- Search Search Please fill out this field.
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 ."
- Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 1 of 46
- 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? Definition, Taxes, and How to File 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
- Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, and Differences From an LLC 11 of 46
- Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 46
- Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 46
- 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
- Brand: Types of Brands and How to Create a Successful Brand Identity 25 of 46
- What Is Brand Personality? How It Works and Examples 26 of 46
- 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
- What Is Social Networking? 31 of 46
- 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
- What Are Marketing Campaigns? Definition, Types, and Examples 37 of 46
- How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 38 of 46
- Micromarketing Explained: Definition, Uses, and Examples 39 of 46
- Network Marketing Meaning and How It Works 40 of 46
- Product Differentiation: What It Is, How Businesses Do It, and the 3 Main Types 41 of 46
- Target Market: Definition, Purpose, Examples, Market Segments 42 of 46
- Outside Sales: What They are, How They Work 43 of 46
- What Is a Sales Lead? How It Works and Factors Affecting Quality 44 of 46
- Indirect Sales: What it is, How it Works 45 of 46
- What Is Inside Sales? Definition, How It Works, and Advantages 46 of 46
- Terms of Service
- Editorial Policy
- Your Privacy Choices
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
In this post
Business plans are used to outline the industry in which a business is working in as well as the economic structure of a company to give an idea of the financial prospects of a business. They are used primarily to organise the routes to market that a company will take and give projections on earnings and target dates for when the company expects to have a certain income.
Writing a strong business plan is important for any business, whether large or small, and is the perfect way to map out your route to success. Not only will the plan contain your aims and plans to attract new customers but it can also act as a strong tool for financial projections and help you to set out goals for your company. Throughout the units that we have already covered on this course we have seen a lot of aspects that could be included in a business plan, and including as much information as possible is key.
A lot of entrepreneurs fail to produce a clear business plan when they set up a new company and this can be a big issue further down the line. By not outlining your company and its operations you may affect the business in a negative way and be unable to keep track on the progress and route the business is taking. If you are seeking finance to launch your company it is more than likely that you will need to create a business plan to secure a loan, but this should not be thrown away once you have started the business. Your plan can be updated and adapted at any time and you must try to keep things relevant and up to date so you know the long-term aims of your company.
Why create a business plan?
Some entrepreneurs fail to create a business plan before starting a company because they feel it is a waste of time. They know what they want to do, how they want to do it and everything that is needed has been formulated in their heads. This is a very good skill to have, but without your thoughts and projections down on paper it can be very easy for them to become misinterpreted, forgotten or skewed. Simply having things thought out in your mind is not enough to convince others or explain your strategies to those you are working with. Business plans are used to organise your approach and produce a strategy that allows you the best possible chance of success. They should include:
- Information about your company so that you can plan the structure and objectives which you have
- Your relationships with others and how these can be used (e.g. banks, lenders and accountants)
- To find weaknesses in your plans and areas where you must improve
- Areas for discussion so that you can find out other people’s opinions and include them in the planning process
Some people start a business and want everything to be done immediately. With great confidence that they can do it all alone and have no input from experts, they may not stop and think about forming a clear plan that includes facts and figures to help them along the way. Doing this can be of massive detriment to any business and you need to gather as many opinions, facts and ideas as possible from those around you.
What to avoid
A business plan should include lots of information but there are a few things that should be avoided. You should put some restrictions on the long-term (over 1 year) predictions of your finances. A long-range prediction on the amount of money you will have coming into the business can be completely meaningless because it is very hard to predict how a business will perform far into the future.
Very few business plans get the figures projected spot on, so remember to give a good indication of what you expect to earn but try to be conservative with this. By exaggerating the earning potential of the company you will not be impressing anyone and this will make it difficult for you to plan your spending. Outline clear time frames and indicate your aims during these periods. Try to show what you will be working on at any time, for example if your business will take quite a lot of setting up then the first 6 months may be devoted solely to this and you should outline this in your plans and projections. Try to correctly anticipate the money and time that will be required for processes to be completed and always factor in a margin of error. By slightly exaggerating the money that will be required when completing a stage of expansion or setting more time than is needed, you will be well prepared if some unforeseen issue crops up.
Don’t just use the business plan to explain how great your product or service is. This alone will not turn your business into a big success (although it is very important). Identifying areas to improve and how you will market your company is much more important than simply relying on the uniqueness of your product.
The purpose of a business plan
Business plans are used for a variety of different reasons and the importance of these should not be underestimated. Creating a plan that is precise and includes information that is relevant to the new or existing business will ensure that ideas are implemented quickly. Without a solid business plan it will be much more difficult to judge the success of the new venture and the direction of the company will be hard for everyone to see.
The risks when starting a new business can be huge. Money is invested into new businesses and time will also be spent on getting a company off the ground. Without a business plan in place, owners and employees could end up wasting their time in certain areas. Using resources inefficiently and having no clear direction for a business can lead to disaster very quickly. The best way to avoid this is with a clear outline of what the business needs to work on and what resources will be needed in order to make the venture work. A business plan will be used to set goals and objectives while losing no time in areas that do not see a large enough return on the investment.
Many people use business plans to secure finance for a new venture. This finance can come from several different sources such as banks, investors and start-up funds. Having a business plan that shows exactly how the business will operate and where money will be made will act as a way to convince potential investors to finance the company. With clear profits to be made and a route to market mapped clearly, investing in a business will be a much more desirable prospect for a potential investor.
Formats of business plans
There are many different formats which a business plan can be created in but the main areas to cover are:
Company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy and implementation, management and personnel, financial plan.
Any business plan should include an executive summary which gives an outline of the business and the vision of the owners. Here you should briefly explain the business and its activities as well as the key areas that will help the company to succeed. A mission statement can be included to explain why your company will be unique in the market and what will give you the edge over your competitors.
You should also include some information about the financial aspirations of the company here to show the economic aims over the first few years in operation. Remember, these do not need to be hugely accurate and taking a realistic look at what can be earned is essential. It is usually best to complete the executive summary of the company last as you can include information from other sections in this part of the plan to give a good overview and concise insight into the business and your plans.
The company summary will explain key aspects of the operation of the company. This includes the owners of the business as well as where the business is located. Information about all directors must be included in this area of the plan and you should summarise their roles within the organisation. If you have any other personnel that will be involved at a senior level then they should be included also. In this part of the business plan you need to outline the funds required to set up and maintain the business also. By including information about the company’s location and operations you will be able to forecast the money required to get the company started and any investment that will be needed. Try to include a spreadsheet showing where the initial funding will come from and how much is being put into the business to start with. Remember, most new businesses make a loss in their first year due to the expenses involved in starting a new company, so be realistic. Plan the initial outlays and costs carefully and make sure you know the limits to how much you can put into the company to get started.
The location of the business can also be included here and any rent that you will be required to pay can be outlined and the costs per square foot for the company premises. Then you can go on to make projections about the sales required to cover all of your fixed costs such as office and equipment rentals.
Next we move on to explaining the things which will earn your business money – the goods and services that you have to offer. In this section you must include descriptions of what you can offer your customers and the prices you will be charging. Outline what makes your goods and services special and the key aspects that will influence potential clients and convert them into paying customers. It is also a good idea to compare your pricing structure to your competitors. It may be that you offer the same products but cheaper, or with any additional features to make your products more appealing. You should explore the need for your products and services to be better than any of the competition. As a new business you may struggle to compete unless you have something that nobody else has. By bringing to the market something which is already selling well with another company that has established its brand in the marketplace, you might struggle to take a large enough section of the market to warrant starting a whole new company. If this is the case then you must compare your pricing to your biggest competitors and ensure that you are competitive.
In this section you can also include any products and services that you may offer in the future. Explain your product development processes and how you will be able to innovate and bring new products or services to the marketplace.
Next you need to carry out some market analysis to identify your potential customers . In this section of the business plan you need to include information about your ideal customers and what sort of people they will be. Think about the earnings of your potential clients, the type of lifestyles they will live and the products and services they expect from a business. This part of your plan is great for you to use figures about your market and show any growth projections for the sector in the future.
Explain market trends and analyse the need for your goods/services in this sector. Attempt to find some facts about the disposable income of your potential customers and target certain people who will be interested in what your company offers. Think about how you will be attracting your customers and the potential for growth over the first 3 years in operation. Make estimations about the number of people in the area where you will be offering your products and services to get a good idea of how many different potential clients you can attract. Having a good understanding of your target market will give you the tools to design marketing strategies and techniques to attract the maximum number of customers to your business.
Having outlined your market and explained who your products/services will attract, it is time to explain your techniques when doing this and show how you are going to market your company. Explain the key aspects of what you offer and the main selling points that should be tailored to suit the target clients that you have in mind. Products designed for the more affluent will need to be luxurious and have an exclusivity about them, whereas items that are for people with limited incomes will need to offer greater value for money. Try to understand a clear link between the market in which you will be operating, your potential clients and the main aspects of your business which you should focus on.
Ensuring that your business suits the needs of customers is essential to getting the most customers. For example, opening up a luxury spa in an area where there is high unemployment and typically lower incomes will encounter lots of issues as the potential customers (those within a 15-mile radius) will have no need for this service and may not be able to afford what you have to offer. You will need to come up with at least five ways of promoting your business that will appeal to your target market and attract clients. Remember all of the techniques and skills we discussed on marketing and try to link what you know about your potential clients to the advertising methods you will use.
Here you can also outline the potential sales forecasts and investments which you will make when promoting your goods and services. Come up with some realistic projections about the money to be spent on advertising and increasing awareness of your brand as well as any sales targets you may wish to set. Be conservative with your sales projections as it takes time for any business to get a good level of customers and building brand awareness does not happen overnight. Your sales in year 1 will normally be fairly low and you need to take this into account when projecting your income and the amount it will cost to set up your company.
The next thing to plan is the personnel involved in your business. This will include the owners and directors as well as any senior managers that are to be involved in the company. Explain the team structure and hierarchy of your new company and the number of employees you will be hiring. Knowing the team behind the company and their individual duties will let you outline the various skills that your team possesses and establish each person’s duties within the organisation.
Outlining the duties of each person and giving a brief job description is a good way for you to understand the team dynamic and responsibilities of each member. Most new companies make the mistake of hiring too soon, but with a clear plan of the business personnel that will be involved in your company you will be able to ensure each person is needed for the business to operate. Establishing a business will require you to be frugal in your approach and employing staff that are not needed can have a terrible impact on your profits and end up costing you tens of thousands of pounds a year.
Outline the wages of your employees and then come up with some totals for staffing costs that can be used when writing your executive summary.
Your financial plan will provide a clear breakdown of all the income and outgoings of the business that you expect. These will only be projected figures so will be likely to change in reality, but you should be able to predict fairly accurately using your knowledge of costs incurred and the pricing and potential customer base for your products/services.
Make projected figures for your fixed and variable costs as well as the profits you expect to earn from sales. This will then help you to create a break-even analysis for your company that will show the amount of money required to cover all of your outgoings. Remember that your first year will have fixed and variable costs as well as additional outgoings which come from setting up your company. You will also have a limited number of sales during the first 12 months as you build up your customer base, so the projected net profit for year 1 will be lower than any other year. Try to think about the most popular goods/services you offer and come up with an average sale price for your customers. This will then help you to identify the number of customers you need in your first year to break even.
Come up with some cash flow and profit and loss charts (look over our work in Unit 1.3 to help) to project how much money you can expect to see in the business each year. This will help you to come up with clear and concise predictions for how much money you will be making in your first three years.
Reformulating a business plan
If you do ever happen to make a slight error in judgement on your initial business plan this can always be altered and the plan changed as required. The chances of figures being completely correct in your first projections are very slim and there will be certain things that you miss or random payments to be made when setting up your business which you did not account for. This is the main reason why being conservative with your income projections and adding in a ‘safety net’ figure to your costings will help you to deal with these circumstances. Business plans should be flexible and are a working document, so chopping and changing them is fine. When doing this try to use what you already have to create a new plan for the next few years rather than just altering figures to make it look like you got the initial plan correct.
Business plans are working documents, so they should be altered and added to as time goes by to determine where your company is heading and how it will get there. Being understanding of the nature of business and the fact that you will not be able to predict certain outcomes will give you an edge and allow you to put in place certain measures to help if you ever do come up against any problems.
Interested in business?
We offer a GCSE Business course that covers information on Business plans.
Learn more about our GCSE business course
Read another one of our posts
Coping strategies for care worker burnout.
The Importance of Training For Care Workers
The Benefits Of Online A-Level Courses For Students
The Challenges Of Caring For Children With Additional Needs
Counselling Techniques for Working With Adolescents
The Future of Care Work And Its Opportunities
Tips For Success In Online A-Levels
The Benefits of Online Learning for Career Advancement
Save your cart?
What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
Published: June 07, 2023
In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.
Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?
In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.
The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.
What is a business plan used for?
The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.
Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]
Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.
Purposes of a Business Plan
Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Securing financing from investors.
Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.
All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.
Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.
2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.
A business plan should leave no stone unturned.
Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.
To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.
These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.
Free Business Plan Template
The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.
- Outline your idea.
- Pitch to investors.
- Secure funding.
- Get to work!
You're all set!
Click this link to access this resource at any time.
Free Business Plan [Template]
Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..
Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.
A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.
As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.
It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.
4. Getting an A in your business class.
Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.
If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?
What does a business plan need to include?
- Business Plan Subtitle
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- The Business Opportunity
- Competitive Analysis
- Target Market
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Summary
- Funding Requirements
1. Business Plan Subtitle
Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.
2. Executive Summary
Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.
3. Company Description
This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.
4. The Business Opportunity
The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.
5. Competitive Analysis
Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.
6. Target Market
Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.
7. Marketing Plan
Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.
Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.
8. Financial Summary
Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.
So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.
10. Funding Requirements
Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.
Types of Business Plans
- Startup Business Plan
- Feasibility Business Plan
- Internal Business Plan
- Strategic Business Plan
- Business Acquisition Plan
- Business Repositioning Plan
- Expansion or Growth Business Plan
There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.
For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .
1. Startup Business Plan
As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.
The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.
Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.
For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.
2. Feasibility Business Plan
This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:
- A detailed product description
- Market analysis
- Technology needs
- Production needs
- Financial sources
- Production operations
According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.
Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.
3. Internal Business Plan
Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.
Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:
- Department-specific budgets
- Target demographic analysis
- Market size and share of voice analysis
- Action plans
- Sustainability plans
Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.
4. Strategic Business Plan
Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.
These types of business plans may include:
- Relevant data and analysis
- Assessments of company resources
- Vision and mission statements
It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.
5. Business Acquisition Plan
Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.
A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.
A business plan for an existing company will explain:
- How an acquisition will change its operating model
- What will stay the same under new ownership
- Why things will change or stay the same
- Acquisition planning documentation
- Timelines for acquisition
Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.
For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:
- What the new owner will do to turn the business around
- Historic business metrics
- Sales projections after the acquisition
- Justification for those projections
6. Business Repositioning Plan
When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.
This plan will:
- Acknowledge the current state of the company.
- State a vision for the future of the company.
- Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
- Outline a process for how the company will adjust.
Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.
For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.
7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan
When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.
For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.
This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:
- SWOT analysis
- Growth opportunity studies
- Financial goals and plans
- Marketing plans
- Capability planning
These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.
Getting Started With Your Business Plan
At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.
When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Don't forget to share this post!
How to Write a Powerful Executive Summary [+4 Top Examples]
19 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own
24 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own
Maximizing Your Social Media Strategy: The Top Aggregator Tools to Use
The Content Aggregator Guide for 2023
7 Gantt Chart Examples You'll Want to Copy [+ 5 Steps to Make One]
The 8 Best Free Flowchart Templates [+ Examples]
15 Best Screen Recorders to Use for Collaboration
The 25 Best Google Chrome Extensions for SEO
Professional Invoice Design: 28 Samples & Templates to Inspire You
2 Essential Templates For Starting Your Business
- Setting up in the UK
- Start-up business
- A growing business
- Maturing company considering exit strategy
- An individual
- Bookkeeping & accounting
- Choosing the right structure
- Corporate finance
- Forensic accounting & litigation
- Mergers, acquisitions & disposals
- Profit & cashflow forecasting
- Raising finance
- Share schemes
- Strategic planning
- Corporate tax planning
- Estate planning
- Personal tax planning
- R&D tax credits
- Self assessment
- The patent box
- Trust & executorships
- VAT planning and compliance
- Estate & letting agents
- Family enterprise
- Legal practices
- Pension schemes
- Property & construction
- Our Approach
- There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.
In this post we cover:
A business plan is used to help manage an organisation by stating ambitions, how they will be achieved, and exactly when. The plan will also help summarise what the business is about, why it exists, and where it will get to.
Your business plan will serve as a key point of reference for investors, partners, employees and management to gauge progress against objectives.
Provide a road map
A detailed plan will help you as the owner and founder to manage your business effectively. Writing down and illustrating both your ideas and tactics will establish a path and course of action, akin to a road map. This will give you something concrete by which to monitor and assess the progress you make.
It may seem like an odd suggestion but you should look to work with your accountant on this task even at an early stage. Why? Well, a quality professional advisor will have helped many early stage businesses. Given how close a good accountant is to the operations and strategic direction of a company, they’ll be able to draw upon their experience of what’s worked and what hasn’t with other clients.
This means they’ll be well placed to help you test your assumptions. Remember you want your business concept to be as well thought through as possible. Having a fresh set of eyes reviewing your ideas from a different perspective could make all the difference as to the viability of your business model . An accountant will know what success looks like along with what’s required and when to achieve it.
In charting a potential course of action you may find your business is faced with multiple different potential paths. It would therefore be wise to plot the most likely scenarios and strategies for these different circumstances. If, for example, your business is heavily reliant upon exporting then you may need to consider potential global and political events. How would that impact on currencies in your chosen markets in the near future?
What does a 10% currency appreciation or depreciation mean for sales, revenues, profits and cashflow? Working through this with your accountant will ensure you can ascertain the impact of such events from a financial perspective. You’ll then be able to craft solutions accordingly to deal with such events.
Developing a clear plan and strategy will focus your mind. What resources will you need and when to achieve each of your goals? This provides you with clarity as to how much needs to be invested at each stage of the business lifecycle . You'll then know when you're going to need cash injections based on likely cashflow.
Understand what to focus on
As an entrepreneur, where should your efforts and concentrations be centred on? It’s a common issue. The early days of starting out can be very chaotic. There’s so much to set up, think about, implement and develop. It’s an emotional roller coaster of mass excitement and sharp shots of anxiety. Amid all this and with an ever mounting in-tray of to do’s, you can fast lose track of what’s important.
When writing a business plan you’re defining exactly what your organisation is today and then intends to become tomorrow. This coherence concerning the purpose of your business and direction in which you’re heading is invaluable. Doing this means you’ll understand what needs to be implemented to move forward.
As an example, your plan should describe your ideal customer and include their needs and wants. Then you’d expand on this as to how your products or services address their requirements. How are you going to market to these potential customers? How will you get your name out there? What approach will you adopt to make sales and generate revenue?
These are vital matters to address early on. Growth primarily comes through new customers and achieving repeat custom. This then determines your progress towards profitability. By mapping this all out on paper you’re giving yourself yardsticks to work towards. This means all tasks that you as the entrepreneur should focus on should be geared towards achieving your next goal. In a nutshell that’s where your focus should be.
Projections and the need for an accountant
The likelihood is to support your growth will require an injection of funding. That's unless you have an extremely cash generative business model. More often than not you probably won’t have enough customers and thus free cash flow to finance the next opportunity. You'll have a working capital requirement and thus need investment beyond the reach of your business.
You’ll likely have to approach potential sources of finance and they’ll want to assess the your income statements/profit and loss statements, and business plan. If you’re still at concept stage, or haven’t begun making sales, then their decision will rest solely on the strength of you and your business plan.
The statements help prospective lenders and investors understand the history of the organisation to date. The business plan provides them with a view of your future direction. They’ll look for many things in your plan. Ultimately their interest will focus on whether the expansion or development of your business will generate sufficient cash to both operate effectively while also fulfilling debt obligations.
This means you’re going to need to detail both profit and cashflow projections. Good forecasting and planning is seen as a way of understanding income and expenditure. This is particularly useful as a means to prevent payment issues over things like suppliers and staff wages. Many businesses close when such issues arise.
The likelihood is unless you’ve done this before, and know what you’re doing, then you’re going to need the help of an accountant. They’ll work with you to model the probable amount of cash in the business over time. This will then act as evidence to potential investors and financiers. They'll see if sufficient money will be generated by the activities of the business, to both fund future growth, while meeting financial commitments.
Manage your business effectively
The usefulness of a cashflow forecast doesn’t end there though. Managing your cash position , as you may have already gathered, is fundamental to the long term future of your business. There’s a common quote that “most businesses fail because they run out of money”. This means they’re no longer able to pay their debts when they’re due.
You should reference your cashflow projections in your business plan regularly. When you invest in your business, there will be significant out flows of money before any cash comes in. The timing of your investments thus needs to be considered against your projections and statements. Consider trading patterns, seasonal variations and the likely impact on cash flows.
If, for example, you sell through a credit extension then you’re going to receive payment in the future. That means after the goods or services have changed hands. The likelihood then is you’ll have to make payments in relation to the usual operations of your business before that income comes in from your customer.
So you can then see how poor cash management creates real issues. Make sure you work with your accountant, in the creation of your business plan and monitoring performance in relation to it. The documentation of well thought through ideas, combined with a shrewd strategy, and carefully planned projections will markedly improve your chances of long term survival and growth.
This post was created on 03/11/2016 and updated on 24/02/2022.
Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.
Related posts -
Leave a comment -, subscribe to email updates, popular posts, posts by topic.
- Business insight (78)
- Personal Tax (48)
- Hospitality (43)
- Tax developments (42)
Click below for office location details
- Business Services
- Specialist Sectors
subscribe to newsletter
Connect with us.
Contents of a Business Plan: Everything You Need to Know
The contents of a business plan consist of a detailed description of what, when, why, where, and how the business's operations will be accomplished. 3 min read
Overview of a Business Plan
A business plan includes the cost of organizing the business, the anticipated sources of revenue, how the products and services are customer oriented, and anticipated profit margins. Business plans serve two main purposes. First, they are a guide business owners use to streamline management and planning/organization of the business. Second, they show potential venture capitalists, bankers, and other lenders a comprehensive plan to encourage them to invest in the business.
Sublevels of a business plan include:
- Marketing plan
- Financial plan
- Human resource plan
- Production plan
Elements of a Business Plan
A well-written business plan will include the following:
- Cover letter
Table of Contents
- Mission statement
- Company background
- Products and services
- Competitive analysis
- Management and international organization
- Risk analysis
- Financial planning
The business plan's cover letter has the same purpose as a cover letter for a resume. The point is to engage prospective investors using the cover letter so they'll look at the entire plan. The cover letter should include the recipient's address, the date, and your address. Begin the cover letter with "Dear" followed by the person's name.
In the body of the cover letter, let the recipient know you're submitting a business plan with a short one-sentence description of the business and what the recipient can expect when reading the plan. In the next paragraph, indicate that you look forward to hearing from them and provide a phone number they can call at their convenience.
Thank them for their time. Sign off. Include your name in typewritten form along with your signature.
Keep this page short and to the point. Include your business logo, business name, if there is a founder, and the name. Add "Business Plan," an image (optional), and the date.
The table of contents is a roadmap to help the recipient peruse the list and easily find each section. Some people may choose to read sections one after the other while others may choose to skip around. Include every section and subsection that may be of interest to a potential investor.
This is an important section. Because you're targeting executives, the overview of your business should be top-quality information to entice them to read the complete plan. The focus should be a summary of the main facets of your business plan.
This section is a short statement about your business's goal and what you plan to create through the enterprise.
This is a short statement including the date the business was developed, its founders, stages of development, the date it was incorporated, and, for existing businesses, the level of success.
Also, include the key figures in the business and the ownership and legal structure.
Products and Services
Under this section, provide a detailed description of your customer needs, benefits to customers, marketing services, and advantages and disadvantages of any competitor services or products.
This will include an overview of the market in general with an emphasis on purchase incentives, market analysis, and customer structure. It will also include the position your business holds in the market using information from target customer groups, canvassed market segments, and sale channels.
Provide information about your main competitors' names, locations, market positions, weaknesses, strengths, and target markets.
This section covers details about product range, services, and pricing strategies. Sales targets for the next five years should also be included.
Include the location of the business and the advantages and disadvantages of its location. The production should discuss in-house and/or outsourced production and material costs. The administration portion will discuss the office infrastructure, such as accounting and technical support.
Management and International Organization
This section could work written as an organizational chart outlining member functions and responsibilities, special skills, and salaries.
Provide information on anticipated internal risks such as marketing, production, management, and financing. External risks would include information on ecological, economic, social, and legal areas.
Lay out your plan for short- and long-term financial planning.
This is a final wrap up of the business plan that binds the everything together.
If you need help with outlining the contents of a business plan, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.
Hire the top business lawyers and save up to 60% on legal fees
Content Approved by UpCounsel
- Creating a Business Plan
- Business Plan Contents Page
- How to Make a Business Plan Format
- Business Description Outline
- Service Business Plan
- LLC Business Plan Template
- Business Plan for Existing Company
- Parts of Business Plan and Definition
- IT Company Business Plan
- Business Plan Format: Everything you Need to Know