How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needi

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated May 7, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

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  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: 10 AI prompts you need to write a business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information to include in a business plan is sometimes not quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

There are plenty of great options available (we’ve rounded up our 8 favorites to streamline your search).

But, if you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template , you can get one right now; download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

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

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

Content Author: Noah Parsons

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

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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How to Write a Business Plan (Examples & Templates)

Learn to create an effective business plan with clarity, research, and engaging design. Explore real-world examples and actionable tips for success

how to describe a business plan

Hadar Peretz

7 minute read

How to write a business plan

Short answer

What should a business plan include?

Executive Summary: A snapshot of your business and plans.

Business Description: The mission, vision, and the problem you’re solving.

Market Analysis: An overview of the industry and your target market.

Organization and Management: Your business’s structure, team, and roles.

Service or Product Line: What you’re selling or the service you’re offering.

Marketing and Sales: How you plan to market your business and your sales strategy.

Funding Request: If you’re seeking funding, specify the amount and its use.

Financial Projections: Provide projections for the next five years.

Appendix: Additional information or documents supporting your business plan.

Even the most outstanding business plan can falter with poor presentation

If your business plan is too convoluted, mundane, or fails to resonate with stakeholders, you'll diminish its effectiveness, regardless of its content quality.

Success hinges on how you structure and articulate your business strategy.

This article will equip you with invaluable insights and frameworks for crafting a compelling business plan.

You'll discover the key components to incorporate, the ideal arrangement, and strategies to design a business plan that captivates and convinces you.

Dive in to bolster your expertise and position your business for unparalleled success against the competition.

Let’s unfold the blueprint!

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a company's goals, the strategy to achieve them, and the financial and market analysis supporting these objectives.

It acts as a roadmap guiding the business towards growth and success.

What is the purpose of business planning?

Business planning serves to provide a clear vision, set measurable objectives, and attract potential investors.

It offers a structured approach to tackling challenges, optimizing resources, and evaluating the business’s progress, fostering informed decision-making and long-term sustainability.

Why are business plans so important for organizations?

In the cut-throat world of business, having a solid foundation is imperative for survival and growth.

2 main reasons why business plans are so important for organizations:

1) Strategic focus

A business plan ensures that you maintain a strategic focus, prioritizing tasks that drive your business toward its goals while avoiding distractions.

2) Financial planning and risk assessment

Having a financial blueprint helps in resource allocation, financial forecasting, and assessing the risks that could threaten your business's stability.

It prepares you for contingencies, ensuring your business remains resilient amidst adversities.

Strategies behind the business plans of industry disruptors

Learning from the business plans of successful enterprises can provide invaluable insights:

Airbnb’s original business plan: Airbnb’s initial business plan was a classic demonstration of how to address a market need and propose a novel solution.

Tesla motors business plan: A profound example of how innovation paired with sustainable practices can be translated into a compelling business narrative.

Warby parker's direct-to-consumer model: Warby Parker disrupted the eyewear industry with its online-focused, try-at-home model, emphasizing affordability without compromising style or quality.

These examples depict how clarity of vision and articulation of strate gy can pave the way for attracting investors and guiding a business toward its envisioned path.

5 types of business plans

Understanding the different types of business plans is fundamental for tailoring a plan that suits the specific needs and objectives of your business.

Each type serves a unique purpose, addressing various aspects and stages of a business. Here are five common types of business plans along with a brief description of what they entail:

1. Growth business plan

A growth business plan is focused on expansion strategies for established businesses.

It outlines new market penetration, product line extensions, or other growth opportunities, backed by market research, financial projections, and operational adaptations.

2. Operational or annual business plan

An operational business plan provides a detailed outline for the company’s activities over a one-year period.

It includes specific goals, responsibilities, timelines, budgets, and management plans, serving as a comprehensive roadmap for the business's short-term operations.

3. Startup business plan

A startup business plan lays down the groundwork for a new business, encompassing aspects like mission, vision, target market, competition analysis, financial projections, and operational plans.

It's pivotal for attracting investors and guiding the company's early steps.

4. Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a high-level document that sets out a company’s long-term vision, mission, and strategic objectives.

It typically encompasses market analysis, company positioning, competitive analysis, and long-term financial forecasts, aimed at guiding the business's overall direction.

5. Feasibility business plan

A feasibility business plan is used to explore the viability of a new business idea or project. It provides a thorough analysis of the market, competition, necessary resources, financial forecasts, and potential challenges, to ascertain the project’s practicality and worthiness.

What makes an effective business plan?

Creating a document that stands out and achieves its intended purpose is a blend of art and science.

Clarity and cohesion

Crafting an effective business plan demands a seamless blend of clarity and cohesion. Here's how these elements translate into a compelling plan that garners attention and achieves its purpose.

Clear objectives: Define clear, measurable, and realistic goals.

Cohesive narrative: A well-structured narrative that binds all sections into a coherent story.

Solid research and realistic projections

An effective business plan is grounded on solid research and realistic projections. Let's delve into how thorough market research and accurate financial forecasting can set the stage for success.

In-depth market research: Understand your market, competition, and customer needs.

Realistic financial projections: Accurate projections reflect financial acumen and understanding of market dynamics.

Risks and challenges insight

Identifying risks and devising robust mitigation strategies are integral to a well-rounded business plan.

This section explores how a detailed risk analysis can provide a clear roadmap for navigating challenges and ensuring business sustainability.

Risk identification: Spotting potential risks and having a contingency plan reflects foresight and preparedness, crucial for stakeholder confidence.

Mitigation strategies: Detail the strategies for mitigating risks and overcoming challenges to ensure business continuity and sustainability.

How to write a business plan?

Writing a business plan is a step-by-step process, each step taking you closer to realizing your business vision.

This strategic document serves as a roadmap, guiding your decisions and attracting potential investors or partners to your venture.

How to prepare for writing a business plan?

The foundation of a compelling business plan lies in the accuracy and thoroughness of the information gathered.

Data collection: Collect relevant market data, business metrics, and financial projections.

Stakeholder input: Seek feedback from key stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive representation of the business vision.

What to include in a business plan one-pager

10 essential components for a top-tier business plan one-pager:

Title slide: Your introduction to potential investors. Adding an engaging video can boost interaction significantly .

Unique value proposition (UVP): A tagline encapsulating your business's core essence. Example: "Innovating personalized healthcare solutions."

Company overview: Narrate your business's origin, mission, and future direction.

Problem addressed: Highlight your target market's pain points and the necessity of your solution.

Market analysis: Showcase your grasp of the competitive landscape and market gaps.

Your solution: Detail the unique features and benefits of your product/service.

Marketing & sales strategy: Outline your approach to reach the audience and drive sales.

Objectives & metrics: Define your key performance indicators (KPIs) and growth objectives.

Team overview: Introduce key team members, their expertise, and significance to the project.

Funding details: Clearly state the funds required, their allocation, and expected ROI.

Effective next steps to engage investors

Skip the usual "thank you" finish! Instead, wrap up your business plan with a clear call-to-action, guiding investors on next steps.

Effective calls-to-action can greatly improve investment chances. Research indicates presentations with distinct action steps outperform generic endings by 27% .

5 action steps to follow after presenting a business plan:

Detailed plan review

Live product demo

Accessing further resources

Committing with a letter of intent

Making an investment

Here’s an example of a business plan built with this structure:

Business plan one-pager

Business plan one-pager

This one-page business plan presentation template covers your company, market, product and services, and growth plan as an interactive visual story that's easy to follow and highly engaging.

How to design a business plan?

Business plan design plays a crucial role in how the information is perceived and retained by the readers.

This section unravels the essence of layout, typography, and the incorporation of visual elements to make your business plan not only informative but also engaging.

Layout and typography

A well-organized layout paired with readable typography can significantly enhance the readability and comprehension of your business plan.

Consistent Layout: A consistent layout throughout your business plan provides a professional appearance and makes it easier to follow.

Readable Typography: Choosing fonts that are both readable and visually appealing helps convey your business message efficiently.

Use of imagery and color

The use of imagery and color can augment the aesthetic appeal of your business plan while reinforcing the narrative and making key information memorable.

Relevant Imagery: Utilize images that align with your business objectives and resonate with the vision of your enterprise.

Color Palette: Select a color palette that not only aligns with your brand but also enhances the visual appeal of your business plan.

Storytelling with data visualization

Telling a compelling story through data visualization can help elucidate the market dynamics, financial projections, and the potential growth trajectory of your business.

Use charts, graphs, and infographics to narrate the data story, ensuring that readers can easily follow the progression and understand the core objectives.

Embracing digital design platforms

In the digital era, creating business plans on digital platforms can provide a more interactive and engaging experience for the readers.

Digital Business Plans: These are accessible, interactive, and easily shared, which can significantly enhance engagement and understanding.

Interactive Templates: Digital platforms offer interactive templates that can help structure your business plan effectively while ensuring a polished, professional appearance.

Grab an interactive template!

Create story from scratch

 business plan one pager presentation template

I am a Marketing Specialist at Storydoc, I research, analyze and write on our core topics of business presentations, sales, and fundraising. I love talkig to clients about their successes and failures so I can get a rounded understanding of their world.

how to describe a business plan

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How to write a business plan

Business Consultants

Want to know how to write a business plan? Writing a business plan is essential for starting a business, securing funding, or guiding business growth. A well-structured business plan provides a roadmap for your venture and demonstrates to potential investors or partners the viability and potential profitability of your idea.

Here's a step-by-step guide to writing a comprehensive business plan:

Executive Summary:

  • Business Concept: Describe what your business does or intends to do briefly.
  • Mission Statement: Define the company's goals in a short, concise statement.
  • Fundamental Information: Include your business's name, structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.), and details about the founders.
  • Growth Highlights: If applicable, provide examples of growth, such as financial or market highlights.
  • Products/Services: Briefly describe what you're selling.
  • Financial Information: If you're seeking financing, outline your funding requirements here.

Business Description:

  • Offer a detailed description of the industry.
  • Describe the current and future outlook and any emerging trends.
  • Discuss the market need your business fills.
  • Highlight any specific customer groups you're targeting.

Market Analysis:

  • Market Research: Present data on the size of your target market, its growth potential, and any trends.
  • Target Market: Detail the characteristics of your primary customer segments.
  • Market Test Results: If you've conducted any market research, like surveys or focus groups, include the results here.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze your competition, their market position, strengths, weaknesses, market share, etc.

Organization & Management:

  • Outline your business's organizational structure.
  • Detail the ownership structure: who owns what percentage of the company.
  • Include short bios of your management team, their roles, and their relevant experience.

Products or Services Line:

  • Describe in detail what you're selling or the service you're offering.
  • Explain how it benefits your customers.
  • Include information about product lifecycle, intellectual property, or R&D activities.

Marketing & Sales:

  • Positioning: Describe how you're positioning your business in the market.
  • Promotion: How will you attract and retain your customer base? Detail advertising, promotions, and any public relations efforts.
  • Sales Strategy: Outline your sales methodology and channels (e.g., online, direct sales, wholesalers).

Funding Request: (If seeking funding)

  • Specify the amount of funding you're seeking, the type of funding (e.g., equity, loan), and its purpose.
  • Detail terms you'd like to apply or have already secured.
  • Provide a forecast for your financial situation with and without the funding.

Financial Projections:

  • Provide historical data if you have it, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.
  • Offer prospective financial data for the next 5 years.
  • Include forecasted income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets.
  • Consider providing a break-even analysis.

Attach any additional information or documentation: resumes of key employees, patents, licenses, lease agreements, legal documents, references, or any other relevant information.

  • Be Clear and Concise: While detailed, your business plan should avoid unnecessary jargon. It should be understandable to someone unfamiliar with your industry.
  • Research: Base your business plan on thorough market and competitive research. Ensure data is current and relevant.
  • Seek Feedback: Before finalizing, show your plan to mentors, business partners, or even potential investors for feedback.
  • Review Regularly A business plan isn't static. As your business grows and the market evolves, review and adjust your plan accordingly.

Remember, the primary goal of your business plan is to guide your business decisions and communicate the viability and potential of your business idea to others. Ensure it's comprehensive, accurate, and reflective of your vision for the business.

Category: Business Consultants

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How to Write a Business Plan in 8 Steps

March 12, 2021

person writing their business plan

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organizational structure & management
  • Explain your product or service
  • Marketing & sales strategy
  • Financial plan & projections
  • Tips on writing a business plan

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Launching a business without a business plan is a little like embarking on a hike through a pathless forest: Exhilarating at first, but ultimately a really, really bad idea. In this metaphor, obviously, your business plan acts as your much-needed map: It’s a detailed guide demonstrating what your business is, what it offers, and how it’ll operate. Beyond that, business plans are crucial if you’re approaching investors or other lenders (meaning, banks) for funding, as it demonstrates why your business is worth investing in. Clearly, understanding how to write a business plan is crucial to your business’ success.

While every business plan differs depending on the type of business, its stage of growth, and why you’re writing it in the first place, all well-rounded plans have some things in common—namely, these eight, key sections:

  • Organizational structure and management
  • Product or service explanation
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Financial plan and projections

Ahead, we’ll explain each of these sections in greater detail. Consider this step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan a “map” for your “map.”

Step 1: Executive summary

An executive summary is exactly what it sounds like: A summary of your business. If you’re writing a business plan for funding, investors will occasionally ask for only this document as an evaluation tool before requesting further information, so it should be precise, but brief—two pages, tops.

Here, you’ll touch on some of the topics you’ll delve deeper into in later sections of your business plan, like the following:

  • What product or service does your company offer, and what is your value proposition?
  • What is your target market?
  • Who is your competition, and how does your business set itself apart?
  • How do you plan on evolving your business in the future?
  • What is your financial plan?
  • If you’re seeking funding, how much funding do you need, and how do you plan on using it?
  • Who are your business’s principal members, what is your legal structure, and where are you located?

Although your executive summary comprises the first part of your plan, many business experts and advisors actually recommend writing it last. That way, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of your plan, so it’ll be much easier to sum them up concisely here.

Step 2: Company description

Your company description is an expanded version of that first bullet point: What does your business actually do? Explain what your product or service is in general, and then how it fits into the larger marketplace. What gap in the market does your business fill, and how is it different from what your competitors are offering?

If you have a mission statement (which you should!), this is where you’ll put it. Also mention your business’s legal structure, where you’re located (especially if you have physical storefronts), and maybe even a short history of your business.

Essentially, this section drives home to investors why your product or service is necessary right now, and why your organization is best equipped to offer it.

Step 3: Market analysis

The market analysis section explains how your business slots into your industry.

First, provide a detailed portrait of your industry. What are some key trends and characteristics of your field right now? How do you (or experts) predict it will change and evolve over the next few years, and how will your business change and evolve with it? You should also identify potential problems or barriers to entry that may arise over the course of your operations, and how you plan to overcome them.

Next, define your target audience. What is the problem your prospective customers are trying to solve, and why will they choose you to offer the solution? What are your clients’ key demographics?

It’s useful to include competitor research here, as well. Identify your main competitors, and how they’re succeeding or failing in catering to your shared audience. Crucially, explain how you’ll emulate and personalize their strengths to suit your business, and how you’ll fill a gap they’re leaving in the marketplace.

Step 4: Organizational structure & management

Next, describe how your business is organized. Start by listing your business’s principal members, their roles in your business’s operations, and perhaps a sentence or two of relevant background information—if they’ve earned higher degrees, for instance, or their experience in your industry. Business plans for funding often include each principal member’s CV. For investors, this is a little like putting a face to the name, and help them understand why they can trust you with their investment.

If it’s applicable, you’ll also note how many employees you have here, and provide an organizational chart. If you don’t have employees now but plan to in the future, you may want to include a hiring plan.

Step 5: Explain your product or service

Here, you’ll describe exactly what products or services you’re offering. If you’re creating a product, note whether it’s ready to put on the market ASAP, or if you’re still in the ideation, creation, or beta stages. Also if you’re a product-based business, provide details about your vendors, how you’re sourcing your materials, how and where your product is created, and your distribution plan.

Regardless of whether you’re a service- or product-based business, provide a pricing structure and how it reflects your market analysis. And if it’s applicable, also include intellectual property rights, and any research and development your business plans to conduct.

Step 6: Marketing & sales strategy

Your marketing plan is one of the most important aspects of your business plan (and your business, period). So in this section, you’ll lay out the basics on how you’ll design a marketing strategy to best target your highest-intent customers. Will you lean heavily on organic digital marketing, for instance, or will you use a combination of organic and paid digital advertising? Alternatively, you may choose to work with a PR or social media firm to run your marketing efforts; if that’s the case, include information about their services here.

Step 7: Financial plan & projections

Another important, albeit slightly drier, aspect of your business plan: Your business’s financial outlook. Here’s where you’ll demonstrate your business’s financial stability with materials like balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements, and financial projections. If you’re in the very beginning stages of your business, take stock of how much cash you have on hand, how much you need to launch, and how much you’ll need to operate over the next three to five years. You should also use this opportunity to create a business budget.

This step may be the trickiest, especially for the right-brained among us. Work with a business accountant if you need hands-on help.

Step 8: Appendix

The appendix is the “odds and ends” section of your business plan, where you’ll attach any supporting documents or reference material your readers need in order to fully evaluate your business. Think: CVs, charts, data points, legal documents, pictures of your products and packaging design, and examples of your marketing materials (like social media posts).

Top tips on writing a business plan

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything we just told you, here’s a hot tip: Don’t write it all in one sitting! Rather, break it up section by section, and take as much time as you need to tackle each one. But remember, too, that your business plan should be relatively concise. If you feel like you’re getting too deep into the weeds, then you probably are. Keep it simple.

Also, know that your initial business plan isn’t set in stone, especially if you don’t plan on submitting it to investors anytime soon. Rather, your plan is a living document that’ll shift and change alongside your business.

Finally, know that you don’t have to go it alone. If you need more guidance, consider enlisting a business advisor. Start by contacting your local SBA or SCORE office, as they can offer one-on-one business advising services for free.

Written on March 12, 2021

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

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  1. How to Write a Business Plan

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  2. How to Write a Business Plan

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  4. How to Write a Business Plan (Examples & Templates)

    Business Description: The mission, vision, and the problem you’re solving. Market Analysis: An overview of the industry and your target market. Organization and Management: Your business’s structure, team, and roles. Service or Product Line: What you’re selling or the service you’re offering.

  5. How to write a business plan | SmartGuy

    Writing a business plan is essential for starting a business, securing funding, or guiding business growth. A well-structured business plan provides a roadmap for your venture and demonstrates to potential investors or partners the viability and potential profitability of your idea.

  6. How to Write a Business Plan in 8 Steps - Thimble

    Step 2: Company description. Your company description is an expanded version of that first bullet point: What does your business actually do? Explain what your product or service is in general, and then how it fits into the larger marketplace.