Sometimes referred to as an “objective statement,” this section of your business plan should clearly outline your company’s goals—over both the short and long term. If you’re making an appeal to investors, this is also your chance to include some persuasive writing and describe to them how their investments are critical to helping you meet these goals.
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan
A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice.
A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
Business plans usually open with what’s called an executive summary. Typically taking up no more than about half of a page, this summary should include the most essential information about your business and highlights from the plan that follows, including:
A company description should include both basic information about your organization—its registered name, physical location, and a short history of the company—as well as more detailed info about how your business intends to succeed. In other words, once you’ve touched on the very basics, this is your chance to hook readers of your business plan. To do so, it can be helpful to set the stage for your readers: consider the answers to questions like, “Why did you start this business?”, “What unique problems does your business solve?”, and “What makes your company different from others like it?”
Business plan FAQ
A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investor, and identify areas for growth. Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.
1. Write a brief executive summary.
2. Describe your products and services.
3. Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
4. Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
5. Outline your organizational structure and management team.
6. Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
7. Add any additional documents to your appendix.
1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
2. Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
3. Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
4. Failing to establish a sound business model.
5. Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.
Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan. However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:
– How will your business make money?
– Is there a need for your product or service?
– Who are your customers?
– How are you different from the competition?
– How will you reach your customers?
– How will you measure success?
The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.
If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan or a 3-10 page Lean Plan to get all of the necessary information in place.
Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.
Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.
Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.
However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.
The core elements of business planning are the same for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. The main difference between the two is that nonprofits are primarily driven by a specific mission or purpose. While a for-profit organization is typically driven by growth and improved performance.
Additionally, nonprofit organizations will need to intently focus on their promotional, partnership, and fundraising strategies. While some of this is present in for-profit businesses, the need to thoroughly outline how and who you will continue to receive funding is far more important as a nonprofit.