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Writing a Business Plan
While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.
The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.
The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.
Services and Products
This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.
The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.
Organization and Management
Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.
Financial Projections & Appendix
The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.
The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.
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How to Choose a Phone Plan for Your Business
Every company needs an effective phone plan for their business. It’s important for all your employees to be able to communicate with each other. You also need to ensure that you can take phone calls from clients when they need to reach you. There are many office, VoIP and cell plans available, and your choice depends on what’s best for you. Here’s how to choose the best phone plan for your business.
The Types of Business Plan
If you’re looking for the perfect business phone plan, you need to think about which will benefit your organization most. There are loads to choose from and each have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s essential for businesses to have the best communications systems, because without this you’ll lose potential customers. Many people choose systems based on their convenience, but also look at how effective they are, the costs and if the system is up to date.
With so many options, businesses rarely know where to start. However, your primary goals will enable you to find the best phone plan for your business. Do you have a large team and need a strong internal communications system? Is saving money your primary goal? Here are some business phone plans, and their benefits.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VoIP is taking over the business world, and many companies are ditching their landline service for the internet-based phone solutions. While making international calls on landlines is expensive, VoIP enables you to call anywhere in the world for no extra cost. Phone calls take place over the internet, and you can reach your employees wherever they are.
There are many VoIP solutions, including basic packages, options for mid-sized businesses and high-end solutions. It’s important to think about which solution is best for your business and avoid any hidden costs associated with high-end solutions. VoIP is great for companies and there is a range of technological benefits you won’t find with other providers. Search online to find the best VoIP providers.
Private Branch Exchange (PBX)
PBX uses hardware to route all calls through the office to and from a central connection. It connects all employees and enables easy transfers. PBX has many benefits, including its cost-effective solutions. Employees can make internal calls without the needs of connecting to an external network. This means that businesses can save money on phone calls, which is especially useful for small companies.
There are automatic capabilities, meaning PBX systems can automatically route calls. Basically, PBX offers an all-in-one solution, but it isn’t as technologically convenient as VoIP solutions. It depends on your needs, but remember PBX systems are best if you use over 12 phone lines. Smaller businesses might find that installing and maintaining a PBX system is too expensive.
Small businesses have one thing on their mind; money. They need to find cost-effective solutions to grow their business, but not bankrupt them. Most small companies use manual key-systems to route phone calls. As you add more lines, you’ll find a manual system less convenient and harder to manage.
Key systems are great when businesses are starting out, but if your business is growing then it’s best to choose between a PBX or VoIP solution. There are many positives to manual key systems, and providers are combining technology with the systems to make them better for small business owners to maximize their internal and external communications.
Is the price right? That’s what you should be considering. Many phone providers will offer comprehensive packages for both office and cell use. Combining these will save you money in the long-term and enable you to streamline your communication procedure. The more technology you want, the higher the price. You should weigh up the benefits of cost and convenience when making your decision.
Speak to providers and ask them what bundles they offer. You’ll want to supply your employees with cell phones if they travel out of the office regularly. Choosing a phone system doesn’t have to be complicated if you know what you’re looking for and consider your price limits.
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Making a Risk Management Plan for Your Business
It’s impossible to eliminate all business risk. Therefore, it’s essential for having a plan for its management. You’ll be developing one covering compliance, environmental, financial, operational and reputation risk management. These guidelines are for making a risk management plan for your business.
Developing Your Executive Summary
When you start the risk management plan with an executive summary, you’re breaking apart what it will be compromised of into easy to understand chunks. Even though this summary is the project’s high-level overview, the goal is describing the risk management plan’s approach and scope. In doing so, you’re informing all stakeholders regarding what to expect when they’re reviewing these plans so that they can set their expectations appropriately.
Who Are the Stakeholders and What Potential Problems Need Identifying?
During this phase of making the risk management plan, you’re going to need to have a team meeting. Every member of the team must be vocal regarding what they believe could be potential problems or risks. Stakeholders should also be involved in this meeting as well to help you collect ideas regarding what could become a potential risk. All who are participating should look at past projects, what went wrong, what is going wrong in current projects and what everyone hopes to achieve from what they learned from these experiences. During this session, you’ll be creating a sample risk management plan that begins to outline risk management standards and risk management strategies.
Evaluate the Potential Risks Identified
A myriad of internal and external sources can pose as risks including commercial, management and technical, for example. When you’re identifying what these potential risks are and have your list complete, the next step is organizing it according to importance and likelihood. Categorize each risk according to how it could impact your project. For example, does the risk threaten to throw off timelines or budgets? Using a risk breakdown structure is an effective way to help ensure all potential risks are effectively categorized and considered. Use of this risk management plan template keeps everything organized and paints a clear picture of everything you’re identifying.
Assign Ownership and Create Responses
It’s essential to ensure a team member is overseeing each potential risk. That way, they can jump into action should an issue occur. Those who are assigned a risk, as well as the project manager, should work as a team to develop responses before problems arise. That way, if there are issues, the person overseeing the risk can refer to the response that was predetermined.
Have a System for Monitoring
Having effective risk management companies plans includes having a system for monitoring. It’s not wise to develop a security risk management or compliance risk management plan, for example, without having a system for monitoring. What this means is there’s a system for monitoring in place to ensure risk doesn’t occur until the project is finished. In doing so, you’re ensuring no new risks will potentially surface. If one does, like during the IT risk management process, for example, your team will know how to react.
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Do You Really Need a Business Plan?
The art of storytelling, from net margin to sales.
Why is a business plan important?
- Who will the reader be?
- What do you want their response to be?
Four Reasons to Write a Business Plan
1. To raise money for your business
2. To make sound decisions
3. To help you identify any potential weaknesses
4. To communicate your ideas with stakeholders
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How to Write a Business Plan for Your Small Business
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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.
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.
- 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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- Business Ethics: Definition, Principles, Why They're Important 2 of 46
- Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 3 of 46
- Organizational Structure for Companies With Examples and Benefits 4 of 46
- Which Type of Organization Is Best For Your Business? 5 of 46
- What Are the Major Types of Businesses in the Private Sector? 6 of 46
- Corporate Culture Definition, Characteristics, and Importance 7 of 46
- What Is an S Corp? 8 of 46
- LLC vs. Incorporation: Which Should I Choose? 9 of 46
- Private Company: What It Is, Types, and Pros and Cons 10 of 46
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- Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 46
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- Seed Capital: What It Is, How It Works, Example 14 of 46
- Venture Capital: What Is VC and How Does It Work? 15 of 46
- Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 16 of 46
- Capital Funding: Definition, How It Works, and 2 Primary Methods 17 of 46
- Series Funding: A, B, and C 18 of 46
- Small Business Administration (SBA): Definition and What It Does 19 of 46
- Upper Management: What it is, How it Works 20 of 46
- What is the C Suite?: Meaning and Positions Defined 21 of 46
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO): What They Do vs. Other Chief Roles 22 of 46
- Operations Management: Understanding and Using It 23 of 46
- Human Resource Planning (HRP) Meaning, Process, and Examples 24 of 46
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- What Is Brand Management? Requirements, How It Works, and Example 27 of 46
- What Is Brand Awareness? Definition, How It Works, and Strategies 28 of 46
- Brand Loyalty: What It Is, and How to Build It 29 of 46
- Brand Extension: Definition, How It Works, Example, and Criticism 30 of 46
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- Affiliate Marketer: Definition, Examples, and How to Get Started 32 of 46
- What Is Commercialization, Plus the Product Roll-Out Process 33 of 46
- Digital Marketing Overview: Types, Challenges & Required Skills 34 of 46
- Direct Marketing: What It Is and How It Works 35 of 46
- Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 36 of 46
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15 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2023
Posted january 21, 2022 by noah parsons.
As a small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, a business plan can seem more like a hurdle you have to overcome than a useful tool. It’s a barrier that’s keeping you from moving forward with your business. Maybe the bank won’t review your loan application without a business plan or a potential investor has asked to see your business plan before they will meet with you.
But, writing a business plan doesn’t have to feel like a homework assignment. Instead, think of writing a business plan as an investment in your business. It’s a tool to figure out a strong and financially viable strategy for growth. And, it’s even been scientifically proven that planning will increase your chances of success and help you grow faster.
Still not convinced? Read on for our definitive list of reasons why you should write a plan for your business.
What is the key purpose of a business plan?
Imagine you’re setting out on a journey. You know what your final destination is, but you haven’t figured out how to get there. While it might be fun to just start driving and figure things out as you go, your trip will most likely take longer than you anticipated and cost you more. If you instead take a look at a map and chart the best way to get to your destination, you’ll arrive on time and on budget. Planning for your business isn’t that much different.
The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you figure out where you want to go with your business and how you’re going to get there. It helps you set your direction and determine a winning strategy. A solid business plan will set your business up for success and help you build an unbeatable company.
If you start off without a plan, you may go down some interesting detours, but you’re unlikely to grow quickly or stick to your budget.
Why do you need to write a business plan?
Establishing a strategic roadmap for your business is the primary benefit of writing a business plan. But what does that really look like for you and your business? Here are our top 15 reasons why you should write a business plan.
1. Reduce your risk
Writing a business plan takes some of the risk out of starting a business. It ensures that you’re thinking through every facet of your business to determine if it can truly be viable.
Does your solution fit the market? Are your startup or operational costs manageable? Will your proposed business model actually generate sales? What sort of milestones would you need to hit to achieve profitability? These are all questions associated with business risk that you can answer with your plan.
For those already running a business, writing a plan can help you better manage ongoing risk. Should you bring on a new employee? What does cash flow look like for your next month, quarter, or even year? Are you on track to meet your milestones or do you need to change your focus? Keep your plan up to date, review it regularly and you can easily answer these questions and mitigate risk.
2. Uncover your business’s potential
Writing a business plan helps you think about the customers you are serving and what their needs are. Exploring those customer needs will help you uncover new opportunities for your business to serve them and potentially expose new products and services that you could offer. When you use your business plan to manage your business, you’ll be able to see the parts of your strategy that are working and those that aren’t. For example, you may have invested in new marketing efforts to sell one of your products, but that strategy just isn’t working out. With a business plan in hand, you’ll be able to see what’s going to plan and where you need to make adjustments to your strategy, pivoting to new opportunities that will drive profitability.
3. Test a new business idea
When you have a new business idea, it really helps to spend a little time thinking through all the details. A business plan will help you think about your target market, your budget, how much money you’ll need to launch, and how your idea will actually work before you spend any real money. A business plan will also help you easily share your idea with other people to get input and feedback before you get started.
We recommend using a one-page business plan to test ideas quickly and easily.
4. Attract investors and get funding to start and grow your business
Sharing your business idea with investors requires a business plan. Now, you probably won’t share a long, detailed business plan to get investors interested, but you probably will share your executive summary — which is an overview of your business plan. Investors may never actually ask for your full business plan, but they will certainly ask you questions that you’ll only be able to answer if you’ve taken the time to write a plan.
At the very least, they’ll want to see your financial forecasts , so you should be prepared for this. If you end up pitching your business to investors, whether in-person or remotely , having a business plan written makes it much easier to translate the right information into a pitch deck. In short, you’ll have all of the right information ready and available to show why your business is worth investing in.
5. Plan for different scenarios
Even if you have a plan in place, things rarely actually go to plan. The world is always changing, customer tastes change, and new competitors arrive on the scene. Having a plan allows you to experiment with different scenarios to see how changes to your business will impact your forecasts, budgets, profitability, and cash flow.
6. Research shows that business plans definitely work
A Journal of Management Studies study found that businesses that take the time to plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. Our own 2021 small business research study found that 58% of small business owners that have or are working on a plan feel confident in their business, even amidst a crisis. And a study in Small Business Economics found that entrepreneurs that write business plans for their ideas are 152% more likely to actually start their businesses. There’s plenty of additional research that links planning with success, so it’s a proven fact that you won’t be wasting your time when you write your plan.
7. Build a better budget and a financial forecast
A core component of any business plan is a financial forecast. When you take the time to plan, you’ll have to think through your expense budget, your sales goals, and the cash that it’s going to take to keep your doors open, purchase inventory, and more.
The beauty of incorporating forecasts into your business plan is that you don’t need to have the exact numbers to start. You can work with general assumptions and compare against competitive benchmarks to set a baseline for your business. As you operate and collect financial data you can then begin to update your forecasts to generate a more accurate view of how your business will operate.
8. Determine your financial needs
Without a business plan, it’s impossible to really know how much money it’s going to take to start and run your business. You don’t just need money for your initial purchases. You need to have enough cash in the bank to keep your business afloat while you get fully up and running. A plan will help you determine exactly how much money you’ll need and help you keep track of your cash flow and runway .
9. Attract employees
Especially if you’re a young startup company, attracting employees can be hard. Without a proven track record, why should someone take a risk to work for you? Having a business plan can help solve that problem. Your plan can help a prospective employee understand your business strategy and plans for growth so that they can feel confident joining your team. It’s also incredibly useful in determining when and if it’s feasible for you to bring on more employees .
10. Get your team all on the same page
A great strategy for your business can only be successful if your team understands it. By documenting your strategy with a business plan, you can easily get everyone on the same page, working towards the same goals. It’s even better if you regularly review your plan with members of your team. This ensures that everyone is consistently going back to the core strategy documentation, analyzing it, and exploring how it impacts individual and team goals .
11. Manage your business better
A business plan is all about setting goals for your company — both financial goals and milestones you hope to accomplish. When you use your plan to regularly check in on your business to see how you’re doing and what your progress is, you’re managing your business. Regular review , ideally monthly, will help you build a strong, resilient business.
12. Understand your market and build a marketing plan
No matter how good your idea is, you have to figure out who your ideal customers are and how you’re going to get the word out to them. That’s where a marketing plan comes in. It can be an indispensable tool for figuring out how you get your first customers as well as your thousandth customer.
13. It’s easier than you think
You may be procrastinating in writing a business plan because it sounds like a lot of work. The truth is that planning is much less complicated than you think. Start small with a one-page business plan that you complete in half an hour . From there, refine your plan until your idea is solid. At that point, you can invest a little more time in a more detailed business plan. Just start with the basics and expand from there.
14. You’ll sleep better at night
When you have a plan for your business, you have peace of mind. You know that you’ve invested the time to figure out a business model that actually works and you’ve considered different financial scenarios so you can handle the unexpected. And, you’ve got a management tool to run your business better than your competitors.
15. Effectively navigate a crisis
Having a business plan not only helps you create a roadmap for your business but also helps you navigate unforeseen events. Large-scale economic downturns, supply shortages, payment delays, cash flow problems, and any number of other issues are bound to pop up. But, you can be prepared to face each crisis head-on by leveraging your business plan.
A plan helps you assess your current situation, determine how the crisis will alter your plan, and begin to explore what it will take to recover. With a little planning, you can even prepare your business for future downturns with this same process. It’ll make crisis planning easier and ideally recession-proof your business by having the right plan and processes in place.
Don’t wait, start writing your business plan today
There are plenty of reasons to write a business plan, but the real reason is about finding success for you and your business. Taking the time to plan is an investment in yourself and your business that will pay dividends, whether you’re starting a new business or taking your existing business to the next level.
You can jump-start your business plan writing process with our article covering how to write a business plan in as little as 30-minutes .
If you’re looking for a tool to help you get more from your business plan, we recommend trying out LivePlan . Our business planning and management tool will guide you through the entire process, including all of your financial forecasts, without ever requiring that you open a spreadsheet.
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Nine reasons why you need a business plan
Building a great business plan helps you plan, strategize and succeed. Presented by Chase for Business .
Making the decision to create a new business is an exciting yet stressful experience. Starting a business involves many tasks and obstacles, so it’s important to focus before you take action. A solid business plan can provide direction, help you attract investors and ensure you maintain momentum.
No matter what industry you plan on going into, a business plan is the first step for any successful enterprise. Building your business plan helps you figure out where you want your business to go and identify the necessary steps to get you there. This is a key document for your company to both guide your actions and track your progress.
What is the purpose of a business plan?
Think of a business plan like a roadmap. It enables you to solve problems and make key business decisions, such as marketing and competitive analysis, customer and market analysis and logistics and operations plans.
It can also help you organize your thoughts and goals, as well as give you a better idea of how your company will work. Good planning is often the difference between success and failure.
Here are nine reasons your company needs a business plan.
1. Prove your idea is viable
Through the process of writing a business plan, you can assess whether your company will be successful. Understanding market dynamics, as well as competitors, will help determine if your idea is viable.
This is also the time to develop financial projections for your business plan, like estimated startup costs, a profit and loss forecast, a break-even analysis and a cash flow statement . By taking time to investigate the viability of your idea, you can build goals and strategies to support your path to success.
A proper business plan proves to all interested parties—including potential investors, customers, employees, partners and most importantly yourself — that you are serious about your business.
2. Set important goals
As a business owner, the bulk of your time will mostly likely be spent managing day-to-day tasks. As a result, it might be hard to find time after you launch your business to set goals and milestones. Writing a business plan allows you to lay out significant goals for yourself ahead of time for three or even five years down the road. Create both short- and long-term business goals.
3. Reduce potential risks
Prevent your business from falling victim to unexpected dangers by researching before you break ground. A business plan opens your eyes to potential risks that your business could face. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions that may need research and analysis to answer. This is also good practice in how your business would actually manage issues when they arise. Incorporate a contingency plan that identifies risks and how you would respond to them effectively.
The most common reasons businesses fail include:
- Lack of capital
- Lack of market impact or need
- Unresearched pricing (too high or low)
- Explosive growth that drains all your capital
- Stiff competition
Lack of capital is the most prevalent reason why businesses fail. To best alleviate this problem, take time to determine how your business will generate revenue. Build a comprehensive model to help mitigate future risks and long-term pain points. This can be turned into a tool to manage growth and expansion.
4. Secure investments
Whether you’re planning to apply for an SBA loan , build a relationship with angel investors or seek venture capital funding, you need more than just an elevator pitch to get funding. All credible investors will want to review your business plan. Although investors will focus on the financial aspects of the plan, they will also want to see if you’ve spent time researching your industry, developed a viable product or service and created a strong marketing strategy.
While building your business plan, think about how much raised capital you need to get your idea off the ground. Determine exactly how much funding you’ll need and what you will use it for. This is essential for raising and employing capital.
5. Allot resources and plan purchases
You will have many investments to make at the launch of your business, such as product and services development, new technology, hiring, operations, sales and marketing. Resource planning is an important part of your business plan. It gives you an idea of how much you’ll need to spend on resources and it ensures your business will manage those resources effectively.
A business plan provides clarity about necessary assets and investment for each item. A good business plan can also determine when it is feasible to expand to a larger store or workspace.
In your plan, include research on new products and services, where you can buy reliable equipment and what technologies you may need. Allocate capital and plan how you’ll fund major purchases, such as with a Chase small business checking account or business credit card .
6. Build your team
From seasoned executives to skilled labor, a compelling business plan can help you attract top-tier talent, ideally inspiring management and employees long after hiring. Business plans include an overview of your executive team as well as the different roles you need filled immediately and further down the line.
Small businesses often employ specialized consultants, contractors and freelancers for individual tasks such as marketing, accounting and legal assistance. Sharing a business plan helps the larger team work collectively in the same direction.
This will also come into play when you begin working with any new partners. As a new business, a potential partner may ask to see your business plan. Building partnerships takes time and money, and with a solid business plan you have the opportunity to attract and work with the type of partners your new business needs.
7. Share your vision
When you start a business, it's easy to assume you'll be available to guide your team. A business plan helps your team and investors understand your vision for the company. Your plan will outline your goals and can help your team make decisions or take action on your behalf. Share your business plan with employees to align your full staff toward a collective goal or objective for the company. Consider employee and stakeholder ownership as a compelling and motivating force.
8. Develop a marketing strategy
A marketing strategy details how you will reach your customers and build brand awareness. The clearer your brand positioning is to investors, customers, partners and employees, the more successful your business will be.
Important questions to consider as you build your marketing strategy include:
- What industry segments are we pursuing?
- What is the value proposition of the products or services we plan to offer?
- Who are our customers?
- How will we retain our customers and keep them engaged with our products or services and marketing?
- What is our advertising budget?
- What price will we charge?
- What is the overall look and feel of our brand? What are our brand guidelines?
- Will we need to hire marketing experts to help us create our brand?
- Who are our competitors? What marketing strategies have worked (or not worked) for them?
With a thoughtful marketing strategy integrated into your business plan, your company goals are significantly more in reach.
9. Focus your energy
Your business plan determines which areas of your business to focus on while also avoiding possible distractions. It provides a roadmap for critical tradeoffs and resource allocation.
As a business owner, you will feel the urge to solve all of your internal and customers’ problems, but it is important to maintain focus. Keep your priorities at the top of your mind as you set off to build your company.
As a small business owner, writing a business plan should be one of your first priorities. Read our checklist for starting a business, and learn how to take your business from a plan to reality. When you’re ready to get started, talk with a Chase business banker to open a Chase business checking or savings account today.
For Informational/Educational Purposes Only: The views expressed in this article may differ from other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Views and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone and are not intended as specific advice/recommendation for any individual. You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions and consult the appropriate professional(s). Outlooks and past performance are not guarantees of future results.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender, ©2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co
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20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2023
Written by Dave Lavinsky
What is the Purpose of a Business Plan?
The purpose of a business plan is to provide a clear roadmap for the company’s future. It outlines the vision, goals, and strategies of the business, guiding entrepreneurs and stakeholders in understanding its operations and objectives. A well-crafted business plan helps attract investors and funding by showcasing the potential for profitability and growth.
Top 20 Reasons Why you Need a Business Plan
1. to prove that you’re serious about your business.
A formal business plan is necessary to show all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building the business. Creating your plan forces you to think through and select the strategies that will propel your growth.
2. To Establish Business Milestones
The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, a milestone is something significant enough to come home and tell your spouse about (without boring him or her to death). Would you tell your spouse that you tweaked the company brochure? Probably not. But you’d certainly share the news that you launched your new website or reached $1M in annual revenues.
3. To Better Understand Your Competition
Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages. And if you don’t currently have competitive advantages, to figure out what you must do to gain them.
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4. To Better Understand Your Customer
Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business. Understanding your customers will not only allow you to create better products and services for them, but will allow you to more cost-effectively reach them via advertising and promotions.
5. To Enunciate Previously Unstated Assumptions
The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. By writing them down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity. For example, you might have assumed that local retailers would carry your product; in your business plan, you could assess the results of the scenario in which this didn’t occur.
6. To Assess the Feasibility of Your Venture
How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture. In some cases, the result of your planning will be to table the venture. And it might be to go forward with a different venture that may have a better chance of success.
7. To Document Your Revenue Model
How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model. And upon reading your plan, others may suggest additional revenue streams to consider.
8. To Determine Your Financial Needs
Does your business need to raise capital? How much? One of the purposes of a business plan is to help you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital for business and for effectively employing the capital. It will also enable you to plan ahead, particularly if you need to raise additional funding in the future.
9. To Attract Investors
A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy? While investors will generally want to meet you in person before writing you a check, in nearly all cases, they will also thoroughly review your business plan.
10. To Reduce the Risk of Pursuing the Wrong Opportunity
The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities. So you make the best decisions.
11. To Force You to Research and Really Know Your Market
What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace. And it will allow you to use this knowledge to make decisions to improve your company’s success.
12. To Attract Employees and a Management Team
To attract and retain top quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals. Importantly, as you grow your company, your employees and not you will do most of the work. So getting them aligned and motivated will be key to your success.
13. To Plot Your Course and Focus Your Efforts
The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones. You wouldn’t go on a long driving trip without a map; think of your business plan as your map.
14. To attract partners
Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.
15. To Position Your Brand
Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners. With the industry, customer and competitive insight you gain during the business planning process, you can best determine how to position your brand.
16. To Judge the Success of Your Business
A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).
17. To Reposition Your Business to Deal with Changing Conditions
For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.
18. To Document Your Marketing Plan
How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business. And the marketing strategies and tactics you use will evolve each year, so revisiting your marketing plan at least annually is critical.
19. To Understand and Forecast Your Company’s Staffing Needs
After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion. Importantly your plan can not only help you understand your staffing needs, but ensure your timing is right as it takes time to recruit and train great employees.
20. To Uncover New Opportunities
Through the process of brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business. It’s coming up with these ideas and executing on them which is often the difference between a business that fails or just survives and one that thrives.
Business Plan FAQs
What is a business plan.
A business plan is a document that details your business concept and strategy for growth.
A business plan helps guide your company's efforts and, if applicable, gives investors and lenders the information they need to decide whether or not to fund your company. A business plan template helps you to most easily complete your plan.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan?
A business plan provides details about your company, competition, customers and industry so that you make the best possible decisions to grow your company.
What is the Importance of a Business Plan?
The 3 most important purposes of a business plan are 1) to create an effective strategy for growth, 2) to determine your future financial needs, and 3) to attract investors (including angel investors and VC funding ) and lenders.
Why is a Business Plan Important to an Entrepreneur?
Business plans help entrepreneurs take their visions and turn them into tangible action plans for success.
Since 1999, Growthink’s business plan experts have assisted more than 4,000 clients in launching and growing their businesses, and raising more than $2.5 billion in growth financing.
Need help with your business plan?
Speak with a professional business plan consultant from our team.
Use our simple business plan template .
Check out our business plan examples .
Or, if you’re creating your own PPM, you can save time and money with Growthink’s private placement memorandum template .
Learn more about us via our Growthink Business Plan Review page
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Planning can help companies grow 30 percent faster
The quality of the plan matters, being prepared matters when you’re seeking funding, when you start planning is important—the earlier the better, planning makes you more likely to start your business, you’re less likely to fail if you have a plan, your success depends on the type of planning you do, do you need a business plan scientific research says yes.
12 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
Should you spend some time developing a plan for your business, or just dive in and start, figuring things out as you go? There has been plenty of debate on this topic, but no one has pulled together the scientific evidence to determine if planning is worthwhile—until now .
With the help of my friend Jeff, from the University of Oregon, I’ve been looking at academic research on business planning—the actual science around planning and how it impacts both startups and existing businesses.
But, before we dive into the data, why do we even need to look at research on business planning? It seems like most advice on starting a business includes writing a business plan as a necessary step in the startup process. If so many people encourage you to write one, business plans must add value, right?
Well, over the past few years, there’s been a lot of controversy about the value of business plans. People look at certain companies that have been very successful but haven’t written business plans and conclude that planning is a waste of time.
After all, taking the time to plan is a bit of a trade-off. The time you spend planning could be time spent building your company. Why not just “get going” and learn as you build your company, instead of taking the time to formulate a strategy and understand your assumptions about how your business might grow?
Well, the research shows that it’s really not a “write a plan” or “don’t write a plan” conversation. What really matters is what kind of planning you do and how much time you spend doing it.
One study (1) published in 2010 aggregated research on the business growth of 11,046 companies and found that planning improved business performance . Interestingly, this same study found that planning benefited existing companies even more than it benefited startups.
But, this study still doesn’t answer the question it raises:
Why would planning help a business that has a few years of history more than one that is just starting up?
The answer most likely lies in the fact that existing businesses know a bit more about their customers and what their needs are than a new startup does. For an existing business, planning involves fewer guesses or assumptions that need to be proven, so the strategies they develop are based on more information.
Another study (2) found that companies that plan grow 30 percent faster than those that don’t plan. This study found that plenty of businesses can find success without planning, but that businesses with a plan grew faster and were more successful than those that didn’t plan.
To reinforce the connection between planning and fast growth, yet another study (3) found that fast-growing companies—companies that had over 92 percent growth in sales from one year to the next—usually have business plans. In fact, 71 percent of fast-growing companies have plans . They create budgets, set sales goals, and document their marketing and sales strategies. These companies don’t always call their plans “business plans” but instead often refer to things like strategic plans, growth plans, and operational plans. Regardless of the name, it’s all forward-looking planning.
Action: Carve out some time to set goals and build a plan for your business. More importantly, re-visit your plan as you grow and revise it as you learn more about your business and your customers.
Business planning is not an activity you undertake only when you’re getting your business up and running. It should be something you return to, time and time again, to revise and improve upon based on new knowledge.
But, it’s not as simple as it might appear. Just having a plan doesn’t guarantee faster growth. It’s the kind of plan you have and how you use it that really matters .
It turns out that startups, especially ones building highly innovative businesses, should create shorter, less detailed plans (4). That’s because these innovative startups are learning new things about their product and customers at a very fast pace and their strategies change more frequently. Simpler plans get updated more frequently and are more helpful to these companies because they can review their strategy at a glance.
Meanwhile, more established companies know a lot more about their products and customers and can craft more detailed strategies that are less likely to change as quickly. For these companies, more detailed planning is generally more helpful.
And it’s not just the size of the plan that matters. What you include in your plan is important as well.
The same study we talked about above—the one that found that businesses grow faster with a plan—also found that companies that did a good job defining their value proposition do even better than companies that have a hard time defining their customers’ needs.
These researchers also found that having a plan is less about accurately predicting the future, and more about setting regular goals, tracking your actual progress toward those goals and making changes to your business as you learn more about your customers. Silicon Valley businesses like to call the act of changing strategic direction “pivoting.” All it really means is that you need to stay nimble, keep your eyes open, and be willing to make changes in your business as you compare your actual results to your goals and gather additional feedback from your customers.
Action: Skip the 40-page business plan and instead focus on simpler planning that defines your goals and documents your customers’ needs. Adjust your plan frequently as you learn more about your business.
Over and over again, you hear venture capitalists talk about how much the team matters in a funding decision. Beyond just the team, you also hear them talk about passion—how much the entrepreneur believes in the idea.
But, it turns out that there is something that trumps passion when VCs make their decisions. Research shows (5) that how well an entrepreneur is prepared is much more important than how much passion they have.
This doesn’t mean that VCs will ask for a business plan. In fact, they probably won’t ask for one.
What it means is that entrepreneurs need to have done some planning, in some form, so that they can be prepared to talk intelligently about their idea, their target market, their sales and marketing strategies, and so on.
So, the formal 40-page business plan document may not be useful when you’re pitching VCs. But, you’d better have done some planning, so that you can communicate verbally or through a pitch deck what would normally have been found in that written document.
And, not only will business planning help you be more prepared, it will actually improve your chances of getting funded. A study at the University of Oregon (6) found that businesses with a plan were far more likely to get funding than those that didn’t have a plan .
Action: Know your business inside and out. Document your strategy in an internal document, but skip all the time and effort creating a well-crafted business plan document.
So, if business planning increases your likelihood of success, and in fact helps you grow faster, when should you start working on a business plan?
Research shows (7) that entrepreneurs who started the business planning process early were better at what the scientists call “establishing legitimacy.” That’s a fancy way of saying that these entrepreneurs used business planning to start the process of talking with potential customers, working with business partners, starting to look for funding, and gathering other information they needed to start their business.
Entrepreneurs that did a good job of using their business plan to “establish legitimacy” early were more likely to succeed and their businesses tended to last longer.
Not only that, starting the planning process before starting marketing efforts and before talking to customers reduces the likelihood that a business will fail ( 8).
That said, planning should never take the place of talking to customers. An ongoing planning process—one in which the plan is constantly revised as new information is gathered—requires that you talk to your potential customers so that you can learn more about what they need, what they are willing to pay, and how you can best reach them.
Action: Start the planning process early. Even if all you do is build out a simple elevator pitch to try your idea on for size, it will help you begin the conversation with potential customers and kick-start your business.
If you’re like me, and like most entrepreneurs, you like to dream up new business ideas. You constantly think of new ways to improve existing businesses and solve new problems.
But, most of those dreams never become a reality. They live on as ideas in your head while other entrepreneurs see the same opportunity and find a way to make it happen.
It turns out that there’s a way to turn more of your ideas into a viable business. A study published in Small Business Economics found that entrepreneurs that take the time to create a plan for their business idea are 152 percent more likely to start their business ( 9). Not only that, those entrepreneurs with a plan are 129 percent more likely to push forward with their business beyond the initial startup phase and grow it. These findings are confirmed by another study that found that entrepreneurs with a plan are 260 percent more likely to start their businesses (10).
Interestingly, these same entrepreneurs who build plans are 271 percent more likely to close down a business . This seems counterintuitive to the stats above, but when you think about it a bit more, it makes a lot of sense.
Entrepreneurs with plans are tracking their performance on a regular basis. They know when things aren’t going to plan—when sales aren’t meeting projections and when marketing strategies are failing. They know when it’s time to walk away and try a different idea instead of riding the business into the ground, which could have disastrous results.
Action: If you really want to start a business, start committing your goals and strategy to paper. Even if it’s just a simple one-page business plan, that will help you get started faster. And, once you do start, track your performance so you know when to change direction and try something different.
Nothing can absolutely prevent your company from failing, but it turns out that having a plan can help reduce your risks.
Yet another study of 223 companies found that having a plan reduced the likelihood that a business would fail. Having a plan didn’t guarantee success, unfortunately. But, those companies with a plan had better chances of success than those that skipped the planning process.
Having a plan and updating it regularly means that you are tracking your performance and making adjustments as you go. If things aren’t working, you know it. And, if things are going well, you know what to do more of.
Action: Build a plan, but don’t just stick it in a drawer. Track your performance as you go so you can see if you’re reaching your goals. Your plan will help you discover what’s working so you can build your business.
In the end, creating a business plan seems like common sense. You wouldn’t set out on a trip without a destination and a map, would you?
It’s great to see research back up these common-sense assumptions. The research also validates the idea that the value of business planning really depends on how you approach it.
It’s not a question of whether you should plan or not plan—it’s what kind of planning you do. The best planning is iterative; it’s kept alive and it adapts.
It’s not about predicting the future as if you’re a fortune teller at a carnival. Instead, it’s a tool that you use to refine and adapt your strategy as you go, continuing to understand your market as it changes and refining your business to the ever-changing needs of your customers.
I recommend starting with a one-page plan. It’s a simpler form of planning where you can start by documenting your business concept on a single page. From there, iterate, gather feedback, and adjust your plan as needed. If you need some inspiration, check out our gallery of over 550 free sample business plans .
Finally, a big “thank you” to Jeff Gish at the University of Oregon , who was immensely helpful in gathering and analyzing the research mentioned in this article.
What has your experience with business planning been like? Will you approach the planning process differently in the future? Tell me on Twitter @noahparsons.
1 Brinckmann, J., Grichnik, D., & Kapsa, D. (2010). Should entrepreneurs plan or just storm the castle? A meta-analysis on contextual factors impacting the business planning–performance relationship in small firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(1), 24-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2008.10.007
2 Burke, A., Fraser, S., & Greene, F. J. (2010). The multiple effects of business planning on new venture performance. Journal of Management Studies, 47(3), 391-415.
3 Upton, N., Teal, E. J., & Felan, J. T. (2001). Strategic and business planning practices of fast growth family firms. Journal of Small Business Management, 39(1), 60-72.
4 Gruber, M. (2007). Uncovering the value of planning in new venture creation: A process and contingency perspective. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(6), 782-807. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2006.07.001
5 Chen, X.-P., Yao, X., & Kotha, S. (2009). Entrepreneur passion and preparedness in business plan presentations: A persuasion analysis of venture capitalists’ funding decisions. Academy of Management Journal, 52(1), 199-214.
6 Ding, E., & Hursey, T. (2010). Evaluation of the effectiveness of business planning using Palo Alto’s Business Plan Pro. Department of Economics. University of Oregon.
7 Delmar, F., & Shane, S. (2004). Legitimating first: Organizing activities and the survival of new ventures. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(3), 385-410. doi: 10.1016/s0883-9026(03)00037-5
8 Shane, S., & Delmar, F. (2004). Planning for the market: Business planning before marketing and the continuation of organizing efforts. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(6), 767-785. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2003.11.001
9 Hechavarria, D. M., Renko, M., & Matthews, C. H. (2011). The nascent entrepreneurship hub: Goals, entrepreneurial self-efficacy and start-up outcomes. Small Business Economics, 39(3), 685-701. doi: 10.1007/s11187-011-9355-2
10 Liao, J., & Gartner, W. B. (2006). The effects of pre-venture plan timing and perceived environmental uncertainty on the persistence of emerging firms. Small Business Economics, 27(1), 23-40. doi: 10.1007/s11187-006-0020-0
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan.
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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. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.
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This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, 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, which should contain 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, it should cover 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
The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.
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.
Your sales strategy.
Your distribution 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.
» 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.
You may also include 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.
» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:
The best business checking accounts .
The best business credit cards .
The best accounting software .
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.
List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.
Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:
Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.
Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. 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. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.
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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