Before you get started on your business plan, you might be wondering, "Where do I start? How should I format this? The executive summary is arguably the most important section in the entire business plan. Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan which may be dozens or hundreds of pages long.
However, many of these topics will be covered in more detail later on in the business plan, so keep the executive summary clear and brief, including only the most important take-aways. Download this template for free. Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance. This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.
Where is the gap in the current industry and how will your product fill that gap? You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to identify some of the insights for this section. Speaking of market share, you'll need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are. After all, your customers likely have more than one provider to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another. Performing a competitive analysis can help you uncover:.
This section will describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience? It can be helpful to build a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and get crystal clear on why you're targeting them. Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy.
You might consider including information on:. It can help to already have a marketing plan built out to help you inform this component of your business plan. Laying these out can give readers of your business plan an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.
This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. For this reason, you might outline:. This section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to determine funding strategies, investment opportunities, etc.
According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:. While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details you'll want to include. Keep in mind, that each of these sections will be formatted differently.
Some may be in paragraph format, while others will be in charts. Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some templates. Download a free, editable one-page business plan template. The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot, and is perfect for businesses of any size -- no matter how much strategy they still have to develop.
Including fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline, this one-page business plan gives businesses a framework for how to build their brand and what tasks to keep track of as they grow. Then, as the business matures, it can expand on its original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.
We created a business plan template for entrepreneurs. Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. They created a fictional company called Acme Management Technology and wrote an entire business plan for them. Using their sample business plan as a guide while filling out your own will help you catch and include small yet important details in your business plan that you otherwise might not have noticed.
After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it. Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level -- it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan. With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum , you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service and the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture, rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.
The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you. If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, fund your business, gives information about small business tax, and provides marketing, sales, and service tips. It describes what you should include in each of its sections, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.
The Small Business Administration offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan. Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need -- a traditional or lean start-up plan. Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like. Culina's sample business plan is a great template to use if you just want to fill in your information.
You can also use this template as a guide while you're gathering important details. After looking at this sample, you'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do for your own business plan. This is one of my favorite sample business plans, because you can see how implementing visuals can help tell the story of your brand. The images in this template are cutting edge, which makes sense for an innovative company like Plum.
When you create your own business plan, make sure that the pictures and design you use make sense for your branding. Additionally, the financial charts included are incredibly helpful if you're not sure what financial information to include. A great business plan template will also provide instructions for each step of your plan and show you what an investor-ready and SBA-approved business plan should look like. There are tons of free business plan templates available including the one you can download right here on this page.
You can also find business plan examples specific to your industry by searching our sample business plan library. However, be careful—there are lots of people out there who will try and charge you for a template. If you need more than a free, simple template can provide, look into online business planning solutions like LivePlan , which provides more help and customization options than any template can.
Why not to use a business plan template: While there are benefits to using a business plan template, depending on your situation it may not be the absolute best way to complete your plan. There is still going to be a lot of work involved—for instance, not only do you have to complete the financial spreadsheets, but you have to do all the math yourself. Finally, merging data from Excel spreadsheets into your Word document is harder than it looks.
Good software will include step-by-step guidance, video tutorials, automatic financial forecasting, automatic formatting, and chart creation, plus much more. So, if using software is the right fit for you, you can spend more time starting your business and less time planning. If you have any business plan questions, please feel free to ask our business plan experts on Twitter or Facebook.
The template: The outline of our business plan template appears below. It is simplified a bit for this page, so we encourage you to download the Word version to get instructions for each section, as well as a cover page, table of contents, legal disclaimer, and more.
After you fill out the form on this page, your Word and PDF templates will both begin to download automatically. Need more help writing a business plan? Our guide has detailed instructions and takes you through the planning process from start to finish. If you want to see real business plans from other companies, take a look at our library of sample business plans.
There are also software packages that can help take the pain out of business planning. Our recommendation is to check out LivePlan. It includes complete financial forecasting no spreadsheets required , pitch presentations, and more. Lastly, you can download our business plan template PDF directly. View our entire gallery of free downloads. Tweet about it I just downloaded a free business plan template from Bplans.
At the very least, you should include cash flow statements , as well as your profit and loss projections, over the next three to five years. You can also include historical financial data from the past few years, your sales forecast, balance sheet, etc. Make sure this section is precise and accurate. It's often best practice to create this section with a professional accountant. Finally, if you're seeking outside funding for your business, highlight why you're seeking financing, how you will use that money and when investors can expect a return on their investment.
Investors want detailed information to confirm the viability of your business idea. Expect to provide an income statement for the business plan that includes a complete snapshot of your business. The income statement will list revenue, expenses and profits. Income statements are generated monthly for startups and quarterly for established businesses. Another element of your financial plan is your projection for cash flow.
In this section, you estimate the expected amount of money coming in and going out of your business. There are two benefits to including a cash flow projection. The first is that this forecast demonstrates whether your business is a high or low-risk venture. The second benefit of doing a cash flow projection is that it shows you whether you would benefit most from short-term or long-term financing.
Finally, a break-even analysis should be included in your financial plan. The break-even point is the point at which your company's sales totals cover all of its expenses. Investors want to see your revenue requirements to assess whether your business is capable of reaching the financial milestones you've laid out in your business plan.
The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. The section discusses the location of the business , as well as required equipment or critical facilities needed to make your products. Some companies, depending on their business type, may also need to detail their inventory needs, including information about suppliers. For manufacturing companies, all processing details are spell out in the operational plan section.
For startups, you want to divide the operational plan into two distinct phases: the developmental plan and the production plan. The developmental plan explains each step in the process of bringing your product or service to market. You want to outline the risks and the protocols you're taking to demonstrate to investors that you've examined all potential liabilities and that your business is well positioned for success.
For instance, if workers or your products are exposed to toxic materials during the production process, in your developmental plan, you want to list the safety measures you will follow to minimize the risk of illness and injury to workers and consumers and how you plan to minimize any potential culpability to your business. Production plans have the day-to-day operation information, such as your business hours, the work site s , company assets, equipment pieces, raw materials and any special requirements.
LivePlan allows business owners to craft perfectly formatted business plans. They have more than plans encompassing nearly every industry you can think of. After selecting the template you like, you can customize it to create a compelling presentation to pitch your idea to would-be investors. Post-launch, you can track your actual revenue and expenses against your earlier forecasts.
We, at Business News Daily, have put together a simple but high-value template to help you create a business plan. The template is completely customizable and can be used to attract investors, secure board members, and narrow the scope of your company. Business plans can be overwhelming to new entrepreneurs, but our template makes it easy to provide all of the details required by financial institutions and private investors. The template has eight main sections, with subsections for each topic.
For easy navigation, a table of contents is provided with the template. As you customize each section, you'll receive tips on how to correctly write the required details. Katherine Arline and Marci Martin contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article. Business Plan Template for Entrepreneurs. Sean Peek. Types of business plans There are two main types of business plans: simple and traditional.
Simple business plan Business model expert Ash Maurya has developed a simple type of business plan called a lean canvas. This lean business plan often consists of a single page of information with the following listed: Problem Solution Key metrics Unique proposition Unfair advantage Channels Customer targets Cost structures Revenue streams Traditional business plan Traditional plans are lengthy documents, sometimes as long as 30 or 40 pages.
The following is covered in a traditional business plan: Executive summary Company description Products and services Market analysis Management team Financial plan Operational plan Appendices Free download: Here is our business plan template you can use to craft a professional business plan quickly and easily. Traditional plan template 1. Executive summary The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan, because it needs to draw your readers into your plan and entice them to continue reading.
Company description This section is an overview of your entire business. Market analysis In this section, clearly define who your target audience is, where you will find customers, how you will reach them and, most importantly, how you will deliver your product or service to them. Management team Before anyone invests in your business, they want a complete understanding of what they are investing in and who the company principals are. Financial plan Last, the financial plan should include a detailed overview of your finances.
Operational plan The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. Downloadable business plan templates LivePlan LivePlan allows business owners to craft perfectly formatted business plans. Business News Daily We, at Business News Daily, have put together a simple but high-value template to help you create a business plan.
Business News Daily Contributing Writer. Sean Peek has written more than B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.
Start Your Business. Updated Self-Assessment: 5 Tips for Writing Your How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Are you an educator looking for real—world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry—best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet—free financial forecasts.
All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup. With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students.
You don't need to find a sample business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match exactly to the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting. For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match.
While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar. Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying a sample plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique.
You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it. One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.
You'll also look at where you stand among your competition and everyone has competition , and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at a sample plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business. If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, this guide on how to write a business plan is a good place to start.
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Failing to secure the right loan is one of the most common causes of small business failure. It is ideal for showing to employees and business partners. The sheet compares future goals with current spending habits, creating a map for future growth. It allows owners to view their debts and create strategies for paying off each one in given time intervals. It tallies the expenses against the potential benefits of creating the site. No site should be created without a budget template to keep track.
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An overview of revenue, revenue breakdown, and time to market are shown. This template is ideal for showing to stakeholders and to see which products have been the most profitable in the given time period. It provides KPIs for a number of tasks including the resources allocated along with the total days per project and current financials. This is very useful for business owners who are simultaneously working on a number of projects and need the information displayed in an easy to read manner.
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SWOT is a primary technique used by business owners and a common project management strategy, as it allows to objectively look at a business project in its entirety. This template allows the investigation of both internal and external factors. The template is useful because it tracks the employee across key metrics without being overly detailed.
It also has a space for commenting on whether the employee reached certain goals or not. All of the information is neatly compiled to provide owners with a snapshot of where everything stands at the present time. It shows task status, budget, pending items, assignment, and timeline of various projects. A Gantt chart is one of the easiest ways to track the progress of a particular task in percentages. Multiple tasks can be inserted and the projects are color coded depending on their risk level and progress.
It is one of the best ways to get an overview of multiple deliverables. All small business owners and project managers need a good system to keep track of customer and merchant issues to improve efficiency and satisfaction levels.
It is color coded to easily observe who is responsible for certain roles and responsibilities. The Kaban Board is an excellent tool in terms of functionality and visual design. It allows the tracking of revenue across individual products, region, and customer types. This is vital information in terms of deciding which products are doing well in relation to specific customer and regions.
It will allow business owners to make better sales decisions. Even if it is only a projection, it is definitely useful to have. This free Excel template will allow you to analyze and forecast the unit sales, growth rate, profit margin, and gross profit for your products and services. It provides a quick starting point for setting up your sales forecasting and is basic enough for new businesses just starting out.
It also includes a product description and the billing company name and address. It further calculates the total invoice amount along with the tax obligations. It contains more information and is laid out a little more intuitively. The shipping invoice template is aimed at people who are buying physical products for delivery. The customer will then be able to view the invoice details on the package itself upon receipt of the product. If you own a company shipping physical goods, then you can copy and print off this invoice and attached it to your products.
It is a neat and useful sheet for business owners to obtain all the financial data they need about their company. Another highlight of this sheet is that it shows a year to year comparison along with the depreciation of assets. It creates a neat summary of the sales completed and the amount due, as well as whether or not the payments were made.
For smaller businesses this template is perfect. Payroll software can be very effective , but it is also quite expensive. The sheet allows business owners to easily monitor payments made to the property. It is a detailed receipt with a unique number, date, amount, tenants name and details, and landlord name and details.
It is often seen in venture capital business plans. The break even analysis will show whether or not you have a financially viable business. But you have to make sure that your figures projected sales, fixed costs, variables, costs, etc are precise to make it even remotely accurate.
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