023

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Business plans might seem like an old-school stiff-collared practice, but they deserve a place in the startup realm, too. It’s probably not going to be the frame-worthy document you hang in the office—yet, it may one day be deserving of the privilege.

Whether you’re looking to win the heart of an angel investor or convince a bank to lend you money, you’ll need a business plan. And not just any ol’ notes and scribble on the back of a pizza box or napkin—you’ll need a professional, standardized report.

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

However, just like bookkeeping, loan applications, and 404 redirects, business plans are an essential step in cementing your business foundation.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to write a business plan without boring you to tears. We’ve jam-packed this article with all the business plan examples, templates, and tips you need to take your non-existent proposal from concept to completion.

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan why do you desperately need one.

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

  • Who your business is, what it does, and who it serves
  • Where your business is now
  • Where you want it to go
  • How you’re going to make it happen
  • What might stop you from taking your business from Point A to Point B
  • How you’ll overcome the predicted obstacles

While it’s not required when starting a business, having a business plan is helpful for a few reasons:

  • Secure a Bank Loan: Before approving you for a business loan, banks will want to see that your business is legitimate and can repay the loan. They want to know how you’re going to use the loan and how you’ll make monthly payments on your debt. Lenders want to see a sound business strategy that doesn’t end in loan default.
  • Win Over Investors: Like lenders, investors want to know they’re going to make a return on their investment. They need to see your business plan to have the confidence to hand you money.
  • Stay Focused: It’s easy to get lost chasing the next big thing. Your business plan keeps you on track and focused on the big picture. Your business plan can prevent you from wasting time and resources on something that isn’t aligned with your business goals.

Beyond the reasoning, let’s look at what the data says:

  • Simply writing a business plan can boost your average annual growth by 30%
  • Entrepreneurs who create a formal business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t
  • A study looking at 65 fast-growth companies found that 71% had small business plans
  • The process and output of creating a business plan have shown to improve business performance

Convinced yet? If those numbers and reasons don’t have you scrambling for pen and paper, who knows what will.

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

Before we get into the nitty-gritty steps of how to write a business plan, let’s look at some high-level tips to get you started in the right direction:

Be Professional and Legit

You might be tempted to get cutesy or revolutionary with your business plan—resist the urge. While you should let your brand and creativity shine with everything you produce, business plans fall more into the realm of professional documents.

Think of your business plan the same way as your terms and conditions, employee contracts, or financial statements. You want your plan to be as uniform as possible so investors, lenders, partners, and prospective employees can find the information they need to make important decisions.

If you want to create a fun summary business plan for internal consumption, then, by all means, go right ahead. However, for the purpose of writing this external-facing document, keep it legit.

Know Your Audience

Your official business plan document is for lenders, investors, partners, and big-time prospective employees. Keep these names and faces in your mind as you draft your plan.

Think about what they might be interested in seeing, what questions they’ll ask, and what might convince (or scare) them. Cut the jargon and tailor your language so these individuals can understand.

Remember, these are busy people. They’re likely looking at hundreds of applicants and startup investments every month. Keep your business plan succinct and to the point. Include the most pertinent information and omit the sections that won’t impact their decision-making.

Invest Time Researching

You might not have answers to all the sections you should include in your business plan. Don’t skip over these!

Your audience will want:

  • Detailed information about your customers
  • Numbers and solid math to back up your financial claims and estimates
  • Deep insights about your competitors and potential threats
  • Data to support market opportunities and strategy

Your answers can’t be hypothetical or opinionated. You need research to back up your claims. If you don’t have that data yet, then invest time and money in collecting it. That information isn’t just critical for your business plan—it’s essential for owning, operating, and growing your company.

Stay Realistic

Your business may be ambitious, but reign in the enthusiasm just a teeny-tiny bit. The last thing you want to do is have an angel investor call BS and say “I’m out” before even giving you a chance.

The folks looking at your business and evaluating your plan have been around the block—they know a thing or two about fact and fiction. Your plan should be a blueprint for success. It should be the step-by-step roadmap for how you’re going from Point A to Point B.

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

Not every business plan looks the same, but most share a few common elements. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Products and Services
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Strategy

Below, we’ll break down each of these sections in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it’s the section you’ll write last. That’s because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager.

Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what’s inside the business plan.

Your executive summary highlights key points of your plan. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to put all your juiciest strengths and opportunities strategically in this section.

2. Business Overview

In this section, you can dive deeper into the elements of your business, including answering:

  • What’s your business structure? Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.
  • Where is it located?
  • Who owns the business? Does it have employees?
  • What problem does it solve, and how?
  • What’s your mission statement? Your mission statement briefly describes why you are in business. To write a proper mission statement, brainstorm your business’s core values and who you serve.

Don’t overlook your mission statement. This powerful sentence or paragraph could be the inspiration that drives an investor to take an interest in your business. Here are a few examples of powerful mission statements that just might give you the goosebumps:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • InvisionApp : Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.
  • TED : Spread ideas.
  • Warby Parker : To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

3. Products and Services

As the owner, you know your business and the industry inside and out. However, whoever’s reading your document might not. You’re going to need to break down your products and services in minute detail.

For example, if you own a SaaS business, you’re going to need to explain how this business model works and what you’re selling.

You’ll need to include:

  • What services you sell: Describe the services you provide and how these will help your target audience.
  • What products you sell: Describe your products (and types if applicable) and how they will solve a need for your target and provide value.
  • How much you charge: If you’re selling services, will you charge hourly, per project, retainer, or a mixture of all of these? If you’re selling products, what are the price ranges?

4. Market Analysis

Your market analysis essentially explains how your products and services address customer concerns and pain points. This section will include research and data on the state and direction of your industry and target market.

This research should reveal lucrative opportunities and how your business is uniquely positioned to seize the advantage. You’ll also want to touch on your marketing strategy and how it will (or does) work for your audience.

Include a detailed analysis of your target customers. This describes the people you serve and sell your product to. Be careful not to go too broad here—you don’t want to fall into the common entrepreneurial trap of trying to sell to everyone and thereby not differentiating yourself enough to survive the competition.

The market analysis section will include your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors. This is your key to success.

If you don’t have a UVP, you don’t have a way to take on competitors who are already in this space. Here’s an example of an ecommerce internet business plan outlining their competitive edge:

FireStarters’ competitive advantage is offering product lines that make a statement but won’t leave you broke. The major brands are expensive and not distinctive enough to satisfy the changing taste of our target customers. FireStarters offers products that are just ahead of the curve and so affordable that our customers will return to the website often to check out what’s new.

5. Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis examines the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses in your market or industry. This will include direct and indirect competitors. It can also include threats and opportunities, like economic concerns or legal restraints.

The best way to sum up this section is with a classic SWOT analysis. This will explain your company’s position in relation to your competitors.

6. Financial Strategy

Your financial strategy will sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. It’ll explain how you make money, where your cash flow goes, and how you’ll become profitable or stay profitable.

This is one of the most important sections for lenders and investors. Have you ever watched Shark Tank? They always ask about the company’s financial situation. How has it performed in the past? What’s the ongoing outlook moving forward? How does the business plan to make it happen?

Answer all of these questions in your financial strategy so that your audience doesn’t have to ask. Go ahead and include forecasts and graphs in your plan, too:

  • Balance sheet: This includes your assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Profit & Loss (P&L) statement: This details your income and expenses over a given period.
  • Cash flow statement: Similar to the P&L, this one will show all cash flowing into and out of the business each month.

It takes cash to change the world—lenders and investors get it. If you’re short on funding, explain how much money you’ll need and how you’ll use the capital. Where are you looking for financing? Are you looking to take out a business loan, or would you rather trade equity for capital instead?

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

Ready to write your own business plan? Copy/paste the startup business plan template below and fill in the blanks.

Executive Summary Remember, do this last. Summarize who you are and your business plan in one page.

Business Overview Describe your business. What’s it do? Who owns it? How’s it structured? What’s the mission statement?

Products and Services Detail the products and services you offer. How do they work? What do you charge?

Market Analysis Write about the state of the market and opportunities. Use date. Describe your customers. Include your UVP.

Competitive Analysis Outline the competitors in your market and industry. Include threats and opportunities. Add a SWOT analysis of your business.

Financial Strategy Sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. If you’re applying for a loan, include how you’ll use the funding to progress the business.

What’s the Best Business Plan to Succeed as a Consultant?

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

Want to explore other templates and examples? We got you covered. Check out these 5 business plan examples you can use as inspiration when writing your plan:

  • SBA Wooden Grain Toy Company
  • SBA We Can Do It Consulting
  • OrcaSmart Business Plan Sample
  • Plum Business Plan Template
  • PandaDoc Free Business Plan Templates

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

If you find you’re getting stuck on perfecting your document, opt for a simple one-page business plan —and then get to work. You can always polish up your official plan later as you learn more about your business and the industry.

Remember, business plans are not a requirement for starting a business—they’re only truly essential if a bank or investor is asking for it.

Ask others to review your business plan. Get feedback from other startups and successful business owners. They’ll likely be able to see holes in your planning or undetected opportunities—just make sure these individuals aren’t your competitors (or potential competitors).

Your business plan isn’t a one-and-done report—it’s a living, breathing document. You’ll make changes to it as you grow and evolve. When the market or your customers change, your plan will need to change to adapt.

That means when you’re finished with this exercise, it’s not time to print your plan out and stuff it in a file cabinet somewhere. No, it should sit on your desk as a day-to-day reference. Use it (and update it) as you make decisions about your product, customers, and financial plan.

Review your business plan frequently, update it routinely, and follow the path you’ve developed to the future you’re building.

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

Be as detailed as you can without assuming too much. For example, include your expected revenue, expenses, profit, and growth for the future.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan?

The most common mistake is turning your business plan into a textbook. A business plan is an internal guide and an external pitching tool. Cut the fat and only include the most relevant information to start and run your business.

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

Co-founders, investors, or a board of advisors. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted mentor, your local chamber of commerce, or someone you know that runs a business.

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

Don’t let creating a business plan hold you back from starting your business. Writing documents might not be your thing—that doesn’t mean your business is a bad idea.

Let us help you get started.

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About Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a writing zealot focused on creating killer content. He’s spent almost a decade writing about startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped business. A writer by day and a peak bagger by night (and early early morning), you can usually find Jesse preparing for the apocalypse on a precipitous peak somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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how business plan is written

business plan

How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Every Entrepreneur

Are you starting a new business or trying to get a loan for your existing venture? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans give entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business idea .

In this post, you’ll learn how to put together a business plan and find the best resources to help you along the way.

how business plan is written

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how business plan is written

What is a Business Plan? 

A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how you will achieve those goals. Entrepreneurs who start out with business plans are 16 percent more likely to build successful companies , according to the Harvard Business Review.  Developing a business plan ensures sustainable success, guiding you as you grow your business, legitimizing your venture, and helping you secure funding (among countless other benefits). 

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

Most financial institutions and service providers require you to submit a detailed business plan to obtain funding for your business. Online businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, so they may not need funding and therefore may not feel the need to write a business plan. That said, writing a business plan is still a good idea as it can help you secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or open a business account. This varies per bank.

If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.Palo Alto software found that companies who make business plans are twice as likely to secure funding . .

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

If you’re just starting your business, making a business plan can help you  identify your strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

Approaching your business plan through that lens will help you focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. These also provide metrics to measure success against. 

Before writing your business plan, gather the content and data needed to inform what goes in it. This includes researching your market and industry – spanning everything from customer research to legalities you’ll need to consider. It’s a lot easier to start with the information already in front of you instead of researching each section individually as you go. 

Turn to guides, samples, and small business plan templates to help. Many countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. 

The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries.

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area:

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

Some Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Check your local chapter to see if they have any.

Banks that offer business funding also often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Do a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area:

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

If you’re looking for more sample business plans, Bplans has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers business plan templates intended to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs identify functional areas of a business they may not have considered.

how business plan is written

Understand Your Audience

Because business plans serve different purposes, you’re not always presenting it to the same audience. It’s important to understand who’s going to be reading your business plan, what you’re trying to convince them to do, and what hesitations they might have. 

That way, you can adapt your business plan accordingly. As such, your audience also determines which type of business plan format you use. Which brings us to our next point…

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats: 

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

If the business plan is just for you and internal folks, draft a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If you need it for business funding or other official purposes, choose the formal business plan and thoroughly complete the required sections while paying extra attention to financial projections.

If your business operates outside the U.S., clarify the preferred format with your bank.

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

As you write a business plan, take time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Ask the following questions to help you analyze your business idea along the way:

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

how business plan is written

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA , a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

Since not everyone is aware of the key details to include in each section, we’ve listed information you can copy to fill in your business plan outline. Here’s how to build a business plan step by step.  

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan, so this is where you need to hook readers in. Every business plan starts this way — even a simple business plan template should kick off with the Executive Summary. Summarize your entire business plan in a single page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders. 

Explain what your business has to offer, your target market , what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.

While this is the first section of your business plan, write it after you’ve completed the rest of your business plan. It’s a lot easier because you can pull from the sections you’ve already written, and it’s easier to identify the best parts of your business plan to include on the first page.

Company Description

In the Company Description, share 411 about your business. Include basic details like: 

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

Your mission statement , philosophy and values, vision, short- and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be in the Company Description.

Pro tip: These are the details you’ll use each time you create a business profile, whether that's on social media, business directories, or other networks. Keep your information consistent to reduce confusion and instill more confidence in potential customers. 

Products & Services

The Products & Services section details what you plan to sell to customers. For a dropshipping business , this section should explain which trending products you’re going to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you’ll price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.

Remember to include any unique selling points for specific products or product groupings, such as low overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.

For dropshipping businesses selling hundreds or even thousands of products, detail the main categories of products and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, it’s easier to visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine if you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target audience — the potential buyers of your products. People requesting a business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, the competitive landscape, who’s most likely to become your customers. It’s important to demonstrate that  there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable and/or to make a strong return on investment .

To complete the Market Analysis component of your business plan, check out the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research:

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

Use these websites and others to learn about the projected growth of your industry and your potential profitability. You can also use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network

Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends . This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business offers over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.

Marketing & Sales

Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, share how you plan to reach and sell products to your target market. Outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to market your product to potential customers – search marketing , social media marketing , email marketing , and influencer marketing methods .

If you’re unsure how to market your business’ products, analyze your competitors for some inspiration. Discovering your competition’s marketing tactics will help you customize your own strategy for building a customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. 

Do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content they’ve created to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their website and product pages.

Then come up with a plan to convert a similar audience with your marketing and advertising messages. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. 

Management & Organization

In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure and incorporation, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, or S corporations.

Draft a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you’re a solopreneur , include how your past education and work experience will help you run each aspect of your business. If you have one or more partner(s) and employee(s), include their relevant education and experience as well.

Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When self-evaluating, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and which ones to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third-party services. This also makes it easier to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.

Funding Request

Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment . If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.

Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything from the computer you use to run your website to the monthly fee for business services.

Financial Projections

In Financial Projections, share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea here is to demonstrate that the revenue you’re anticipating will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether from your personal finances or a capital lending service.

how business plan is written

If you’re looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail with projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it won’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.

The Appendix of your business plan includes any supplemental documents needed throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

If you’re submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.

SWOT Analysis

In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. 

Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to make a SWOT analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.

how business plan is written

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea , discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business's future.

In summary, here are the sections you will need to write for your business plan, step by step:

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your business in 2023!

Want to Learn More?

  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Register a Business in the USA
  • How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store in Less Than 30 Minutes Flat
  • 30+ Amazing Startup Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money

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How to Write a Business Plan

Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:05 pm by TRUiC Team

Writing a business plan can be an intimidating endeavor. Whether you’ve decided to start a business , or you already have a business and need to write a business plan to apply for a loan or to pitch to investors , we cover the process in-depth.

Recommended: Our business plan generator walks you through topics like marketing and financial projections so that your business is prepared to succeed.

Man writing a business plan.

What Is a Business Plan?

The traditional business plan is typically a 20 to 40-page formal document that describes what your business does, what your objectives are, and how you plan to achieve them.

It lays out your plans for operating, marketing, and managing your business, along with your goals and financial projections.

There are many different types of business plans, depending on the stage of your venture and the purpose of your business plan. In the earliest stages of your business idea, you may want to start small with a three-sentence business plan , or perhaps by sketching out a lean canvas or business model canvas .

Once your business idea has been developed, you’ll be ready to begin writing your business plan .

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

Writing a business plan requires you to think through all of the key elements of your business. This gives you insights into the challenges you’ll face and the strengths you bring.

A business plan is also often requested by lenders or investors when you are ready to seek financing.

While many companies do not need a formal business plan unless they are planning on seeking investors or applying for a business loan , writing a business plan has extensive benefits.

The process of writing your business plan allows you to take an in-depth look at your industry , market , and competitive position . It helps you set goals , determine your keys to success , and plan your strategies . It also allows you to explore your financial projections and manage cash. So, even if you do not need a formal business plan, the process of planning may still reap huge rewards.

Your Audience

You need to think carefully about who is going to read your business plan.

Although you might begin writing a business plan only to convince yourself, there are a number of stakeholders who may end up reading your business plan.

Your plan might be read by your:

  • Partners or potential partners
  • Board of directors
  • Senior management team
  • Current employees
  • Employment candidates

Outside the organization , the following stakeholders may want to read your business plan before they decide to do business with you:

  • Distributors
  • And independent contractors

Think about your primary audience when you are writing your business plan. What are the aspects that are most important to them? This is where you will want to put the majority of your focus.

For example, lenders will be most interested in your financial projections — your cash flow statement and balance sheet.

Investors might be most interested in your business model, the uniqueness of your product or service, and your competitive advantage.

Partners, your senior management team, and current employees might be most interested in your strategic plans- your vision, your operational plan, and your organizational plan.

Find Sample Business Plans in Your Industry

One great resource you should check out before sitting down to write your business plan are sample business plans in your industry.

Not only will you have the opportunity to gain insights on your industry and your competitors, you also might be able to find troves of industry and market research that will make conducting your own analysis of the industry and market much easier.

To find example business plans in your industry, try searching the web for “ your industry business plan example.”

Writing Your Business Plan

Once you have spent some time looking at sample business plans in your industry, it is now time to start writing your business plan . An easy place to begin is by outlining the major sections you will need in your plan.

What you need to include in your business plan will depend on the type of business you are creating, your business model, and who your intended audience is.

Common business plan sections include:

  • Executive Summary — a high-level overview of your business or business idea
  • Venture Overview — a description of your company, vision, mission, and goals
  • Product or Service Description — a detailed description of your product or service
  • Industry and Market Analysis — an analysis of the industry and market you compete in
  • Marketing Plan — your overall strategy and specific plans to capture market share
  • Organizational Plan — the legal form of the business and the key players
  • Operational Plan — how you will operate the business and your key resources
  • Goals, Milestones, and Risks — short and long-term goals, milestones, and risks
  • Financial Statements — Financial statements or the projected financials of your business

Not every type of venture will require every one of these sections to be included in their business plans. However, most business plans will at least include an executive summary, venture overview, a description of the products and services, and some form of financial projections.

Executive Summary

As suggested in its name, an executive summary is a summary of the key points in your business plan . This is your first chance to convey to readers the what, why, who, and how of your business or business idea.

Although there is no set structure for an executive summary, a good executive summary should summarize :

  • The problem you are solving
  • Your solution
  • Your target market
  • Any competitive advantages
  • The team you’ll build
  • Goals and objectives
  • An overview of your financials or financial forecast

If you are writing your business plan for the purpose of acquiring funding , you will also need to discuss the amount of funding required, the purpose of the funds, as well as how your investors will get paid back.

The executive summary should be clear and concise . Ideally, this section should be one to two pages and typically follows either a synopsis or story approach, depending on the intended audience.

In the synopsis approach, you would provide a brief summary of each of the key sections of your business plan. In the story approach, your executive summary reads like a narrative, allowing you to tell the “story” of your business or idea.

With either approach to writing the executive summary, the information you want to convey remains the same. The executive summary needs to provide an overall picture of your current business or business idea.

The executive summary should include:

  • A brief description of you and your venture,
  • The problem your product or service is solving,
  • Some information on your target market, including size, potential, & competition, and
  • The solution you are offering.

The executive summary should also include:

  • A statement of where you are now,
  • A statement of your objectives and future plans,
  • A list of what you see as keys to your success, and (if you are seeking investors)
  • Any relevant financial information such as start-up costs, funding required, and how you will use investor funding.

Although the executive summary is the first section in the business plan, because it is a summary of the rest of your business plan, it is often written last.

Venture Overview

The venture overview is a top-level depiction of your company.

It contains the:

Description of the Venture

  • Vision Statement
  • Mission Statement
  • Goals & Objectives
  • Keys to Your Success

The first part of your venture overview is a description of your venture.

The description of your venture should include what you do (a brief description of your products or services), the value you provide to customers, your current operating status or a brief history of the venture, and a short description of the industry or niche in which you compete.

How to Write a Vision Statement

After describing your venture, a vision statement is a very simple, 5 to 10 word sentence or tagline that expresses the fundamental goals of your firm. Good vision statements reflect your company’s long term passion and purpose, often in a way that evokes emotion.

Take a look at the vision statements below for some inspiration:

Disney —  To make people happy. Oxfam —  A world without poverty. Stanford —  To become the Harvard of the West. Marriott —  To be the #1 hospitality company in the world. Microsoft —  A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.

How to Write a Mission Statement

After having crafted your vision statement, you should also create a mission statement. A mission statement explains your company's goals in terms of what you do for your customers. A good mission statement should tell your reader what your company does, who you do it for, and why you do what you do.

Check out these excellent examples of compelling mission statements:

Patagonia —  “Our Reason For Being: Build the best products, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Trader Joes —  “Our mission is to give our customers the best food and beverage values that they can find anywhere and to provide them with the information required to make informed buying decisions. We provide these with a dedication to the highest quality of customer satisfaction delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride, and company spirit.” Facebook —  "Founded in 2004, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them."

Goals and Objectives

In this section of the business plan, break down your most important short-term and long-term goals and objectives.

Aim for five to seven of your most important short and long term goals.

This subsection of your venture description should be kept short. You will come back to your goals at the end of your business plan.

However, your key short-term and long-term goals should be highlighted early on in your business plan as well. The rest of your business plan will act as evidence of how you plan on achieving your goals.

Keys to Success

Your keys to success are your insights into what it takes to be successful in your industry, market, or niche.

Your keys to success can include several of the most important milestones that you will need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals.

These may include providing high quality products and services, your ability to attract customers or users and gain market share, or even your ability to develop the technology to deliver your products or services.

Your keys to success may also include the major milestones that you will need to reach along the way in order to achieve your vision. You will come back to your milestones and objectives at the end of your business plan.

Product or Service Description

The product or service description section is where you will go into detail in describing your products or services.

Not only will you describe your product in more detail, you should also discuss the uniqueness of your product, and what gives you an advantage over your competitors.

These are the three main parts of the Product (or Service) Description:

Description of Products or Services

Uniqueness of product, competitive advantage.

In this subsection of your business plan, describe the products or services you will provide, why they are a fit in the market, and how you will compete with similar products and services.

Begin by clearly describing the products or services you will provide. Make sure to explain the features and characteristics of your products and services. Your product or service description does not have to be highly technical. Rather, in addition to describing the features, focus on highlighting the advantages and benefits associated with your products or services.

Also, let your reader know why your product or service is needed. How does your product or service differ from those offered by your competitors? How does it better fill your customers wants and needs?

This is where you tell your reader why your solution is unique. Is it different from everything else out there? How is it different? Why would potential users choose your product or service over your competitors? In order to stand out, you need to distinguish yourself in some way.

To describe your product or service’s uniqueness, you may want to come up with a unique value proposition (or unique selling point). A value proposition is a short description of what you do, who you do it for, and how this benefits them.

A value proposition is similar to a mission statement. However, it differs in that a mission statement is written from the perspective of the company, while a value proposition is written from the perspective of the customer.

Your value proposition should be the center of your customer messaging. It should be front and center on your website, in your marketing materials, and in your advertising.

Here a few examples of great value propositions:

Dollar Shave Club —  A Great Shave for a Few Bucks a Month. No Commitment. No Fees. No B.S. Unbounce —  Build, Publish, & A/B Test Landing Pages Without IT Freshbooks —  Small Business Accounting Software Built for You, the Non-Accountant Skype —  Skype Keeps the World Talking, for Free. Share, Message, and Call - Now with Group Video on Mobile and Tablet Too.

What makes you better than competitors?

Does your competitive advantage come from superior products and services, customer service, technical support, logistics, price? What are the factors that give you an advantage over your competitors?

Clearly defining your competitive advantage is important.

Your competitive advantage is not just some abstract concept. It is at the core of how you deliver value to your customers. Your competitive advantage lays the foundation for your business model and should be a key component of your strategic plans.

Common areas where businesses find competitive advantages include:

  • Intellectual Property
  • Resources/Capital
  • Economies of Scale
  • Knowledge/Experience
  • Connections and Network
  • Customer Service
  • Technical Support
  • Customization
  • Brand Recognition/Loyalty

Industry and Market Analyses

The industry and market analysis is the “big picture” view of your industry and market.

Conducting an industry and market analysis is going to take a good deal of research. You will likely need to research your industry, your competitors, and your customers. But do not rush through this section of your business plan.

A good understanding of your industry and market is critical to your success. By understanding the forces at play within your industry, you will be better able to find additional ways to create value that will allow you to succeed in the current and anticipated competitive environment.

Conducting an industry and market analysis can be intimidating, especially if you do not know what to look for or how to find the information you need. In the next section, we will discuss what should be included in your industry analysis. Then, we will tell you where to begin looking.

Industry Analysis

The industry analysis is a big picture analysis of the industry you will compete in. What does your overall industry look like today? There are a number of insights that will help you assess the attractiveness of your idea and form a big picture view of the industry and segment you are considering competing in.

Key insights to be alert for include:

  • The dominant economic features of the industry
  • The industry’s driving forces
  • The industry’s competitive environment
  • The competitive position of major players and key competitors
  • Key industry success factors

To arrive at meaningful insights from your industry analysis, try to find answers to the following questions:

  • What primary products or services are provided by your industry?
  • What is the size and trajectory of the industry?
  • What was the annual growth rate of the industry over the past year? Three years? Five years? Ten years?
  • What is the forecasted annual growth rate over the next three years? Five years? Ten years?
  • What is the average profitability of firms in your industry?
  • What trends are affecting your industry?
  • Who are the major customer segments served by your industry?
  • Who are the major players in your industry?
  • Who will be your key competitors in your industry?
  • What key factors determine success or failure?

Industry Research

Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, you will need to know where to begin your search. There are a number of great free resources to begin looking for industry research. However, the first step is to determine the industry you are in.

While by this point, you should have some idea of the industry you are in, it is not always so clear. You could try an internet search to see what information you can find on your industry, but you will also want to find the NAICS code. You can do a NAICS Code Lookup and find the NAICS Code for LLC that matches your industry.

Here, you use the NAICS identification tool to drill-down through a list of industries to find the appropriate NAICS code for your business.

Once you know your industry, you can begin collecting more information about the industry trends and trajectory.

www.Bizstats.com provides free industry statistics including industry averages for income statement revenues and expenses, balance sheets, and key financial ratios. This is very helpful in making financial forecasts and setting benchmarks.

The US Census Bureau also provides several tools to help you conduct industry research:

  • The Economic Census provides information on employer businesses, including data sorted by industry, state, region, and more.
  • Statistics of US Businesses (SUSB) provides additional data on US businesses by enterprise size and industry. Both of these tools may help in conducting your industry analysis.

Target Market Analysis

Once you have a better understanding of the industry, you can begin to narrow down to your target market. In this section of the business plan you describe who your target market is and what you know about them.

What is a target market? Your target market is the specific group of customers to whom your product is intended. And no, it is not everyone. Although many new venture founders would like to sell their product or service to everyone, you should focus your efforts on your most likely customers.

Narrowing your target market requires understanding the three types of markets for your products or services. Your venture’s market can be narrowed down into three categories, the TAM, the SAM, and the SOM.

The total available market (TAM) is the total market for your products and services. Everyone in the universe who might be your customer.

The serviceable available market (SAM) is the subset of the total market that you can actually reach. Although anyone in your universe might be your customer, you are limited in your ability to reach them all.

The share of market (SOM) is the subset of the serviceable available market that you will actually reach. These are your most likely customers. Your target market.

Target markets can be segmented in many different ways. The idea is to narrow down to your most likely customers. This is where your focus should be.

Ways you can segment the market include:

  • Demographic (e.g., age, gender, family size, education, income)
  • Geographic (e.g., country, state, region, city, neighborhood)
  • Psychographic (e.g., benefits sought, personality, social class, lifestyle)
  • Behavioral (e.g., benefits sought, usage, attitude, loyalty)

Once you understand who your target market segments are, you will be able to start determining how you can reach them. To do this, consider:

  • Where does your target market get information to make purchasing decisions?
  • What is it they are looking for when considering buying this product/service?
  • What will your target market pay attention to?

Market Research

To determine your target market and conduct a market analysis, you will most likely have to do market research.

Market research is the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data related to your target market and target customer to support strategic decision making.

There are two types of market research : secondary market research, and primary market research.

Secondary market research is the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data that has already been collected for other purposes. Secondary market research may include the collection of data from a number of sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, consumer agencies, and for-profit organizations.

Primary market research is the collection of new information to gain a further understanding of the problem at hand. Primary market research involves you collecting the data or hiring a market research firm to collect data for you. This is you going out and actually collecting the opinions of your potential customers.

Common methods of primary market research include customer observation, focus groups, customer surveys, and customer interviews .

Because primary market research typically takes more time to complete and may incur significant costs , secondary market research is often conducted before conducting primary market research. This allows you to gather enough insights that you can narrow your primary market research to those more likely to be your customers.

To begin conducting secondary market research, consider these sources:

Think with Google provides a number of free tools and resources to help you find and understand your target market. From tools like Find My Audience and an Insights Library to a wealth of information on customer trends and the consumer journey, Think with Google is a valuable tool in conducting your market analysis.

City Town Info provides free statistics on people and places, colleges and universities, and jobs and careers. You can search for data on more than 20,000 U.S. communities at the city and state levels.

Google Trends is another useful tool for conducting market research. Google Trends allows you to explore what people are searching on the internet. You can examine trending topics, see trends by year, or search your own topic to discover interest over time, by region, or by related queries.

Social Mention allows you to conduct a real-time social media search for topics across more than 100 social media platforms. Social Mention provides you with information on the sentiment behind topic mentions, top keywords, top hashtags, and the social media platforms where these topics are being discussed.

Needless to say, there are several other great sources for both industry and market research. The key is to get creative to find the data and information to both guide your strategy as well as justify your business opportunity.

Competitive Analysis

Once you understand your industry and market, you should also include an analysis of your major competitors.

Your competitors may include anyone offering alternatives to your solution that people are using now to solve the same problem.

You will want to understand and explain who your competitors are along with their market share , price, major competitive advantages and disadvantages, and what makes your product unique from theirs.

Start by identifying the major competitors within your industry. You should focus on your closest competitors. Those that compete with you directly.

Next, for each competitor, describe their strategies, their strengths, and their weaknesses. In doing so, try to answer the following questions:

  • What are their primary products and or services?
  • Who are their target customers?
  • What differentiates your product or service from theirs?
  • What is their pricing strategy?
  • What is their marketing strategy?
  • What is their main message or value proposition?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are their competitive advantages?

You should complete a competitive analysis for your top three to five competitors. Doing so will allow you to gain a much better perspective on the competitive landscape and may provide insight into how you can distinguish yourself from your competitors and even how you can take advantage of areas where your competitors fall short.

Marketing Plan

The marketing plan depicts the overall strategy your venture pursues to capture market share.

The marketing plan describes all aspects of marketing for your venture, including the product, price, place, and promotion . This includes a big picture view of your marketing strategy, your planned marketing mix, as well as your pricing strategy, sales strategy, and advertising strategy.

The marketing plan should be well informed by your industry and market analysis. By now, you have a plethora of knowledge about who your target customer is, the problem and pain points that you are alleviating for them, and how your competitors are positioned. All of this knowledge allows you to hone your marketing plan to reach your target market with the right message in the channels they turn to for information.

Marketing Strategy

The first section of your marketing plan is your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy refers to your overall strategy of how you will market your product. How will you get your message out to your potential customers?

Your marketing strategy should consider the four essential elements of marketing:

The 4 Ps of Marketing:

The product is everything the customer gets, whether it be a physical product, a service, or an experience.

It is what you deliver. This includes the product or service itself, along with its branding, packaging, labeling, and even benefits.

The price is what you charge. What the customer gives you. Your business plan should discuss your pricing strategy and where this fits in your marketing mix.

Are you competing on price and thus offer low pricing? Or are you focusing on value at a medium price point? Or maybe you are positioned as a luxury label or item, and compete at a high price point? Why did you choose this strategy? Does it fit with your target market and within your marketing mix?

Location refers to where your customers find you, or where you find them.

While much of today’s marketing is done online, location is still as important as ever. Once you understand the place, you will have a much better idea on how to deploy your marketing mix. Where do your ideal customers get their information? Where do they shop? What forms of social media do they use?

Promotion is how you tell customers about your products and services.

Simply put, promotion is how you raise awareness of your products, services, or brand. Promotion strategies may include public relations, content creation and curation, marketing, and advertising.

But, keep in mind, your promotional strategies should be focused on one thing: your target customer and the strategies and messaging that works for them.

Your Marketing Mix

Your marketing mix is how you allocate resources to the marketing channels that you plan to pursue. In this section of your marketing plan, you will describe the marketing messaging and channels that you plan to use, and why these are appropriate for your target market.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing, or content marketing, is a form of marketing designed to draw traffic to your website by providing valuable content to your target market. This is often achieved by posting useful web content, content, videos, and blogs.

The idea behind inbound marketing is pretty simple- by providing knowledge and information on your products, services, and other information that is valuable to your customers, you generate more leads and, hopefully, more sales.

Social Media Marketing

With over 3.5 billion people around the world using social media, social media marketing is another powerful tool to reach potential customers.

Social media marketing has many advantages, including allowing you to get your message in front of your specified target audience at little to no cost.

Although there is an overabundance of social media channels to choose from. Focus on the ones that your target market uses to get their information.

For instance, if your target market is middle age or older people, you may want to focus on platforms that are more popular with these demographics such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. However, if your target market is teen agers and young adults, you are more likely to find them on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

The Power of Video Marketing

Do not forget to discuss the use of video marketing in your marketing mix.

In both inbound and social media marketing, video has begun to play an increasingly important role. Video marketing can be employed in inbound marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing to serve a variety of purposes. The most common uses of video marketing include explainer videos, presentation videos, testimonial videos, sales videos, and video ads.

Not only can video marketing be used in a variety of methods and contexts, it is a highly consumed type of advertising. In fact, in 2020, 96% of consumers watched an explainer video to find out more about a product or service. Video works. And marketers believe this too. 92% of marketers who utilize video marketing say that it is a key part of their marketing strategy.

Email Marketing

Depending on the type of venture your company is, email marketing may also be an important element in your marketing mix. A good email marketing strategy balances gaining new customers with keeping your existing customers engaged with your company.

Although you do not want to overdo it, and a lot of email marketing seems “spammy”, email marketing can be very effective in the right form. Welcome notes, confirmation emails, informational emails, newsletters, digital magazines, promotional emails, and seasonal and birthday campaigns are just a few of the many types of email marketing.

Referral Marketing

Another common type of marketing in a company's marketing mix is referral or recommendation marketing. Referral or recommendation marketing can take many forms. Referral marketing might include good old organic word-of-mouth marketing wherein you ask customers for referrals, or even a formal system for rewarding customers who refer new clients.

Pricing Strategy

The Marketing Plan section of the business plan should also describe your pricing strategy. How are you going to price your products and services?

There are a number of ways you can approach pricing:

Markup Pricing —  Markup pricing is pricing based on your costs, plus a predetermined markup. The amount you mark up your product or service is usually expressed as a percentage, known as the gross margin. Markup pricing is most often found in high volume manufacturing industries where manufacturers must cover the cost of the products they are making.

Competitive Pricing —  Competitive pricing is pricing based on your competitors prices for similar products or services. Competitive pricing is most often seen in products or services where there are numerous competitors or substitutes.

Value Pricing —  Value pricing is pricing based on the value or perceived value that you deliver to your customers. In value-based pricing, you set the prices of your products and services in line with what the customer believes your product or service is worth. Value-based pricing is most often seen in higher value products and services, those that cater to self-image, or those that are niche or unique.

Penetration Pricing —  Penetration pricing is setting a low initial price, and then raising it as demand increases. Penetration pricing is designed to capture market share. It is a strategy often used by a new business or in launching new products and services. The idea is to set the price low enough to draw customers from your competition.

Price skimming —  Price skimming pricing is setting a high initial price and then reducing this price as the market evolves. Price skimming is most often used on new or trendy products and services. As initial demand slows and alternatives or competitors emerge, the high initial pricing must then be lowered to stay competitive in the market.

Sales Strategy

A sales strategy is how you plan on selling your products or services to your target market. This includes your sales channels (where will your product or service be available for sale) as well as how you will sell your product or service.

Your sales strategy depends on your business model and the nature of your business. If your business involves retailing, food services, or personal services where your customers come to you to make a purchase, your sales strategy may be quite simple (or even unnecessary to income). However, if your business involves personal selling, you may need a more thought-out sales strategy.

Some questions to ask to determine and document your sales strategy in your business plan:

  • Will your products or services be available on your website?
  • On a third-party website?
  • In retail locations?
  • In your own stores?
  • In other retail stores?
  • Directly to consumers? (Business to Consumer or B2C)
  • To businesses? (Business to Business or B2B)
  • Cold calling?
  • Networking?
  • Inside salespeople?
  • Outside sales representatives?
  • Sales through strategic partners?

Advertising Strategy

An advertising strategy is how you plan to use sponsored, non-personal messaging to reach and inform potential customers of your product, service, or brand.

Your advertising plan should describe the mediums you are going to advertise in , who you are targeting advertising in these mediums, your advertising message(s), and your advertising budget. A good advertising plan is also measurable, so be sure to consider how you are going to measure the effect of your advertising strategy to see if it is working.

Advertising Mediums

The most common advertising mediums typically fall into the categories of traditional advertising and digital advertising.

Traditional advertising includes print advertising such as newspapers, magazines, flyers, direct mail, and even billboards, as well as radio and tv advertising.

Digital advertising includes email advertising, search engine advertising, website advertising, social media advertising, influencer advertising, among many, many more.

The secret to finding the right advertising strategy and advertising mediums for your business is knowing where to find your most likely customers. Where is your target market, and where do they go to get their information?

Organizational Plan

The organizational (or management) plan describes:

  • The legal form of the business
  • Its organizational structure
  • The background and roles of the leadership team
  • Key personnel that are already in place or you will need to fill.

Organizational Type and Structure

The first part of your organizational plan describes your organizational type and structure . Who owns your company? And what is its legal business structure?

There are four primary types of organizational structures:

Sole Proprietorships

Partnerships.

  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

Corporations

Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships are informal business structures , while LLCs and Corporations are more formal business structures .

The best type of structure for your business will depend on your business’s particular characteristics and needs. A partnership structure may be the best choice for some businesses, while an LLC or a corporation might work better for others.

Sole proprietorships are an informal type of business structure. While many businesses start out as sole proprietorships because they are an informal business structure the owner is liable for 100% of the business's liabilities and risks. Thus sole proprietorships are typically not the preferred ownership structure for small businesses.

Similar to a sole proprietorship, a partnership is also an informal type of business structure. While a sole proprietorship involves only one owner, a partnership is a business structure with two or more partners where there is still no legal distinction between the owners of a partnership and their business.

An LLC is a formal business structure that distinguishes the owners from the business itself.

LLCs offer the personal liability protection of a corporation with the pass-through taxation of a sole proprietorship or partnership.

It is the simplest way of structuring your business to protect your personal assets in the event your business is sued.

LLCs can be owned by one or more people, who are known as LLC “members.” An LLC with one owner is known as a single-member LLC, and an LLC with more than one owner is a multi-member LLC.

LLCs require operating agreements . Operating agreements are legal documents that outline the ownership and member duties of your LLC. This agreement allows you to set out the financial and working relations among business owners ("members") and between members and managers.

Recommended: Learn how to form an LLC in your state using our free guides.

A corporation is a legal business entity that is owned by shareholders, run by a board of directors, and created through registration with the state.

Corporations offer limited liability and tax benefits but are required to follow more complex operating procedures than their counterpart, the limited liability company (LLC).

Ownership and Executive Team

Now it’s time to sell the single most important element in your business plan. You!

This subsection of your business plan tells readers who is in your ownership and executive team and outlines the accomplishments of your team.

You should include a short profile on each member of your ownership and executive team that will play a role in company decision making.

Who is on your ownership and executive team? What roles will each perform? What knowledge, experience, and accomplishments do you and your team bring to the table? What roles do you still need to fill, and how and when do you plan on filling them?

It is well known that many investors consider the experience and ability of the ownership and management team to be just as important as the idea itself. Do not pass over this opportunity to highlight how your knowledge, experience, and accomplishments set you up to succeed.

Also, remember that when you are writing your descriptions of your ownership team, talk about your accomplishments- as opposed to experience. Accomplishments signify that you have a track record and can get things done.

Key Personnel

This section of the business plan highlights the key personnel associated with the business . This may include members of the management team outside of the owners and executive management, the board of directors, and any outside advisors.

Here, include profiles on each key figure associated with your company, focusing on their accomplishments and the knowledge and skill they bring to the business.

Operational Plan

The operational plan describes how you will operate. The processes, strategies, and resources that you will use to operate your business on a daily basis.

This includes descriptions of production (if you produce a product) or the process you will use to carry out your service. The operational plan may also include, as necessary, descriptions of your logistics and supply chain, physical resources and needs, human resources and needs, technological resources and needs, and timetables for carrying out your plan.

Production Plan or Service Description

The production plan or service description explains how you are going to make and deliver your product(s) or provide your service(s). Although the production plans for products and services may look slightly different, both describe how your company will operate in the day-to-day.

If you are making a product , the production plan is where you will describe the process for making the product. What are your methods of production? What are the steps in your processes? How will you ensure quality? Maintain inventory? Handle Logistics?

If you are providing a service , the production plan is where you can describe the process you go through providing that service. What are your service methods? What will your sales and customer service look like? What is the customer experience like?

Most importantly, which of these might give you an advantage over your competitors? If you have any superior methods, processes, or other advantages, make sure to highlight them in your production plan or service description.

Logistics and Supply Chain

This section of the business plan describes your logistics and where you fall within the supply chain in your industry.

If you produce a product , you should discuss how you source materials, where your materials come from, and who your suppliers are. You will also need to discuss how you handle inventory, how you warehouse, and how you distribute your product(s).

If you are a service business , you may still have to discuss how you source materials used in your service, who your suppliers are, and how you handle inventory.

Physical Resources

In this section of the operational plan, you describe the physical resources that you have and the physical resources that you need to acquire. Think through everything you might need. This will become important when it is time to make financial projections.

  • What facilities, machinery, equipment, and supplies do you require?
  • Do you require raw materials?
  • Who will be your primary suppliers?
  • Secondary suppliers?
  • Do you have back up suppliers and contingency plans if you cannot acquire raw materials?

Technological Resources

You should discuss the technological resources that you are developing, have, or need to create or acquire. Technological resources may include any software, applications, or websites that you have or will need to create, outsource, or purchase.

  • What hardware or machinery will you require?
  • What software or applications will you require?
  • Can you purchase the software and applications you need?
  • Are the software and applications you will need off-the-shelf or specialty?
  • Will you have to create the software and applications you need?
  • Do you need a website?
  • Will you create and maintain your website inside the company or have it created and maintained by someone else?

Human Resources

Here, you describe the people that are a part of your team, and the human resources that you need to add to your team, hire, or outsource. Since you have already described the ownership and management team as well as key personnel, this section is more focused on production level workers and lower management.

  • How much staffing will you need?
  • What skills will your staff require?
  • What will your staffing typically look like?
  • How will you recruit, train, and retain employees?

Goals, Milestone, and Risk

The goals, milestones, and risks section of your business plan is the place to outline your goals, set key milestones, and explore and explain your preparation for the risks you will face.

Goals lay the foundation of where you intend to take your company and how you are going to get there. It is important to ascertain the short and long-term goals for your company.

Your goals should be connected to your mission and vision, your business model, and your strategic plans. They should also reflect your ambition to move the company forward and are often reflected in key performance indicators (KPIs) , such as numbers of users and customers, revenues, expenses, retention, satisfaction, and other indicators of performance.

Here are some questions to help you develop the goals for your company:

  • When do you expect to break even?
  • What do you expect your revenue to be in one year? Three years? Five years?
  • What market share do you expect to capture in the next year? Three years? Five years?
  • Where do you plan to expand from here?
  • What KPIs do you need to achieve or improve?
  • When do you expect to implement major objectives?
  • What level of customer satisfaction do you hope to achieve?

When developing your goals, in addition to defining what your goals are, you also need to consider the how , the when , and the who . First, consider how your goals will get accomplished? What actions need to be taken to achieve your goals? What milestones do you need to accomplish along the way?

Your goals should also include your plan on when you plan on attaining each goal . Not only will your readers be curious about when you plan to achieve your goals, due dates and deadlines make for really powerful motivators.

Finally, you should also determine who is going to be responsible for working toward each goal. In a sole-proprietorship or startup it may be you, the business owner, or your founding team. However, as your organization grows, it will become more and more important to define who is responsible for pushing toward and achieving each goal.

SMART Goals

Your goals should be SMART: S pecific, M easurable, A ttainable, R ealistic, and T imely.

  • Specific —  Your goals should be clear and specific. They should be narrow enough that you can determine the appropriate steps to attain them. In addition to what , in planning your goals, do not forget to be specific about how , when , and who . How will your goals be attained? When do you anticipate achieving them? Who is going to be responsible?
  • Measurable —  Your goals should be measurable. There should be some objective metric or performance indicator by which you can tell if you have met your goals? How are you going to measure your goals? What metrics or performance indicators will you use? How will you know if you achieve your goals?
  • Attainable —  Your goals must also be realistic and attainable. For a goal to be attainable you must be able to achieve it. Do not be afraid to push yourself, but setting unrealistic goals will cast doubt on your entire business plan. Ask yourself, can your goals be accomplished? By you? What will it take to attain them?
  • Relevant —  Your goals also need to be relevant. To be relevant, they should contribute to the mission, vision, and success of your venture. Do your goals align with your company’s values? Are they within the scope of and aligned with your operational plan? Your marketing plan? Are they within the budget?
  • Timely —  Your goals should also be timely and time-bound. Their process and progress should be clearly defined and they should have a starting and ending date. Without a timeframe, there is no sense of urgency, or motivation to get started. Make your goals time-bound. How long do you expect it to take? When do you plan on getting started? When do you anticipate achieving each goal?

Milestones are important events in your venture’s growth that mark significant change or stage of development.

Creating a list of milestones can act as a checklist of what you need to accomplish for your venture to reach its goals. They tell the story of how you are going to get from where you are to where you are going.

Milestones might include major events and accomplishments, such as:

  • Forming an LLC
  • Writing a Business Plan
  • Securing Seed Capital
  • Develop a Prototype
  • Begin Production
  • First Major Sale
  • Reach 10,000 Downloads
  • Achieve 1,000 Paying Customers

It is alright to list a few milestones that you have already completed. Or to leave them in your business plan once you complete them. Accomplished milestones show that you are making traction.

Milestones act as a signal to potential investors and other stakeholders what to expect from your venture and when to expect it. They also signal whether the venture is progressing and growing as expected.

Implementation Timeline

The implementation timeline is where you describe where your company is in its lifespan . You should set a timeline to reach your goals and milestones. This should include a short-term timeframe as well as where you anticipate being in the long term.

This section of the business plan should not be long. A simple chart will do. You can find several free timeline templates online to plug in your milestones and the time frame you expect to achieve them.

You will also want to include a section in your business plan showing that you understand the critical risks that your business may be subject to . The risks you will face in your business include both internal and external risks. These are any areas that expose your venture to any kind of loss- assets, customers, sales, profits, and reputation, among others.

By exploring your assumptions and identifying possible risks in those assumptions, you can show that you have assessed and are prepared to handle risks and threats that may arise. There are several tools available to analyze business risks, including SWOT Analysis and contingency planning .

SWOT Analysis

You may want to conduct a SWOT analysis or even include it in your business plan. A SWOT analysis is an analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

A SWOT analysis can help you understand your industry and market, your venture, and the strategies that you should pursue.

To conduct a SWOT analysis, you will need to assess factors both inside and outside your venture.

Here is how to conduct your own:

  • What does your company do well?
  • What are your company’s advantages?
  • What do you do better than your competitors?
  • What unique or low-cost assets do you have access to?
  • What does your company not do well?
  • What are your company’s disadvantages?
  • What do your competitors do better than you?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • Where can you improve?
  • Where can you grow?
  • How can you turn your strengths into opportunities?
  • How can you turn your weaknesses into opportunities?
  • Do the trends of the industry or market represent a threat?
  • Is the number of competitors growing?
  • Do changes in technology or regulation threaten your success?
  • Do your weaknesses represent a threat?

Contingency Plans

After assessing your risks and your SWOT analysis, you should address any major threats or risks that your venture faces with contingency plans.

Contingency plans are plans to help mitigate these risks by establishing a plan of action should an adverse event happen.

Contingency plans show that you understand the threats and risks to your venture, and you have a plan in place to lessen the damage should these risks emerge. There are various ways to prepare for adverse events. One is through planning- identifying alternatives and determining the best course of action. Another is business insurance.

Business Insurance

Business insurance protects against risk from several sources. The type of business insurance you will need varies greatly depending on the nature of your business.

While there are standard types of coverage like general liability insurance , professional liability insurance , workers’ compensation , insurance for commercial property and commercial auto insurance , there are also insurance policies that cover specific business activities and specialized equipment.

You can bundle most of these into what is called a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) by a trusted insurance provider to get you started doing business.

Financial Statements

Your financial statements should include detailed projections of your income statement , cash flow statement, and balance sheet for the first year. You should also provide quarterly projections for the first three (or preferably five) years as well.

You also will likely need to include some sort of financial statement in your business plan. If you are a new venture, you will supply pro forma financial statements. Pro forma financial statements are simply financial projections.

Financial statements can help you to evaluate the cash needs of your venture, determine whether your venture is feasible and desirable, compare your expected returns with the alternatives, identify milestones and benchmarks, and demonstrate the value of your venture to investors.

Financial Assumptions

Before you begin completing your financial statements, you should first sit down and list the assumptions you will rely on to project your financial statements .

These should include projections concerning your:

  • Initial revenue level per month
  • Your growth and factors affecting growth
  • Your inventory and inventory turnover
  • And your operating expenses.

One of the biggest mistakes new ventures make is in making unrealistic assumptions .

Remember, revenue assumptions are key assumptions in determining whether your business will be viable. However, many entrepreneurs are overly optimistic about their revenue assumptions and tend to underestimate their expenses.

In order to make more accurate financial assumptions, back up your assumptions with data whenever possible. To find data to back up your assumptions, look for things like industry averages, market trends, and comparisons with similar ventures. You should already have a substantial amount of this data from your industry and market research.

Pro Forma Income Statements

The income statement , also known as the profit and loss statement , is a statement that shows the projections of your venture’s income and expenses over a fiscal year. On the income statement, you will detail your revenue and sources of revenue based on the assumptions you have made. You will also detail your anticipated expenses and use these to estimate your net income.

The typical income statement includes:

  • Revenue —  the total amount of sales, or revenue, projected to be brought in by your business.
  • Cost of Goods Sold —  the total direct cost of producing your product or delivering your service.
  • Gross Margin —  the difference between revenue and cost of goods sold.
  • Operating Expenses —  this section of your income statement details all of the expenses associated with operating your business. Common operating expenses might include rent, utilities, office
  • expenses, salary expenses, and marketing and advertising expenses, among others.
  • Total Operating Expenses —  the total of your operating expenses, excluding interest, depreciation, and taxes.
  • Operating Income —  the difference between your gross margin and operating expenses.
  • Interest, Depreciation, and Taxes —  this section of your income statement lists your non-operating expenses- expenses such as interest, depreciation, amortization, and taxes.
  • Net Profit —  the total of how much you actually made. This is calculated by subtracting interest, depreciation, and taxes from your operating income.

Pro Forma Cash Flow Statements

The cash flow statement is a financial statement that shows when and where cash (and cash equivalents) flow in and out of your venture. This tells you how much cash you will have on hand at any single point in time.

  • Cash from Operating —  Cash flowing into and out of your venture from operating, beginning with “cash on hand.” Cash flowing into your venture from operating includes cash from sales, payments from credit sales, investment income, and any other types of cash income related to operations. Cash flowing out of your venture from operations, your expenses, includes costs of raw goods, materials, inventory, salary expenses, office expenses, marketing and advertising expenses, rent, interest, taxes, insurance, or any other expenses that are paid by the venture.
  • Capital Cash Flow —  Cash flow, in or out of the venture, for capital assets such as the purchase or sale of fixed assets.
  • Cash from Financing —  Cash flow from financing includes cash flowing in or out of your venture relating to venture financing activities. Inflows of cash from financing include the investments by founders or owners, any loans taken out during the period, or the issuance of any equity. The outflow of cash from financing may include the payment of the principal of any loans, along with the repurchase of any outstanding equity.

Pro Forma Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that balances a venture's finances at a specific point in time. It describes how much the company is worth. The balance sheet uses the accounting equation: assets = liabilities + equity . In fact, these are the main components of the balance sheet:

  • Assets —  Resources that hold economic value. A business's assets include current assets and fixed assets. Current assets are resources that can be accessed in the short term. These include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and other currently available resources. Fixed assets are resources that are intended for long-term use but hold economic value. These include land and buildings, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, vehicles, and other fixed resources.
  • Liabilities —  What the business owes. Like assets, a business’s liabilities are also current liabilities and long-term liabilities. Current liabilities are liabilities that are due within 12 months. Current liabilities include accounts payable, loans, and taxes. Long-term liabilities are liabilities that are due after one year. These include long-term loans, notes, and other long-term debts.
  • Equity —  What the owners or shareholders own. Equity is also composed of two parts: Capital and Retained Earnings. Retained earnings is the amount of profit that has been retained by the company over the life of the venture. Capital earnings , then, is what’s left. It is what has been invested. For new ventures, this may be the founder’s or early investors’ initial investments. For larger corporations, this would be the value of their shares of stock.

Break-Even Analysis

The break-even analysis shows you how much you have to sell before you break even. The break-even analysis uses fixed and variable costs in order to determine the sales volume you have to attain to reach a break-even point. This is the point where your sales volume covers both your fixed costs and your variable costs.

The break-even point is most often expressed as a number of units. You can calculate the break-even point by dividing fixed cost by the average profit per unit (average price per unit minus the variable cost).

Break-Even Point = Fixed Costs/ Profit Per Unit (Avg. Price - Avg. Variable Costs)

You can also calculate the break-even point in terms of $ of sales. To calculate the break-even point in $ of sales, you can divide total fixed costs for the period by the contribution margin ratio (net sales minus total variable cost / net sales).

Break-Even Point ($ of Sales) = Fixed Costs / Contribution Margin Ratio Contribution Margin Ratio = (Net Sales - Total Variable Cost) / Net Sales

Startup/Funds Required

If you are writing your business plan for the purpose of seeking funding, you should conclude your business plan by describing the investment opportunity.

With your financial projections in place, you will now be able to determine the amount of startup capital or investment you require.

This is because the funding you need is highly dependent on your profit and loss, cash flow, and break-even point. With well-researched assumptions and the evidence to back them up, you are ready to make the case that your business is worth the investment and will be able to pay it back or reward investors in the future.

In this section of the business plan, you will need to explain the amount of funding you are requesting as well as describe what those funds will be used for. The startup funding request will need to cover all expenses (maybe even your own personal expenses) at least until you reach your break-even point.

Business Plan Appendices (Optional)

If you have additional evidence to support your business idea, your business model, or your ability to achieve your goals and meet your financial objectives, you may want to consider including it as an appendix to your business plan.

Additional / Optional Evidence

Owners’ Resumes —  One thing you may want to consider including in your business plan is the resume for each owner. Investors often invest as much in the startup team as they do in the idea itself. Illustrations of Product —  Another helpful appendix is pictures or illustrations of your product. These are especially helpful for new products or those which are difficult to depict with words. Storyboard of Customer Experience — If your business is a service business, you could also consider including a storyboard depicting your customer’s experience. Customer Survey Results — You can also include any market research that you have conducted in an appendix. Showing that you have solicited feedback from real customers or potential customers provides further credence to your venture and venture idea.

Develop Your Business Idea

Before writing your business plan, it is important to take some time to develop your business idea .

If you are starting a new company, there are likely many details of the venture that have not been fully worked through. If you already have an existing venture, the following tools can also be useful in evaluating your business model:

  • A three-sentence business plan

The Lean Canvas

The business model canvas, three-sentence business plan.

An easy place to start is with a three-sentence business plan . The three-sentence business plan is easy to construct, and consists of three parts:

  • your product or service
  • your market and marketing
  • your revenue model.

Your Product or Service

The first sentence of your business plan clearly yet simply states your business's primary product or service. This includes the what and the where.

Example: “CoffeeMe is an upscale bakery and coffee shop specializing in imported coffees and international delicacies that will be located in downtown Atlanta.”

Your Market(ing)

The second sentence of your three-sentence business plan describes who your target market is and how you will promote to them.

Example: “CoffeeMe’s target market is urban professionals living and working in downtown Atlanta, marketed and promoted through traditional advertising, company partnerships, and social media.”

Your Revenue Model

The third sentence of your three-sentence business plan explains your revenue model. How will you make money?

Example: “CoffeeMe’s revenue model includes one-time retail sales as well as a unique subscription model featuring all-you-can-drink coffee for subscribers.”

Put it all together, and you have your three-sentence business plan:

Example: “CoffeeMe is an upscale bakery and coffee shop specializing in imported coffees and international delicacies that will be located in downtown Atlanta. CoffeeMe’s target market is urban professionals living and working in downtown Atlanta, marketed and promoted through traditional advertising, company partnerships, and social media. Our revenue model includes one-time retail sales as well as a unique subscription model featuring all-you-can-drink coffee for subscribers.”

Another useful tool for developing your business idea is the Lean Canvas . The Lean Canvas takes a problem-solution approach to helping you plan your business, focusing on the problems you are solving for your customers.

The Lean Canvas helps you describe and visualize your problem, solution, customers, value proposition, key performance indicators, and competitive advantage.

The steps to complete the Lean Canvas are:

  • Define your target customers or users
  • List the problems you are solving for them and how they are currently solving those problems today
  • Describe your solution
  • Explain your unique value proposition
  • Describe your revenue streams
  • Depict how you will reach customers
  • Define the key metrics that will tell if you are doing well
  • Detail your cost structure
  • Explain your unfair advantage

The Lean Canvas, created by Ash Maurya, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License: https://leanstack.com/lean-canvas

The Business Model Canvas helps you describe and visualize the key aspects of your venture including your customers, value proposition, infrastructure, and revenue and cost models.

If you have already completed a Lean Canvas, you will already have several of the central parts of the Business Model Canvas complete.

The steps to complete the Business Model Canvas are:

  • Explain your value proposition
  • Describe how you interact with customers
  • List the key activities that you will need to do to deliver on your value proposition
  • List the key assets that you will need to deliver on your value proposition
  • Describe the key partnerships that you will need to put in place to deliver on your value proposition

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  • Creating a competitive analysis of your target market
  • Outlining your marketing tactics
  • Creating a timeline of business goals and success metrics

Program Dates / Time / Location

  • Program dates/time: 9:30 a.m.-Noon on Thursday, June 20 & 27, 2024. Program curriculum builds from the first session to the second, so attendance at both sessions is required.
  • Location: The District Detroit Opportunity Center, Detroit

Hurry! Space is limited to 30 participants!

Questions? Contact Tanesia Greer, Business Development Manager, at  [email protected]  or 313-962-1920, ext. 204.

Presented in partnership with:

how business plan is written

how business plan is written

Lateral Partner Integration Requires Business Development Plan

Brian Carrozza

When a lateral is hired into a new firm, following the tone set during the recruiting process is essential. The firm needs to ensure the lateral is set up for success on day one. Openness, honesty, and transparency are key.

A 12-month marketing and business development plan should be created as a roadmap for integrating new lateral hires and partnering them with a business development liaison. The assigned liaison should host regular check-in calls and serve as the lateral’s initial point of contact for all client development activities.

Setting the Stage

An introductory call between the lateral and their assigned BD liaison should take place prior to their start date or within the first two weeks. This should be the first in a series of integration meetings that take place during the lateral’s first year.

The goal of the meeting is to help the lateral understand the resources of the firm, services the marketing and BD department provides (i.e., requests for proposals, pitches, collateral, conference/speaking engagement prep, awards & rankings, bio updates, etc.) and to answer firm questions that may not have been addressed during the recruiting process.

The lateral and liaison should discuss any immediate client needs/opportunities, expectations, what support the lateral needs, and alert clients about the move.

The lateral should walk away from the meeting feeling confident, comfortable, and with a clear path forward.

Read more: Lateral Partner Recruiting Must Focus on Honesty and Clear Data

Introduction and Implementation

The BD liaison must also obtain a fulsome knowledge of the lateral’s practice, portable book of business, client targets, preferred marketing styles. They should ascertain the partner’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as business goals and objectives.

The liaison needs to know why the lateral was hired—their niche expertise, specific client needs, and regional presence—to help identify cross-sell opportunities, make appropriate introductions to targeted attorneys within the firm, and plug the lateral into pre-existing client and industry teams. Prioritization should be placed on client-facing activities and the lawyer’s strengths.

The new partner’s BD liaison should have the same information as the legal recruiting team, which includes the lateral’s resume, partner questionnaire, offer letter, and revenue goals. Armed with these resources, the business development liaison is positioned as a part of the firm’s long time revenue strategy for the lateral partner, versus as a document producer.

Positioning the BD liaison as a key to the lateral’s success at the onset will encourage the partner to engage them in a meaningful way with strategy, innovation, and revenue generating activities for a sustaining practice. This allows the partner to focus on delivering quality legal services, while the BD liaison can focus on collaboratively growing their book of business.

Having a thoughtful, written integration plan is imperative. A written process ensures not only accountability, but gives each lateral the same onboarding experience regardless of which practice group or industry team they sit in.

During each meeting, the liaison should probe the lateral on topics such as satisfaction with the firm, sense of being valued, client growth opportunities, bandwidth and utilization, and cross-selling successes or frustrations. Regular status updates should be provided to firm leadership and other stakeholders. If the lateral flags an issue or perceived roadblock, the liaison should dig deeper to understand the root cause, and work with leadership to course correct.

It’s critical that firms not overpromise and underdeliver. For example, a lateral may have been hired to inherit a portfolio that fell through, or perhaps market fluctuations prohibited the opening of a new office that the lateral was intended to join. It’s important to keep the lateral’s business development liaison informed of these developments so they can monitor follow-though, manage expectations, and help pivot if necessary.

The firm should be clear about their commitments. Conversely, expectations for new partners’ client development and relationship building activities, for example, should also be addressed directly.

The most successful laterals are engaged and actively participate in regular integration calls. Holding 90-day reviews that include members of the recruiting team and practice group or department leaders can provide an opportunity for the partner to be heard as well as to receive direct feedback.

Integration Process

Avoid letting new lateral partners fall between the cracks, especially if they’re rainmakers or inexperienced business developers, by having a continuity plan that includes the written integration process. The BD liaisons shouldn’t work in silos.

Find a collaboration tool that works for the team’s communication style and commit to using it. Keep detailed records and have a plan of continued support should the assigned BD liaison leave the firm, or if there is significant recent or impending change happening within the firm, such as a merger or acquisition.

Recruiting and integration don’t cease when a merger is on the horizon, and the potential for new laterals to get lost in transition during a major change increases. Firms must adapt their recruiting and integration strategies not only to speak to the newly merged firm’s emerging cultural differentiators but also to how laterals will be supported in a fluid environment.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Brian J. Carrozza is director of client development at Goulston & Storrs.

Courtney C. Hudson is business development manager at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

Megan K. Senese is co-founder and principal at stage, a women-owned business development and legal marketing firm.

Write for Us: Author Guidelines

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jada Chin at [email protected] ; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at [email protected]

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How to Start Last-Mile Delivery Business in 2024

Updated on May 15, 2024 by Alina Kostukova

how to start a last mile delivery company

The forecasts say that last-mile delivery market will reach $424,3 billion by 2030 . That counts for 41% of the total expenses in supply chain. That is no surprise as last-mile delivery is known to be one of the most expensive steps in supply chain!

But what about starting last-mile delivery business in those conditions? That kind of market growth definitely indicates potential for entrepreneurs wishing to start last mile company.

During the pandemic and till that day online shopping skyrocketed, AND more online shoppers = more deliveries!

Thus, if you are considering starting a last-mile delivery business, this article is for you!  

Keep reading and find useful information written in a step-by-step guidance format on how to start a last-mile delivery business in 2024. 

I will reveal challenges of last-mile delivery business, costs of starting last-mile delivery company/business, and more!

last mile delivery

What is a last-mile business and how does last-mile delivery work?

Last-mile delivery is the last service step of the delivery process. Or you can say it is the final step of delivering goods to a to customer’s doorstep. If you are new to the concept of last mile delivery and need more information on what it is, I recommend reading this article .

Managing multiple deliveries, delivery times, drivers, vehicles, all of that can be rather complex, thus in 2024 many businesses take advantage of utilizing technology to improve customer satisfaction and business competitiveness.

Hope the introduction was clear and let’s move on to finding out what are the types of last-mile deliveries in general available currently and what are their differences.

Types of last-mile delivery businesses

Lets dive in details of the types of last-mile delivery businesses. Each type can be a good fit for specific industry you will specialise in and reflect to specific needs of your potential customers.

The most common types of services you could provide as last-mile delivery business:

  • Traditional courier services . From point to point delivery of packages and/or documents.
  • On-demand delivery services . Offers different flexible delivery options. Services could be provided through last-mile delivery apps or platforms that connect customers with delivery drivers for quick and convenient deliveries.
  • Specialized delivery services. Special delivery types focused on specific industry desires and conditions. Example pharmaceutical goods, groceries, flowers, oversized items like furniture, or appliances. If you are interested in becoming specialized as a medical courier, you can read our article here .
  • Same-day or instant delivery services. As the name says, those last-mile delivery businesses would offer expedited delivery options as same day or instant delivery. 
  • White-glove delivery services.   White glove delivery is known as premium delivery services.. They provide additional services like installation, assembly, or personalized customer support. To find out more about white glove delivery and business benefits of it, check this article .
  • Smart Locker Networks. Those are d elivery businesses that offer secure, self-service lockers in convenient areas where customers can pick up their deliveries whenever they want.

Is it worth starting a last-mile delivery business?

If we look at statistics again , last-mile of total shipping costs in 2018 was 41% and has grown to 54% by 2023 . Assuming the popularity of online shopping, that also has a potential of growth. But it is obviously necessary to consider obstacles, costs, your interest in the industry before starting.

last mile expenses in relation to total shipping costs

Starting from scratch: A guide on how to start a last-mile delivery business in 2024

Anyone who is starting a last-mile delivery business should read this comprehensive guide to know how to start from scratch. 

last mile delivery business

Choose a niche

Conduct a market research

Define your last-mile business model

Develop a last-mile delivery business plan

Obtain licenses and permits for your last-mile delivery service business

Consider costs when starting your last mile business

Pick the right software

Hire the right staff

Find clients

1. Choose a niche for your last-mile delivery company.

There are plenty of delivery services, popular niches include food, flowers, pharmaceutical items, laundry, dry cleaning, party and event items, furniture and more.

2. Conduct market research

Some of the main things that should be included in your market research:

  • Define your business objectives.  As an e xample, you would choose to provide best customer service, efficiency, etc.
  • Analyze industry trends. Check customer behavior and trends in the niche you selected, either analyze niches if you have not selected one yet. Look at what are the problems to be solved in particular niche, check customer behavior, technology trends, any special regulations.
  • Determine your target audience. Identify your customer audience, what are they looking for, their geography, purchasing power, how to reach them.
  • Analyze your competition. Look at what your competitors offer - what are their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Research on customer feedback. Gather customer reviews through surveys, focus groups, or forums.
  • Make a SWOT analysis. It will consist of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Here is a guide.

3. Define your last-mile business model  

Last-mile delivery business models can also vary based on how many owners, stakeholders are involved, thus it is something important to consider. Best model/option to operate a last-mile business might depend on the number of owners and regulations in your particular country. Some examples are below: 

  • A sole proprietorship involves a single owner who operates a business and is solely liable for all debts and obligations.
  • A Partnership entails two or more individuals who share ownership and responsibilities.
  • A Corporation is a business structure considered a separate legal entity from its owners, protecting the owners from being personally responsible for the business debts.
  • An LLC, or Limited Liability Company , is a business structure in which owners are protected from personal liability for their company’s debts. 

4. Develop a last-mile delivery business plan  

Business plan can consist of many variables, thus outlining your business concept, target audience, evaluating your financial projections and available assets can help you develop a last-mile delivery company plan specifically for you.

In addition, you should describe your company’s mission, vision, and values while emphasizing the key value that distinguishes you from your competitors.

A good business plan includes: 

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Market analysis and strategy
  • Marketing and sales plan
  • Management and organization description
  • Products and services description
  • Competitive analysis
  • Operating plan
  • Financial projections and needs
  • And anything else what could be relevant to your particular market. Example “Exhibits and appendices” Maybe you will need special licenses to operate your business or etc.

Your business plan is likely to get some revisions as your last mile delivery company keeps growing.

5. Obtain licenses and permits for your last-mile delivery service business

Please keep in mind that licenses, permits can vary based on your niche and the country you operate in. 

Some common examples of licenses and permits you might need are listed below:

  • Basic business license: Once you register, you must obtain a business license to operate legally.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): The staff you’ll employ must have an EIN from the IRS for tax purposes.
  • Transportation licenses: Obtain all required permits for your l ast-mile delivery vehicles.
  • Vehicle registration and insurance : Ensure the vehicles you’ll use for delivery are registered and insured.
  • Operating permits: Some last-mile delivery businesses must obtain specific licenses related to zoning, noise, and environmental regulations.
  • Health and Safety Permits: If your last-mile delivery business is about food deliveries, you must obtain health and safety permits to ensure compliance with food regulations.

6. Consider costs when starting your last mile business

Once you have an idea of the size and scope of your last-mile delivery business, you have to analyze its costs. Please see below presented some of the variables, that you might want to consider.

A few factors can impact last-mile delivery costs , such as the staff you’ll have to pay for the service, obtaining licenses and permits, and the equipment you’ll use.

Or, as Starter Story claims , the average startup cost for a delivery service of any kind is $19,267.

Here is a list of the basic last-mile delivery company costs that you should consider:

Let’s say that you’ll have a brick-and-mortar location for your business. There will be expenses for the rent that need to be paid, and depending on where you want it to be located, the rent costs can vary. 

Rent costs are accounted for 10% of the total last-mile delivery expenses.

Business fees

Once you form your last-mile delivery business, you must obtain trademarks, copyrights, business insurance, permit and license fees, and lawyer fees. 

Your business needs software to run smoothly in this digital era. 

The software will save you time and money by automating certain functions while helping you grow your business. It should include a CRM (Customer Relationship Software), accounting and invoicing software, email marketing tools, internal communication tools, IT support, social media management tools, and payroll software. 

The costs of delivery management software account for 10% to 15% of the total cost of last-mile delivery.

Employee hiring costs

Labor costs are the biggest expense when starting a last-mile delivery business. 

The staff that needs to be hired, mainly delivery drivers, costs a lot to hire, maintain, and train, accounting for 50% to 60% of last-mile delivery costs.

Setting a business website

Most successful businesses have official websites. It is worth investing money in setting up your last-mile business website.

There will be costs for getting a domain name, website hosting, a website builder, a business email hosting service, and web design. 

The business website setup can take up to 7% of the total last-mile delivery expenses.

Transport equipment (vehicles)

Your last-mile business will need its mode of transportation, so you’ll need to invest in durable equipment. Also, remember that the delivery vehicles you purchase or lease must be maintained regularly.

Last-mile delivery vehicle costs are accounted for 10% of the total last-mile delivery expenses.

Fuel expenses can add up quickly, and their prices can often fluctuate, leading to unexpected costs. On average, they account for 10% to 15% of the overall expenses. To calculate your cost per mile, let me share with you this cost per mile calculator , that you can download in the excel format.

Marketing costs

Any business needs advertising initially until it sets a good foot on the market for such companies. Consider costs like business cards, signage, printing and mailing, Google Ads, and Facebook and Instagram ads.

On average, marketing and advertising expenses account for 5%.

starting last mile delivery business

7. Pick the right software 

When it comes to running a business like a last-mile delivery service, technology is an indispensable asset. 

The delivery management software of last-mile delivery businesses is meant to streamline most delivery operations.

Automation processes are crucial for all last-mile delivery businesses. 

Invest in deploying a last-mile delivery tracking platform (software) to handle delivery automation, route optimization, real-time monitoring, automatic order scheduling, and push notifications for every delivery milestone. 

The software can automate customer queries and collect feedback with suggestions to improve delivery services. It also offers proof of delivery and analytics to determine whether the scheduled order was delivered. Example of the Track-POD delivery management software is below.

last mile delivery business software

Try for Free

8. Hire the right staff

To hire the right staff for your last-mile startup, you can use recruitment agencies to seek qualified and experienced staff. 

Good to Know: According to Salary , the average salary for a last-mile delivery driver in the US is around $50,600 annually.

The logistics and shipping workers your business needs must have soft skills. Here is a breakdown of the vital ones you should evaluate in potential candidates:

  • Problem-solving — Your staff must know what to do when encountering unexpected issues. You can test their problem-solving skills by asking them hypothetical questions and asses their approach to finding a solution.
  • Effective communication — Communication is paramount to running any successful business. Ask candidates questions to assess their communication style and pay attention to how they articulate ideas clearly.
  • Attention to detail — All details are important when managing inventory. You should ask candidates about their experience completing meticulous tasks requiring precision.
  • Excellent time management — Time is money, and timely deliveries cannot be negotiated. You should ask candidates for their strategies for prioritizing tasks and handling deadlines. 
  • Adaptability — Last-mile delivery services are constantly evolving. You must ask candidates how they would adapt to changing circumstances. Perhaps you can pose a hypothetical situation, such as how they would adapt if there is a sudden change in shipment schedules. 

Teamwork - Good logistics staff collaborates with different stakeholders. Ask candidates about their work experience in cross-functional environments.

9. How to find clients

After you’ve done all the hard work mentioned above, it's time to find and grow your customer base. 

We laid down a few tips to kickstart your delivery service:

  • Social media platforms 

You can promote your last-mile startup on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. Create a profile to build connections with potential clients and advertise your services.

  • Partner with e-commerce platforms 

Many small businesses sell online but need help with delivery logistics. You can partner with such companies and offer customized last-mile delivery solutions.

  • Offer promotions and discounts.

Promotions and discounts are attractive and can help you get your first clients. For example, you can discount the first ten deliveries or provide a short trial period to allow potential clients to test your services.

  • Connect with local businesses.

Networking with local businesses is important because it might offer partnerships where you can provide your delivery services.

What are the essentials for launching a last-mile delivery service?

There is a basic starter kit for launching a last-mile delivery business. Here are the essentials that you should know when starting one:

  • Business permits and licenses
  • Delivery vehicles (cargo van, bicycle, car or truck)
  • Drivers with valid driver’s licenses
  • Smartphones or tablets
  • Auto insurance for the vehicles
  • Navigation software
  • Packing supplies

What are the last-mile delivery challenges?

There is a big pressure on logistics companies seeking ways to optimize their last-mile operations.

Here is a brief of some of the most intense last-mile delivery issues and challenges:

  • Navigation through congested urban areas
  • Delivery on time
  • Package theft and security 
  • Environmental impact and sustainability
  • Workforce shortage

How can technology be beneficial for last-mile delivery businesses?

Technology can be very beneficial in addressing the challenges that last-mile delivery businesses face. 

All last-mile delivery entrepreneurs should take advantage of the advent of innovative technology solutions like drone delivery, route optimization software, or micro-fulfillment centers.

  • Drone delivery is a great option for last-mile delivery, especially in areas that are hard to reach. These devices can overcome the challenge of traffic congestion and can deliver the package to the customer on time.
  • Machine learning technologies improve delivery routes based on weather conditions, traffic patterns, and priorities.
  • MFCs, or micro-fulfillment centers, use robotics and automation to speed up order processing and bring orders closer to the end customer.
  • Delivery Management Software integrates with your website or allows manual file uploads, schedules routes, offers free driver’s apps, offers live tracking, and custom notifications to customers.

drone delivery

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this piece gave you insider tips on how to start a last-mile delivery company in 2024.

Remember that once you open your last-mile shipping company, the technology you’ll use will be crucial to its success.

Invest wisely in it and focus on implementing advanced solutions because the future of last-mile delivery businesses is all about technology.

Keep this article as a reminder starter kit for all you need to know about starting a business in the last-mile delivery industry.

At Track-POD we offer delivery management software that provide route optimization, proof of delivery, live tracking features and many more! Sign up for 7 days free trial or get a demonstration.

Request a Demo

About The Author

Alina Kostukova Image

Alina Kostukova

Skilled marketing content creator with a background in digital media and public relations. Focused on creating first-rate text and visual content that stands out and tells compelling stories.

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