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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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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
- 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
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- Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 36 of 46
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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
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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.
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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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Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.
» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .
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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Table of Contents
Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.
Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.
Several other statistics expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.
This isn’t surprising at all.
Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%) don't have a formal business plan in place.
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It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.
But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.
Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.
What Is a Business Plan?
No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.
More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.
A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained.
However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes.
Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.
The Advantages of Having a Business Plan
Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.
- Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals.
- Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
- Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
- Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
- Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
- Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest.
Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.
The Types of Business Plans
Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.
Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans.
- Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
- Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments.
- Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
- Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
- Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.
The Key Elements of a Business Plan
There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them.
Here are the key elements of a good business plan:
- Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.
- Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
- Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
- Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time.
- Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.
Best Business Plan Software
The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:
- Business Sorter
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Common Challenges of Writing a Business Plan
The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:
- Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
- Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
- Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
- You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.
Become an Expert Business Planner
Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success.
Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.
While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.
Simpliearn’s Post Graduate Program in Business Analysis will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive training program combined with the latest tools and methods can pave the way for you and equip you with the skills and the know-how to tackle any real-world challenges that may arise. Completing this industry-recognized course also earns you a valued certification as tangible proof of your talent.
What Is Meant by Business Planning?
Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.
What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?
The following are the four types of business plans:
This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.
Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.
Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.
What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?
The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:
If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.
Have a Goal
The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.
Create a Company Profile
Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.
Describe the Company in Detail
Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.
Create a marketing plan ahead of time.
A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.
Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience
Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.
Incorporate Your Motivation
Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.
What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?
These are the basic steps in business planning:
Summary and Objectives
Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.
Services and Products
Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.
Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.
Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.
How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.
Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.
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How to Write a Winning Business Plan
- Stanley R. Rich
- David E. Gumpert
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds. Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat […]
The Idea in Brief
You’ve got a great idea for a new product or service—how can you persuade investors to support it? Flashy PowerPoint slides aren’t enough; you need a winning business plan. A compelling plan accurately reflects the viewpoints of your three key constituencies: the market , potential investors , and the producer (the entrepreneur or inventor of the new offering).
But too many plans are written solely from the perspective of the producer. The problem is that, unless you’ve got your own capital to finance your venture, the only way you’ll get the funding you need is to satisfy the market’s and investors’ needs.
Here’s how to grab their attention.
The Idea in Practice
Emphasize Market Needs
To make a convincing case that a substantial market exists, establish market interest and document your claims.
Establish market interest. Provide evidence that customers are intrigued by your claims about the benefits of the new product or service:
- Let some customers use a product prototype; then get written evaluations.
- Offer the product to a few potential customers at a deep discount if they pay part of the production cost. This lets you determine whether potential buyers even exist.
- Use “reference installations”—statements from initial users, sales reps, distributors, and would-be customers who have seen the product demonstrated.
Document your claims. You’ve established market interest. Now use data to support your assertions about potential growth rates of sales and profits.
- Specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and the size that is most appropriate to your offering. Remember: Bigger isn’t necessarily better; e.g., saving $10,000 per year in chemical use may mean a lot to a modest company but not to a Du Pont.
- Show the nature of the industry; e.g., franchised weight-loss clinics might grow fast, but they can decline rapidly when competition stiffens. State how you will continually innovate to survive.
- Project realistic growth rates at which customers will accept—and buy—your offering. From there, assemble a credible sales plan and project plant and staffing needs.
Address Investor Needs
Cashing out. Show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. Venture capital firms usually want to cash out in three to seven years; professional investors look for a large capital appreciation.
Making sound projections. Give realistic, five-year forecasts of profitability. Don’t skimp on the numbers, get overly optimistic about them, or blanket your plan with a smog of figures covering every possible variation.
The price. To figure out how much to invest in your offering, investors calculate your company’s value on the basis of results expected five years after they invest. They’ll want a 35 to 40% return for mature companies—up to 60% for less mature ventures. To make a convincing case for a rich return, get a product in the hands of representative customers—and demonstrate substantial market interest.
A comprehensive, carefully thought-out business plan is essential to the success of entrepreneurs and corporate managers. Whether you are starting up a new business, seeking additional capital for existing product lines, or proposing a new activity in a corporate division, you will never face a more challenging writing assignment than the preparation of a business plan.
- SR Mr. Rich has helped found seven technologically based businesses, the most recent being Advanced Energy Dynamics Inc. of Natick, Massachusetts. He is also a cofounder and has been chairman of the MIT Enterprise forum, which assists emerging growth companies.
- DG Mr. Gumpert is an associate editor of HBR, where he specializes in small business and marketing. He has written several HBR articles, the most recent of which was “The Heart of Entrepreneurship,” coauthored by Howard. H. Stevenson (March–April 1985). This article is adapted from Business Plans That Win $$$ : Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum, by Messrs. Rich and Gumpert (Harper & Row, 1985). The authors are also founders of Venture Resource Associates of Grantham, New Hampshire, which provides planning and strategic services to growing enterprises.
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For startups, a well-written business planning document is important to source capital from banks and venture capitalists. A business plan also provides a clear direction for business growth. But how else does planning affect businesses? What does a good business plan contain? Let's look at the answers.Simply put, business planning…
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- Analysing Financial Performance
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- External Sources of Finance
- Financial Objectives
- Financial Performance and Stakeholders
- Financial Statements
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- Boundary Spanning
- Contract of Employment
- Employee Benefits
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- Employee Engagement
- Employee Rewards
- Employee Training and Development
- Employment Policy
- Expectancy Theory
- Flexible Work Arrangements
- HR Policies
- Hackman and Oldham Model
- Herzberg Two Factor Theory
- Human Resource Flow
- Human Resource Management
- Human Resource Objectives
- Improving Employer - Employee Relations
- Incentives for Employees
- Internal and External Communication
- Intrinsic Motivation
- Job Characteristics Model
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- Labour Productivity
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- Maslow Theory
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- Methods of Recruitment
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- Motivation in the Workplace
- Organisation Design
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- Recruitment And Selection
- Reinforcement Theory
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- Self-Efficacy Theory
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- Team Structure
- Training Methods
- Work-Life Balance
- Business Ethics
- Business Risks
- Business Uncertainty
- Consumer Law
- Economic Climate
- Effects of Interest Rates on Businesses
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- Classification of Businesses
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- Behavioral Theory in Organizational Management
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- Decision Making Model
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- Fiedler Contingency Model
- Impression Management
- Individual Differences
- Leader Member Exchange Theory
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- Leadership Theories
- Office Politics
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- Types of Conflict
- Business Aims and Objectives
- External Environment
- Forms of Business
- Key Business Terms
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- Evaluating Total Quality Management
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- Operational Data
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- Quality Management
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- Affective Events Theory
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- Behavioral Science
- Big Five Personality Traits
- Biographical Characteristics
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- Challenges and Opportunities for OB
- Challenges of Management
- Choosing the Right Communication Channel
- Classification of Groups
- Conflict Results
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- Creative Behavior
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- Decision Making Biases
- Direction of Communication
- Discrimination in the Workplace
- Diversity Management
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- Effective Management
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- Effects of Work Stress
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- GLOBE Framework
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- Group vs Team
- History of Motivation Theory
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- Impact of Power
- Importance of Leadership in Human Resource Management
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- Integrating Theories of Motivation
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- Models of Organizational Behavior
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- Substantive Selection
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- The Study of Organizational Behavior
- Third Party Negotiation
- Training Effectiveness
- Trait Activation Theory
- Types of Diversity
- Types of Emotions
- Types of Moods
- Types of Power in the Workplace
- Types of Teams
- Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture
- Unequal Power
- Virtual Organizational Structure
- Work Emotions
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- Workplace Behavior
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- Communication Barriers
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- Communication Process
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- Oral Communication
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- Assessing Business Performance
- Business Considerations from Globalisation
- Competitive Environment
- Core Competencies
- Corporate Mission and Objectives
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Economic Change
- Economic Environment
- Financial Ratios
- Interest Rates in the UK
- Investment Appraisal
- Lifestyle and Technological Environment
- Non-Financial Data
- Porters Five Forces
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- Social and Technological Environment
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- Bowmans Strategic Clock
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For startups, a well-written business planning document is important to source capital from banks and venture capitalists. A business plan also provides a clear direction for business growth . But how else does planning affect businesses? What does a good business plan contain? Let's look at the answers.
Business planning definition
Simply put, business planning is the process of developing a roadmap aimed at achieving a business goal. It involves key stakeholders coming together to brainstorm ideas and strategies and collating them into a formal, written document known as a business plan.
A business plan is an official document that outlines a business's core activities, objectives, and roadmap to achieving its goals. For example, if you are starting a new bakery, a business plan would include information about your products, marketing strategies, and financial situation. .
A good business plan helps a business focus on its short-term and long-term goals, and outlines the specific steps needed to achieve them. In summary, business planning is a key process that businesses undertake to achieve their goals and success.
Importance of a business plan
A good business plan is critical for any business, providing a roadmap for achieving success and ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned and working towards the same goals. It helps businesses make more informed decisions, secure funding, and track their progress over time. Here are some points summarising the importance of a business plan:
- A business plan helps a company track its growth and stay in line with its stated business objectives. If something is going off track, the managers can review the business plan and steer things back in the right direction.
- A good business plan notifies investors how the business is operated and if it is worth investing in. It attracts investors and sells them the idea of your business.
- A business plan provides a unified working structure among employees and business owners. It keeps employees and business owners on the same page about strategic actions needed to be taken.
- A well-crafted business plan can help startups attract investment or get loans without a proven financial record. It provides investors and lenders with an understanding of the company's goals, strategies, and financial projections.
Elements of a good business plan
A business plan should include key elements that help to provide a complete overview of the business and its plans for success. Here are some important elements that should be included in a typical business plan:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Market Analysis
- Products and Services
- Marketing and Sales Strategy
- Management and Organization
- Financial Projections
- Funding Requirements
1. Executive summary
This business planning element provides a brief description of the business. It gives information on the business leadership , its employees, operations, and location. It also provides the business mission statement, goals, and vision.
2. Company description
This section provides a detailed description of the business, including its mission, vision, and goals. It should also include information about the industry and target market.
3. Market analysis
Good business planning requires a well-written market analysis showing demand and supply. A SWOT analysis provides detailed information on business strengths and weaknesses along with details on the business competitor and market opportunities available.
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used by business owners to identify a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the market. Conducting a SWOT analysis will guide you on what you do well, identify your weak points, maximize your opportunities, and avoid threats.
An example of a good business plan market analysis is presented in a SWOT analysis carried out by a local shirt production company called 69 Shirts (a fictional company).
Table 1. SWOT analysis example
4. Products and services offered
This element provides a description of the products and services offered by a business. It includes production information, information on patents (if available), research and development, product or services pricing, and consumer benefits.
Blooming Boutique is a retail female clothing brand located in Delaware, US. 1 By following different generations' fashion trends, and monitoring target customers' fashion preferences, the brand intends to produce female fashion wear that is appealing to customers. They also use styles, colours, and different fashion fits to draw attention to the consumer while satisfying their sartorial needs.
5. Marketing and sales strategy
This element provides information on how the business intends to distribute its products and services, for example, what marketing strategies and channels they will use. Fundamentally, it shows how a business intends to build and keep its audience.
Again, let's take the example of 69 Shirts. Here's a possible marketing strategy:
- Using social media marketing and influencer marketing - the business aims to reach the audience by telling the story behind the products and how they can help the customers. The company also focuses on price, product distinction, product promotion, and customers’ feelings.
- Running a guerrilla marketing campaign in train stations and on public transport - this is done with the aim of letting people know as much as possible about the products and how beneficial and memorable it will be for them to own the product.
6. Management and organisation
This section should describe the management team and the organization's structure, including the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
7. Financial plans
Here, the business projections and estimates are included for startups, and for an established business, balance sheets, financial statements , and important financial information should be added. It should also include a break-even analysis , which shows the level of sales needed to cover all expenses. Well-prepared financial calculations can attract investors, banks, and venture capitalists.
If the business needs funding, this section should outline the funding requirements, including how much funding is needed, what the funds will be used for, and how the business plans to repay the funding.
This section should include any additional information that is relevant to the business plan, such as market research reports, product specifications, and legal documents.
Plan length varies, as does the type of plan, but a document usually ranges from 15 to 20 pages.
Business planning process
A business plan is just one step of the business planning process. The steps of the business planning process below will help you understand it:
- Define the business goals: The first step in business planning is to define the goals that the business wants to achieve. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Conduct market research : The next step is to conduct market research to understand the target market, competition, and industry trends. This research can help the business identify opportunities and threats, and refine its strategy accordingly.
- Identify resources: The third step is to identify the resources that the business needs to achieve its goals. These resources could include finances, personnel, equipment, and facilities.
- Develop strategies: Based on market research and resource assessment, the business can develop strategies to achieve its goals. These strategies should be aligned with the business's strengths and opportunities, and address any weaknesses or threats.
- Create a business plan: The strategies can then be translated into a formal business plan, which outlines the business's core activities, objectives, and roadmap to achieving its goals. The business plan should include detailed information about the products or services, market analysis, marketing and sales strategy, as well as financial projections.
- Implement the plan: Once the business plan is complete, the next step is to implement it. This involves executing the strategies and tactics outlined in the plan, and monitoring progress towards the business goals.
- Evaluate and adjust: The final step is to evaluate the progress towards the business goals and adjust the plan as needed. This ensures that the business remains on track to achieve its goals and adapts to changes in the market or business environment.
Advantages and disadvantages of a business plan
While creating a business plan is a critical step in launching and running a successful business, it's important for managers and business owners to remember that there can be drawbacks. Advantages and disadvantages of a business plan are as follows:
Business planning - Key takeaways
Business planning is a process of developing a roadmap aimed at achieving a business goal.
A business plan is written documen t showing a business's core activities, objectives, and business roadmap to achieving its objectives.
The importance of a business plan can be seen in the organized growth of a business. It allows business owners to track business growth and stay in line with the business objectives.
Some crucial elements needed in business planning are executive summary, business description, market analysis, products and services, marketing and sales strategy, management and organization, financial projections, funding requirements.
Business planning process usually involves the following steps: define business goals, conduct market research , identify resources, develop strategies, create a business plan, implement the plan, evaluate and adjust.
- Blooming boutique, bloomingboutique.com, 2022.
- Jared Lindzon, The importance of a business plan, waveapps.com, 2022.
- Susan Ward, What is business planning, thebalancesmb.com, 2020.
- Staff, Business plan basic elements, bizally.com.au, 2022.
- Rich Longo, Why you need a business plan, sbdc.duq.edu, 2019.
- Staff, Effective business plan, lancasters.uk.net, 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions about Business Planning
--> what is a business plan.
A business plan is an official documen t showing a business's core activities, objectives, and business roadmap to achieving its objectives.
--> How to make a good business plan?
To make a good business plan, it's important to research the market and industry trends, set specific and measurable goals, develop a clear strategy, and create a well-organized and detailed plan that includes financial projections, marketing strategies, and plans for potential challenges. It's also crucial to review and adjust the plan regularly to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
--> How is a business plan structured?
A business plan usually has the following structure:
--> Why is a business plan important?
A business plan is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it enables companies to secure funding from investors by providing a clear roadmap of the business's goals and strategies. Secondly, it provides a framework for companies to work towards their objectives, monitor progress, and adjust course as needed. Lastly, it helps companies anticipate and address potential challenges that may arise in the course of business operations.
--> What are the three main purposes of a business plan?
The three main purposes of a business plan are:
- To serve as a roadmap for achieving the business's goals,
- To attract funding and investment from investors or financial institutions, and
- To provide a framework for managing and monitoring the business's performance over time.
Final Business Planning Quiz
Business planning quiz - teste dein wissen.
What is business planning?
Business planning is a process of developing a roadmap aimed towards achieving a business goal.
The document used by stakeholders to collate ideas into a formally written document that summarizes the business current state, the state of the business market, and steps to improve the business performance is called ……
A business plan
What is a business plan?
A business plan is an officially written document showing a business core activities, objectives, and the business roadmap to achieving its established objectives.
Give two importance of a good business plan
A. The importance of a good business plan can be seen in the organised growth of a business. It allows business owners to track business growth and stay in line with the business objectives.
B. A business plan also gives investors an idea of how the business is operated and if it is worth investing in. A good business plan attracts investors and sells them the idea of your business.
What is the first element of a business plan?
What information does the executive summary provide?
This executive summary provides a brief description of the business. It gives information on the business leadership, its employees, operations and location. It also provides the business mission statement, goals and business vision.
A business budget usually includes ….,.
A business budget includes cost from paying staff, production processes, marketing, expanding, logistics, development, researching and all other business related expenses.
What does a SWOT analysis show about a business ?
A SWOT analysis shows a business strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business.
A good business plan helps a business focus on its short term and long term goals, and it also helps business owners focus on the specified steps put in place to help the business succeed. True or False?
A business plan is the same for all types of business.
Financial plans are not a part of business plan.
SWOT analysis is a way to carry out a market analysis.
Market analysis and marketing strategy can be used interchangeably.
A good business plan can help startups attract investment or get loans without a proven financial record.
What is the difference between market analysis and marketing strategy?
Market strategy provides information on how a business plans to distribute its products or services while market analysis gives details on business strengths, weaknesses along with market threats and opportunities.
Business planning is a process of ________ aimed towards achieving a business goal.
developing a roadmap
A business plan is an ________ showing a business core activities, objectives, and the business roadmap to achieving its established objectives
officially written document
A good business plan only helps the business focus on its short term goals.
A good business plan can help a company to:
Stay in line with the business objectives
Executive Summary is the description of the products and services offered by a business.
Good business planning requires a well written market analysis showing demand and supply.
SWOT analysis stands for ________ .
strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the market
________ includes cost from paying staff, production processes, marketing, expanding, logistics, development, researching and all other business related expenses.
A business budget
A company generating a revenue of £150,000 from a business with a total cost of £80,000 per year. How much profit does it earn?
£150,000 - £80,000 = £70,000.
Variable cost = Output x Variable cost per unit output
What is not a business variable cost?
production materials expenses
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