How to Write a Business Plan: Your Step-by-Step Guide

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So, you’ve got an idea and you want to start a business —great! Before you do anything else, like seek funding or build out a team, you'll need to know how to write a business plan. This plan will serve as the foundation of your company while also giving investors and future employees a clear idea of your purpose.

Below, Lauren Cobello, Founder and CEO of Leverage with Media PR , gives her best advice on how to make a business plan for your company.

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What is a business plan, and when do you need one?

According to Cobello, a business plan is a document that contains the mission of the business and a brief overview of it, as well as the objectives, strategies, and financial plans of the founder. A business plan comes into play very early on in the process of starting a company—more or less before you do anything else.

“You should start a company with a business plan in mind—especially if you plan to get funding for the company,” Cobello says. “You’re going to need it.”

Whether that funding comes from a loan, an investor, or crowdsourcing, a business plan is imperative to secure the capital, says the U.S. Small Business Administration . Anyone who’s considering giving you money is going to want to review your business plan before doing so. That means before you head into any meeting, make sure you have physical copies of your business plan to share.

Different types of business plans

The four main types of business plans are:

Startup Business Plans

Internal business plans, strategic business plans, one-page business plans.

Let's break down each one:

If you're wondering how to write a business plan for a startup, Cobello has advice for you. Startup business plans are the most common type, she says, and they are a critical tool for new business ventures that want funding. A startup is defined as a company that’s in its first stages of operations, founded by an entrepreneur who has a product or service idea.

Most startups begin with very little money, so they need a strong business plan to convince family, friends, banks, and/or venture capitalists to invest in the new company.

Internal business plans “are for internal use only,” says Cobello. This kind of document is not public-facing, only company-facing, and it contains an outline of the company’s business strategy, financial goals and budgets, and performance data.

Internal business plans aren’t used to secure funding, but rather to set goals and get everyone working there tracking towards them.

As the name implies, strategic business plans are geared more towards strategy and they include an assessment of the current business landscape, notes Jérôme Côté, a Business Advisor at BDC Advisory Services .

Unlike a traditional business plan, Cobello adds, strategic plans include a SWOT analysis (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and an in-depth action plan for the next six to 12 months. Strategic plans are action-based and take into account the state of the company and the industry in which it exists.

Although a typical business plan falls between 15 to 30 pages, some companies opt for the much shorter One-Page Business Plan. A one-page business plan is a simplified version of the larger business plan, and it focuses on the problem your product or service is solving, the solution (your product), and your business model (how you’ll make money).

A one-page plan is hyper-direct and easy to read, making it an effective tool for businesses of all sizes, at any stage.

How to create a business plan in 7 steps

Every business plan is different, and the steps you take to complete yours will depend on what type and format you choose. That said, if you need a place to start and appreciate a roadmap, here’s what Cobello recommends:

1. Conduct your research

Before writing your business plan, you’ll want to do a thorough investigation of what’s out there. Who will be the competitors for your product or service? Who is included in the target market? What industry trends are you capitalizing on, or rebuking? You want to figure out where you sit in the market and what your company’s value propositions are. What makes you different—and better?

2. Define your purpose for the business plan

The purpose of your business plan will determine which kind of plan you choose to create. Are you trying to drum up funding, or get the company employees focused on specific goals? (For the former, you’d want a startup business plan, while an internal plan would satisfy the latter.) Also, consider your audience. An investment firm that sees hundreds of potential business plans a day may prefer to see a one-pager upfront and, if they’re interested, a longer plan later.

3. Write your company description

Every business plan needs a company description—aka a summary of the company’s purpose, what they do/offer, and what makes it unique. Company descriptions should be clear and concise, avoiding the use of jargon, Cobello says. Ideally, descriptions should be a few paragraphs at most.

4. Explain and show how the company will make money

A business plan should be centered around the company’s goals, and it should clearly explain how the company will generate revenue. To do this, Cobello recommends using actual numbers and details, as opposed to just projections.

For instance, if the company is already making money, show how much and at what cost (e.g. what was the net profit). If it hasn’t generated revenue yet, outline the plan for how it will—including what the product/service will cost to produce and how much it will cost the consumer.

5. Outline your marketing strategy

How will you promote the business? Through what channels will you be promoting it? How are you going to reach and appeal to your target market? The more specific and thorough you can be with your plans here, the better, Cobello says.

6. Explain how you’ll spend your funding

What will you do with the money you raise? What are the first steps you plan to take? As a founder, you want to instill confidence in your investors and show them that the instant you receive their money, you’ll be taking smart actions that grow the company.

7. Include supporting documents

Creating a business plan is in some ways akin to building a legal case, but for your business. “You want to tell a story, and to be as thorough as possible, while keeping your plan succinct, clear, interesting, and visually appealing,” Cobello says. “Supporting documents could include financial projects, a competitive analysis of the market you’re entering into, and even any licenses, patents, or permits you’ve secured.”

A business plan is an individualized document—it’s ultimately up to you what information to include and what story you tell. But above all, Cobello says, your business plan should have a clear focus and goal in mind, because everything else will build off this cornerstone.

“Many people don’t realize how important business plans are for the health of their company,” she says. “Set aside time to make this a priority for your business, and make sure to keep it updated as you grow.”

typical parts of a business plan

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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, 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.

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A business plan is a document that outlines a company's goals and the strategies to achieve them. It's valuable for both startups and established companies. For startups, a well-crafted business plan is crucial for attracting potential lenders and investors. Established businesses use business plans to stay on track and aligned with their growth objectives. This article will explain the key components of an effective business plan and guidance on how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document detailing a company's business activities and strategies for achieving its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to launch their venture and to attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan helps keep the executive team focused on short- and long-term objectives.
  • There's no single required format for a business plan, but certain key elements are essential for most companies.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place before beginning operations. Banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before considering making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a company doesn't need additional funding, having a business plan helps it stay focused on its goals. Research from the University of Oregon shows that businesses with a plan are significantly more likely to secure funding than those without one. Moreover, companies with a business plan grow 30% faster than those that don't plan. According to a Harvard Business Review article, entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than those who don't.

A business plan should ideally be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect achieved goals or changes in direction. An established business moving in a new direction might even create an entirely new plan.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. It allows for careful consideration of ideas before significant investment, highlights potential obstacles to success, and provides a tool for seeking objective feedback from trusted outsiders. A business plan may also help ensure that a company’s executive team remains aligned on strategic action items and priorities.

While business plans vary widely, even among competitors in the same industry, they often share basic elements detailed below.

A well-crafted business plan is essential for attracting investors and guiding a company's strategic growth. It should address market needs and investor requirements and provide clear financial projections.

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, gathering the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document is best. Any additional crucial elements, such as patent applications, can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.

Common elements in many business plans include:

  • 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 : Describe the products and services the company offers or plans to introduce. Include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique consumer benefits. Mention production and manufacturing processes, relevant patents , proprietary technology , and research and development (R&D) information.
  • Market analysis : Explain the current state of the industry and the competition. Detail where the company fits in, the types of customers it plans to target, and how it plans to capture market share from competitors.
  • Marketing strategy : Outline the company's plans to attract and retain customers, including anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. Describe the distribution channels that will be used to deliver products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections : Established businesses should include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses should provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. This section may also include any funding requests.

Investors want to see a clear exit strategy, expected returns, and a timeline for cashing out. It's likely a good idea to provide five-year profitability forecasts and realistic financial estimates.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can vary in format, often categorized into traditional and lean startup plans. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These are detailed and lengthy, requiring more effort to create but offering comprehensive information that can be persuasive to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These are concise, sometimes just one page, and focus on key elements. While they save time, companies should be ready to provide additional details if requested by investors or lenders.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan isn't a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections. Markets and the economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All this calls for building flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How Often Should a Business Plan Be Updated?

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on its nature. Updating your business plan is crucial due to changes in external factors (market trends, competition, and regulations) and internal developments (like employee growth and new products). While 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 ideal for quickly explaining a business, especially for new companies that don't have much information yet. Key sections may include a value proposition , major activities and advantages, resources (staff, intellectual property, and capital), partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.

A well-crafted business plan is crucial for any company, whether it's a startup looking for investment or an established business wanting to stay on course. It outlines goals and strategies, boosting a company's chances of securing funding and achieving growth.

As your business and the market change, update your business plan regularly. This keeps it relevant and aligned with your current goals and conditions. Think of your business plan as a living document that evolves with your company, not something carved in stone.

University of Oregon Department of Economics. " Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Business Planning Using Palo Alto's Business Plan Pro ." Eason Ding & Tim Hursey.

Bplans. " Do You Need a Business Plan? Scientific Research Says Yes ."

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

Harvard Business Review. " How to Write a Winning Business Plan ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

SCORE. " When and Why Should You Review Your Business Plan? "

typical parts of a business plan

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10 Essential Components of a Business Plan and How to Write Them

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Ayush Jalan

  • January 4, 2024

12 Min Read

10 Essential Business plan components and How to Write Them

A business plan is an essential document for any business, whether it’s a startup or an established enterprise. It’s the first thing any interested investor will ask for if they like your business idea and want to partner with you. 

That’s why it’s important to pay attention when writing your business plan and the components inside it. An incomplete business plan can give the impression that you’re unqualified—discouraging investors and lenders. 

A good business plan reduces ambiguity and communicates all essential details such as your financials, market analysis, competitive analysis, and a timeline for implementation of the plan. In this article, we’ll discuss the 10 important business plan components. 

10 Important Business Plan Components

A comprehensive and well-thought-out business plan acts as a roadmap that guides you in making sound decisions and taking the right actions at the right times. Here are its key components and what to include in them.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It’s the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

In other words, it helps the reader get a better idea of what to expect from your company. So, when writing an executive summary of your business, don’t forget to mention your mission and vision statement.

Mission statement

A mission statement is a brief statement that outlines your objectives and what you want to achieve. It acts as a guiding principle that informs decisions and provides a clear direction for the organization to follow.

For instance, Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s short, inspiring, and immediately communicates what the company does.

A mission statement should be realistic, and hint towards a goal that is achievable in a reasonable amount of time with the resources you currently have or are going to acquire in the near future.

Vision statement

While a mission statement is more actionable and has an immediate effect on the daily activities of the company, a vision statement is more aspirational and has a much broader scope.

In other words, it highlights where the company aims to go in the future and the positive change it hopes to make in the world within its lifetime.

2. Company description

Company description Steps: 1) Overview 2) Products & Services 3) Company history

The second component of your business plan is the company description. Here, you provide a brief overview of your company, its products or services, and its history. You can also add any notable achievements if they are significant enough for an investor to know.

A company overview offers a quick bird’s-eye view of things such as your business model , operational capabilities, financials, business philosophy, size of the team, code of conduct, and short-term and long-term objectives.

Products and services

The products and services part of your company description explains what your business offers to its customers, how it’s delivered, and the costs involved in acquiring new customers and executing a sale.

Company History

Company history is the timeline of events that took place in your business from its origin to the present day. It includes a brief profile of the founder(s) and their background, the date the company was founded, any notable achievements and milestones, and other similar facts and details.

If you’re a startup, you’ll probably not have much of a history to write about. In that case, you can share stories of the challenges your startup faced during its inception and how your team overcame them.

3. Market analysis

Market analysis

The market analysis section of your business plan provides an in-depth analysis of the industry, target market, and competition. It should underline the risks and opportunities associated with your industry, and also comment on the attributes of your target customer.

Demographics and segmentation

Understanding the demographics of your customers plays a big role in how well you’re able to identify their traits and serve them.

By dividing your target audience into smaller and more manageable groups, you can tailor your services and products to better meet their needs.

You can use demographics such as age, gender, income, location, ethnicity, and education level to better understand the preferences and behaviors of each segment, and use that data to create more effective marketing strategies.     

Target market and size

Understanding your target market lies at the core of all your marketing endeavors. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re serving, you won’t be able to serve well no matter how big your budget is.

For instance, Starbucks’ primary target market includes working professionals and office workers. The company has positioned itself such that many of its customers start their day with its coffee.

Estimating the market size helps you know how much scope there is to scale your business in the future. In other words, you’re trying to determine how much potential revenue exists in this market and if it’s worth the investment.

Market need

The next step is to figure out the market need, i.e., the prevalent pain points that people in that market experience. The easiest way to find these pain points is to read the negative reviews people leave on Amazon for products that are similar to yours.

The better your product solves those pain points, the better your chances of capturing that market. In addition, since your product is solving a problem that your rivals can’t, you can also charge a premium price.

To better identify the needs of your target customers, it helps to take into account things such as local cultural values, industry trends, buying habits, tastes and preferences, price elasticity, and more.

4. Product Summary

The product summary section of your business plan goes into detail about the features and benefits that your products and services offer, and how they differ from your competitors. It also outlines the manufacturing process, pricing, cost of production, inventory, packaging, and capital requirements.

5. Competitive analysis

Unless you’ve discovered an untapped market, you’re probably going to face serious competition and it’s only going to increase as you scale your business later down the line.

This is where the competitive analysis section helps; it gives an overview of the competitive landscape, introduces your immediate rivals, and highlights the current dominant companies and their market share.

In such an environment, it helps to have certain competitive advantages against your rivals so you can stand out in the market. Simply put, a competitive advantage is the additional value you can provide to your customers that your rivals can’t—perhaps via unique product features, excellent customer service, or more.

typical parts of a business plan

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6. Marketing and sales plan

typical parts of a business plan

The marketing and sales plan is one of the most important business plan components. It explains how you plan to penetrate the market, position your brand in the minds of the buyers, build brand loyalty, increase sales, and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Unique selling proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) conveys how your products and services differ from those of your competitors, and the added value those differences provide.

A strong USP will stand out in a competitive market and make potential customers more likely to switch to your brand—essentially capturing the market share of your rivals.

Marketing Plan

Your product might be unique, but if people don’t even know that it exists, it won’t sell. That’s where marketing comes in.

A marketing plan outlines strategies for reaching your target market and achieving sales goals. It also outlines the budget required for advertising and promotion.

You may also include data on the target market, target demographics, objectives, strategies, a timeline, budget, and the metrics considered for evaluating success.

Sales and distribution plan

Once people are made aware of your product, the next step is to ensure it reaches them. This means having a competent sales and distribution plan and a strong supply chain.

Lay out strategies for reaching potential customers, such as online marketing, lead generation, retail distribution channels, or direct sales.

Your goal here is to minimize sales costs and address the risks involved with the distribution of your product. If you’re selling ice cream, for example, you would have to account for the costs of refrigeration and cold storage.

Pricing strategy

Pricing is a very sensitive yet important part of any business. When creating a pricing strategy , you need to consider factors such as market demand, cost of production, competitor prices, disposable income of target customers, and profitability goals.

Some businesses have a small profit margin but sell large volumes of their product, while others sell fewer units but with a massive markup. You will have to decide for yourself which approach you want to follow.

Before setting your marketing plans into action, you need a budget for them. This means writing down how much money you’ll need, how it will be used, and the potential return you are estimating on this investment.

A budget should be flexible, meaning that it should be open to changes as the market shifts and customer behavior evolves. The goal here is to make sure that the company is making the best use of its resources by minimizing the wastage of funds.

7. Operations plan

The operations plan section of your business plan provides an overview of how the business is run and its day-to-day operations. This section is especially important for manufacturing businesses.

It includes a description of your business structure, the roles and responsibilities of each team member, the resources needed, and the procedures you will use to ensure the smooth functioning of your business. The goal here is to maximize output whilst minimizing the wastage of raw material or human labor.

8. Management team

At the core of any successful business lies a dedicated, qualified, and experienced management team overlooking key business activities. 

This section provides an overview of the key members of your management team including their credentials, professional background, role and responsibilities, experience, and qualifications.

A lot of investors give special attention to this section as it helps them ascertain the competence and work ethic of the members involved.

Organizational structure

An organizational structure defines the roles, responsibilities, decision-making processes, and authority of each individual or department in an organization.

Having a clear organizational structure improves communication, increases efficiency, promotes collaboration, and makes it easier to delegate tasks. Startups usually have a flatter organizational hierarchy whereas established businesses have a more traditional structure of power and authority.

9. Financial Plan

Financials are usually the least fun thing to talk about, but they are important nonetheless as they provide an overview of your current financial position, capital requirements, projections, and plans for repayment of any loans. 

Your financial plan should also include an analysis of your startup costs, operating costs, administration costs, and sources of revenue.

Funding requirements

Once an investor has read through your business plan, it’s time to request funding. Investors will want to see an accurate and detailed breakdown of the funds required and an explanation of why the requested funds are necessary for the operation and expansion of your business.

10. Appendix

The appendix is the last section of your business plan and it includes additional supporting documents such as resumes of key team members, market research documents, financial statements, and legal documents. 

In other words, anything important or relevant that couldn’t fit in any of the former sections of your business plan goes in the appendix.

Write a Business Plan Worth Reading

Starting a business is never easy, but it’s a little less overwhelming if you have a well-made business plan. It helps you better navigate the industry, reduce risk, stay competitive, and make the best use of your time and money.

Remember, since every business is unique, every business plan is unique too, and must be regularly updated to keep up with changing industry trends. Also, it’s very likely that interested investors will give you feedback, so make sure to implement their recommendations as well.

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About the Author

typical parts of a business plan

Ayush is a writer with an academic background in business and marketing. Being a tech-enthusiast, he likes to keep a sharp eye on the latest tech gadgets and innovations. When he's not working, you can find him writing poetry, gaming, playing the ukulele, catching up with friends, and indulging in creative philosophies.

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What is a business plan?

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. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers 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. This should contain basic 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, write a little about 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

typical parts of a business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

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.

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.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» 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.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate 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.

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.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. 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. 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.

One blue credit card on a flat surface with coins on both sides.

What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates

AJ Beltis

Published: June 28, 2024

Years ago, I had an idea to launch a line of region-specific board games. I knew there was a market for games that celebrated local culture and heritage. I was so excited about the concept and couldn't wait to get started.

Business plan graphic with business owner, lightbulb, and pens to symbolize coming up with ideas and writing a business plan.

But my idea never took off. Why? Because I didn‘t have a plan. I lacked direction, missed opportunities, and ultimately, the venture never got off the ground.

→ Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

And that’s exactly why a business plan is important. It cements your vision, gives you clarity, and outlines your next step.

In this post, I‘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.

Table of Contents

What is a business plan?

What is a business plan used for.

  • Business Plan Template [Download Now]

Purposes of a Business Plan

What does a business plan need to include, types of business plans.

typical parts of a business plan

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A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company's goals, strategies, and financial projections. It provides a detailed description of the business, including its products or services, target market, competitive landscape, and marketing and sales strategies. The plan also includes a financial section that forecasts revenue, expenses, and cash flow, as well as a funding request if the business is seeking investment.

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.

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 ]

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. It helps you develop a working business and avoid consequences that could stop you before you ever start.

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

Related Reading: 5 fundamental principles of business planning

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

The best way to start is by reviewing examples and downloading a business plan template. These resources will provide you with guidance and inspiration to help you write a plan.

We recommend starting with a simple one-page plan ; it streamlines the planning process and helps you organize your ideas. However, if one page doesn’t fit your needs, there are plenty of other great templates available that will put you well on your way to writing a useful business plan.

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

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Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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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. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

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.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

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.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Function Audience Type of Business Plan
Serve as a loose guide of objectives and timeline Internal Lean
Serve as a detailed, brass-tacks blueprint of business goals and timeline Internal Traditional
Serve as a strategic document with a narrative focus on organization-wide goals, priorities, and vision Internal Strategic
Earn a company loan or grant External Traditional (with focus on financial documents)
Attract investors or partners External Traditional/strategic (with focus on financials, as well as support departments, such as marketing, sales, product, etc.)
To test a business or startup idea Internal Lean

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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Business Plan Example and Template

Learn how to create a business plan

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that contains the operational and financial plan of a business, and details how its objectives will be achieved. It serves as a road map for the business and can be used when pitching investors or financial institutions for debt or equity financing .

Business Plan - Document with the words Business Plan on the title

A business plan should follow a standard format and contain all the important business plan elements. Typically, it should present whatever information an investor or financial institution expects to see before providing financing to a business.

Contents of a Business Plan

A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan:

1. Title Page

The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date, and the company logo.

2. Executive Summary

The executive summary is the most important section because it is the first section that investors and bankers see when they open the business plan. It provides a summary of the entire business plan. It should be written last to ensure that you don’t leave any details out. It must be short and to the point, and it should capture the reader’s attention. The executive summary should not exceed two pages.

3. Industry Overview

The industry overview section provides information about the specific industry that the business operates in. Some of the information provided in this section includes major competitors, industry trends, and estimated revenues. It also shows the company’s position in the industry and how it will compete in the market against other major players.

4. Market Analysis and Competition

The market analysis section details the target market for the company’s product offerings. This section confirms that the company understands the market and that it has already analyzed the existing market to determine that there is adequate demand to support its proposed business model.

Market analysis includes information about the target market’s demographics , geographical location, consumer behavior, and market needs. The company can present numbers and sources to give an overview of the target market size.

A business can choose to consolidate the market analysis and competition analysis into one section or present them as two separate sections.

5. Sales and Marketing Plan

The sales and marketing plan details how the company plans to sell its products to the target market. It attempts to present the business’s unique selling proposition and the channels it will use to sell its goods and services. It details the company’s advertising and promotion activities, pricing strategy, sales and distribution methods, and after-sales support.

6. Management Plan

The management plan provides an outline of the company’s legal structure, its management team, and internal and external human resource requirements. It should list the number of employees that will be needed and the remuneration to be paid to each of the employees.

Any external professionals, such as lawyers, valuers, architects, and consultants, that the company will need should also be included. If the company intends to use the business plan to source funding from investors, it should list the members of the executive team, as well as the members of the advisory board.

7. Operating Plan

The operating plan provides an overview of the company’s physical requirements, such as office space, machinery, labor, supplies, and inventory . For a business that requires custom warehouses and specialized equipment, the operating plan will be more detailed, as compared to, say, a home-based consulting business. If the business plan is for a manufacturing company, it will include information on raw material requirements and the supply chain.

8. Financial Plan

The financial plan is an important section that will often determine whether the business will obtain required financing from financial institutions, investors, or venture capitalists. It should demonstrate that the proposed business is viable and will return enough revenues to be able to meet its financial obligations. Some of the information contained in the financial plan includes a projected income statement , balance sheet, and cash flow.

9. Appendices and Exhibits

The appendices and exhibits part is the last section of a business plan. It includes any additional information that banks and investors may be interested in or that adds credibility to the business. Some of the information that may be included in the appendices section includes office/building plans, detailed market research , products/services offering information, marketing brochures, and credit histories of the promoters.

Business Plan Template - Components

Business Plan Template

Here is a basic template that any business can use when developing its business plan:

Section 1: Executive Summary

  • Present the company’s mission.
  • Describe the company’s product and/or service offerings.
  • Give a summary of the target market and its demographics.
  • Summarize the industry competition and how the company will capture a share of the available market.
  • Give a summary of the operational plan, such as inventory, office and labor, and equipment requirements.

Section 2: Industry Overview

  • Describe the company’s position in the industry.
  • Describe the existing competition and the major players in the industry.
  • Provide information about the industry that the business will operate in, estimated revenues, industry trends, government influences, as well as the demographics of the target market.

Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition

  • Define your target market, their needs, and their geographical location.
  • Describe the size of the market, the units of the company’s products that potential customers may buy, and the market changes that may occur due to overall economic changes.
  • Give an overview of the estimated sales volume vis-à-vis what competitors sell.
  • Give a plan on how the company plans to combat the existing competition to gain and retain market share.

Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan

  • Describe the products that the company will offer for sale and its unique selling proposition.
  • List the different advertising platforms that the business will use to get its message to customers.
  • Describe how the business plans to price its products in a way that allows it to make a profit.
  • Give details on how the company’s products will be distributed to the target market and the shipping method.

Section 5: Management Plan

  • Describe the organizational structure of the company.
  • List the owners of the company and their ownership percentages.
  • List the key executives, their roles, and remuneration.
  • List any internal and external professionals that the company plans to hire, and how they will be compensated.
  • Include a list of the members of the advisory board, if available.

Section 6: Operating Plan

  • Describe the location of the business, including office and warehouse requirements.
  • Describe the labor requirement of the company. Outline the number of staff that the company needs, their roles, skills training needed, and employee tenures (full-time or part-time).
  • Describe the manufacturing process, and the time it will take to produce one unit of a product.
  • Describe the equipment and machinery requirements, and if the company will lease or purchase equipment and machinery, and the related costs that the company estimates it will incur.
  • Provide a list of raw material requirements, how they will be sourced, and the main suppliers that will supply the required inputs.

Section 7: Financial Plan

  • Describe the financial projections of the company, by including the projected income statement, projected cash flow statement, and the balance sheet projection.

Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits

  • Quotes of building and machinery leases
  • Proposed office and warehouse plan
  • Market research and a summary of the target market
  • Credit information of the owners
  • List of product and/or services

Related Readings

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Business Plans. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:

  • Corporate Structure
  • Three Financial Statements
  • Business Model Canvas Examples
  • See all management & strategy resources
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8 Components of a Business Plan

Back to Business Plans

Written by: Carolyn Young

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by: David Lepeska

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

Published on February 19, 2023 Updated on February 27, 2024

8 Components of a Business Plan

A key part of the business startup process is putting together a business plan , particularly if you’d like to raise capital. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s absolutely essential, and an invaluable learning tool. 

Creating a business plan early helps you think through every aspect of your business, from operations and financing to growth and vision. In the end, the knowledge you’ll gain could be the difference between success and failure. 

But what exactly does a business plan consist of? There are eight essential components, all of which are detailed in this handy guide.

1. Executive Summary 

The executive summary opens your business plan , but it’s the section you’ll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan. Often investors and lenders will only read the executive summary; if it doesn’t capture their interest they’ll stop reading, so it’s important to make it as compelling as possible.

The components touched upon should include:

  • The business opportunity – what problem are you solving in the market?
  • Your idea, meaning the product or service you’re planning to offer, and why it solves the problem in the market better than other solutions.
  • The history of the business so far – what have you done to this point? When you’re just getting started, this may be nothing more than coming up with the idea, choosing a business name , and forming a business entity.
  • A summary of the industry, market size, your target customers, and the competition.
  • A strong statement about how your company is going to stand out in the market – what will be your competitive advantage?
  • A list of specific goals that you plan to achieve in the short term, such as developing your product, launching a marketing campaign, or hiring a key person. 
  • A summary of your financial plan including cost and sales projections and a break-even analysis.
  • A summary of your management team, their roles, and the relevant experience that they have to serve in those roles.
  • Your “ask”, if applicable, meaning what you’re requesting from the investor or lender. You’ll include the amount you’d like and how it will be spent, such as “We are seeking $50,000 in seed funding to develop our beta product”. 

Remember that if you’re seeking capital, the executive summary could make or break your venture. Take your time and make sure it illustrates how your business is unique in the market and why you’ll succeed.

The executive summary should be no more than two pages long, so it’s important to capture the reader’s interest from the start. 

  • 2. Company Description/Overview

In this section, you’ll detail your full company history, such as how you came up with the idea for your business and any milestones or achievements. 

You’ll also include your mission and vision statements. A mission statement explains what you’d like your business to achieve, its driving force, while a vision statement lays out your long-term plan in terms of growth. 

A mission statement might be “Our company aims to make life easier for business owners with intuitive payroll software”, while a vision statement could be “Our objective is to become the go-to comprehensive HR software provider for companies around the globe.”

In this section, you’ll want to list your objectives – specific short-term goals. Examples might include “complete initial product development by ‘date’” or “hire two qualified sales people” or “launch the first version of the product”. 

It’s best to divide this section into subsections – company history, mission and vision, and objectives.

3. Products/Services Offered 

Here you’ll go into detail about what you’re offering, how it solves a problem in the market, and how it’s unique. Don’t be afraid to share information that is proprietary – investors and lenders are not out to steal your ideas. 

Also specify how your product is developed or sourced. Are you manufacturing it or does it require technical development? Are you purchasing a product from a manufacturer or wholesaler? 

You’ll also want to specify how you’ll sell your product or service. Will it be a subscription service or a one time purchase?  What is your target pricing? On what channels do you plan to sell your product or service, such as online or by direct sales in a store? 

Basically, you’re describing what you’re going to sell and how you’ll make money.

  • 4. Market Analysis 

The market analysis is where you’re going to spend most of your time because it involves a lot of research. You should divide it into four sections.

Industry analysis 

You’ll want to find out exactly what’s happening in your industry, such as its growth rate, market size, and any specific trends that are occurring. Where is the industry predicted to be in 10 years? Cite your sources where you can by providing links. 

Then describe your company’s place in the market. Is your product going to fit a certain niche? Is there a sub-industry your company will fit within? How will you keep up with industry changes? 

Competitor analysis 

Now you’ll dig into your competition. Detail your main competitors and how they differentiate themselves in the market. For example, one competitor may advertise convenience while another may tout superior quality. Also highlight your competitors’ weaknesses.

Next, describe how you’ll stand out. Detail your competitive advantages and how you’ll sustain them. This section is extremely important and will be a focus for investors and lenders. 

Target market analysis 

Here you’ll describe your target market and whether it’s different from your competitors’.  For example, maybe you have a younger demographic in mind? 

You’ll need to know more about your target market than demographics, though. You’ll want to explain the needs and wants of your ideal customers, how your offering solves their problem, and why they will choose your company. 

You should also lay out where you’ll find them, where to place your marketing and where to sell your products. Learning this kind of detail requires going to the source – your potential customers. You can do online surveys or even in-person focus groups. 

Your goal will be to uncover as much about these people as possible. When you start selling, you’ll want to keep learning about your customers. You may end up selling to a different target market than you originally thought, which could lead to a marketing shift. 

SWOT analysis 

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and it’s one of the more common and helpful business planning tools.   

First describe all the specific strengths of your company, such as the quality of your product or some unique feature, such as the experience of your management team. Talk about the elements that will make your company successful.

Next, acknowledge and explore possible weaknesses. You can’t say “none”, because no company is perfect, especially at the start. Maybe you lack funds or face a massive competitor. Whatever it is, detail how you will surmount this hurdle. 

Next, talk about the opportunities your company has in the market. Perhaps you’re going to target an underserved segment, or have a technology plan that will help you surge past the competition. 

Finally, examine potential threats. It could be a competitor that might try to replicate your product or rapidly advancing technology in your industry. Again, discuss your plans to handle such threats if they come to pass. 

5. Marketing and Sales Strategies

Now it’s time to explain how you’re going to find potential customers and convert them into paying customers.  

Marketing and advertising plan

When you did your target market analysis, you should have learned a lot about your potential customers, including where to find them. This should help you determine where to advertise. 

Maybe you found that your target customers favor TikTok over Instagram and decided to spend more marketing dollars on TikTok. Detail all the marketing channels you plan to use and why.

Your target market analysis should also have given you information about what kind of message will resonate with your target customers. You should understand their needs and wants and how your product solves their problem, then convey that in your marketing. 

Start by creating a value proposition, which should be no more than two sentences long and answer the following questions:

  • What are you offering
  • Whose problem does it solve
  • What problem does it solve
  • What benefits does it provide
  • How is it better than competitor products

An example might be “Payroll software that will handle all the payroll needs of small business owners, making life easier for less.”

Whatever your value proposition, it should be at the heart of all of your marketing.

Sales strategy and tactics 

Your sales strategy is a vision to persuade customers to buy, including where you’ll sell and how. For example, you may plan to sell only on your own website, or you may sell from both a physical location and online. On the other hand, you may have a sales team that will make direct sales calls to potential customers, which is more common in business-to-business sales.

Sales tactics are more about how you’re going to get them to buy after they reach your sales channel. Even when selling online, you need something on your site that’s going to get them to go from a site visitor to a paying customer. 

By the same token, if you’re going to have a sales team making direct sales, what message are they going to deliver that will entice a sale? It’s best for sales tactics to focus on the customer’s pain point and what value you’re bringing to the table, rather than being aggressively promotional about the greatness of your product and your business. 

Pricing strategy

Pricing is not an exact science and should depend on several factors. First, consider how you want your product or service to be perceived in the market. If your differentiator is to be the lowest price, position your company as the “discount” option. Think Walmart, and price your products lower than the competition. 

If, on the other hand, you want to be the Mercedes of the market, then you’ll position your product as the luxury option. Of course you’ll have to back this up with superior quality, but being the luxury option allows you to command higher prices.

You can, of course, fall somewhere in the middle, but the point is that pricing is a matter of perception. How you position your product in the market compared to the competition is a big factor in determining your price.

Of course, you’ll have to consider your costs, as well as competitor prices. Obviously, your prices must cover your costs and allow you to make a good profit margin. 

Whatever pricing strategy you choose, you’ll justify it in this section of your plan.

  • 6. Operations and Management 

This section is the real nuts and bolts of your business – how it operates on a day-to-day basis and who is operating it. Again, this section should be divided into subsections.

Operational plan

Your plan of operations should be specific , detailed and mainly logistical. Who will be doing what on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? How will the business be managed and how will quality be assured? Be sure to detail your suppliers and how and when you’ll order raw materials. 

This should also include the roles that will be filled and the various processes that will be part of everyday business operations . Just consider all the critical functions that must be handled for your business to be able to operate on an ongoing basis. 

Technology plan

If your product involves technical development, you’ll describe your tech development plan with specific goals and milestones. The plan will also include how many people will be working on this development, and what needs to be done for goals to be met.

If your company is not a technology company, you’ll describe what technologies you plan to use to run your business or make your business more efficient. It could be process automation software, payroll software, or just laptops and tablets for your staff. 

Management and organizational structure 

Now you’ll describe who’s running the show. It may be just you when you’re starting out, so you’ll detail what your role will be and summarize your background. You’ll also go into detail about any managers that you plan to hire and when that will occur.

Essentially, you’re explaining your management structure and detailing why your strategy will enable smooth and efficient operations. 

Ideally, at some point, you’ll have an organizational structure that is a hierarchy of your staff. Describe what you envision your organizational structure to be. 

Personnel plan 

Detail who you’ve hired or plan to hire and for which roles. For example, you might have a developer, two sales people, and one customer service representative.

Describe each role and what qualifications are needed to perform those roles. 

  • 7. Financial Plan 

Now, you’ll enter the dreaded world of finance. Many entrepreneurs struggle with this part, so you might want to engage a financial professional to help you. A financial plan has five key elements.

Startup Costs

Detail in a spreadsheet every cost you’ll incur before you open your doors. This should determine how much capital you’ll need to launch your business. 

Financial projections 

Creating financial projections, like many facets of business, is not an exact science. If your company has no history, financial projections can only be an educated guess. 

First, come up with realistic sales projections. How much do you expect to sell each month? Lay out at least three years of sales projections, detailing monthly sales growth for the first year, then annually thereafter. 

Calculate your monthly costs, keeping in mind that some costs will grow along with sales. 

Once you have your numbers projected and calculated, use them to create these three key financial statements: 

  • Profit and Loss Statement , also known as an income statement. This shows projected revenue and lists all costs, which are then deducted to show net profit or loss. 
  • Cash Flow Statement. This shows how much cash you have on hand at any given time. It will have a starting balance, projections of cash coming in, and cash going out, which will be used to calculate cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.
  • Balance Sheet. This shows the net worth of the business, which is the assets of the business minus debts. Assets include equipment, cash, accounts receivables, inventory, and more. Debts include outstanding loan balances and accounts payable.

You’ll need monthly projected versions of each statement for the first year, then annual projections for the following two years.

Break-even analysis

The break-even point for your business is when costs and revenue are equal. Most startups operate at a loss for a period of time before they break even and start to make a profit. Your break-even analysis will project when your break-even point will occur, and will be informed by your profit and loss statement. 

Funding requirements and sources 

Lay out the funding you’ll need, when, and where you’ll get it. You’ll also explain what those funds will be used for at various points. If you’re in a high growth industry that can attract investors, you’ll likely need various rounds of funding to launch and grow. 

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs measure your company’s performance and can determine success. Many entrepreneurs only focus on the bottom line, but measuring specific KPIs helps find areas of improvement. Every business has certain crucial metrics. 

If you sell only online, one of your key metrics might be your visitor conversion rate. You might do an analysis to learn why just one out of ten site visitors makes a purchase. 

Perhaps the purchase process is too complicated or your product descriptions are vague. The point is, learning why your conversion rate is low gives you a chance to improve it and boost sales. 

8. Appendices

In the appendices, you can attach documents such as manager resumes or any other documents that support your business plan.

As you can see, a business plan has many components, so it’s not an afternoon project. It will likely take you several weeks and a great deal of work to complete. Unless you’re a finance guru, you may also want some help from a financial professional. 

Keep in mind that for a small business owner, there may be no better learning experience than writing a detailed and compelling business plan. It shouldn’t be viewed as a hassle, but as an opportunity! 

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Blog Business How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates] 

How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates] 

Written by: Letícia Fonseca Aug 11, 2023

business plan outline

When starting a business plan, the first hurdle is often getting started. And how do you avoid spending hours staring at a blank page? Start with a business plan outline. An outline helps provide clarity and direction, especially for important documents like a business plan.

I get that the idea of outlining a business plan can feel overwhelming, which is why I’ve gathered all the information you need to make it easier. Don’t worry, you’ve got this!

And if you’re seeking further assistance, a business plan maker and readily available business plan templates can offer valuable support in shaping your comprehensive plan.

Read on for answers to all your business plan outline questions or jump ahead for some handy templates. 

Click to jump ahead:

What is a business plan outline?

7 steps to writing a business plan outline, business plan outline examples.

  • Writing tips to ace your outline 

What format should you choose for your business plan outline?

A business plan outline is the backbone of your business plan. It contains all the most important information you’ll want to expand on in your full-length plan. 

Think of it this way: your outline is a frame for your plan. It provides a high-level idea of what the final plan should look like, what it will include and how all the information will be organized. 

Why would you do this extra step? Beyond saving you from blank page syndrome, an outline ensures you don’t leave any essential information out of your plan — you can see all the most important points at a glance and quickly identify any content gaps. 

It also serves as a writing guide. Once you know all the sections you want in your plan, you just need to expand on them. Suddenly, you’re “filling in the blanks” as opposed to writing a plan from scratch!

Incidentally, using a business plan template like this one gives you a running head start, too: 

typical parts of a business plan

Perhaps most importantly, a business plan outline keeps you focused on the essential parts of your document. (Not to mention what matters most to stakeholders and investors.)  With an outline, you’ll spend less time worrying about structure or organization and more time perfecting the actual content of your document. 

If you’re looking for more general advice, you can read about  how to create a business plan here . But if you’re working on outlining your plan, stick with me.

Your business plan outline should include all the following sections. The level of detail you choose to go into will depend on your intentions for your plan (sharing with stakeholders vs. internal use), but you’ll want every section to be clear and to the point. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary gives a high-level description of your company, product or service. This section should include a mission statement, your company description, your business’s primary goal, and the problem it aims to solve. You’ll want to state how your business can solve the problem and briefly explain what makes you stand out (your competitive advantage).

Having an executive summary is essential to selling your business to stakeholders , so it should be as clear and concise as possible. Summarize your business in a few sentences in a way that will hook the reader (or audience) and get them invested in what you have to say next. In other words, this is your elevator pitch.

Executive Summary & Company Description

2. Product and services description

This is where you should go into more detail about your product or service. Your product is the heart of your business, so it’s essential this section is easy to grasp. After all, if people don’t know what you’re selling, you’ll have a hard time keeping them engaged!

Expand on your description in the executive summary, going into detail about the problem your customers face and how your product/service will solve it. If you have various products or services, go through all of them in equal detail. 

Products & Services Description

3. Target market and/or Market analysis

A market analysis is crucial for placing your business in a larger context and showing investors you know your industry. This section should include market research on your prospective customer demographic including location, age range, goals and motivations. 

You can even  include detailed customer personas  as a visual aid — these are especially useful if you have several target demographics. You want to showcase your knowledge of your customer, who exactly you’re selling to and how you can fulfill their needs.

Be sure to include information on the overall target market for your product, including direct and indirect competitors and how your industry is performing. If your competitors have strengths you want to mimic or weaknesses you want to exploit, this is the place to record that information. 

Market Analysis

4. Organization and management

You can think of this as a “meet the team” section — this is where you should go into depth on your business’s structure from management to legal and HR. If there are people bringing unique skills or experience to the table (I’m sure there are!), you should highlight them in this section. 

The goal here is to showcase why your team is the best to run your business. Investors want to know you’re unified, organized and reliable. This is also a potential opportunity to bring more humanity to your business plan and showcase the faces behind the ideas and product. 

Organization & Management

5. Marketing and sales

Now that you’ve introduced your product and team, you need to explain how you’re going to sell it. Give a detailed explanation of your sales and marketing strategy, including pricing, timelines for launching your product and advertising.

This is a major section of your plan and can even live as a separate document for your marketing and sales teams. Here are some  marketing plan templates to help you get started .

Make sure you have research or analysis to back up your decisions — if you want to do paid ads on LinkedIn to advertise your product, include a brief explanation as to why that is the best channel for your business. 

Marketing & Sales Plan

6. Financial projections and funding request

The end of your plan is where you’ll look to the future and how you think your business will perform financially. Your financial plan should include results from your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow projections. 

State your funding requirements and what you need to realize the business. Be extremely clear about how you plan to use the funding and when you expect investors will see returns.

If you aren’t presenting to potential investors, you can skip this part, but it’s something to keep in mind should you seek funding in the future. Covering financial projections and the previous five components is essential at the stage of business formation to ensure everything goes smoothly moving forward.

Financial Projections

7. Appendix

Any extra visual aids, receipts, paperwork or charts will live here. Anything that may be relevant to your plan should be included as reference e.g. your cash flow statement (or other financial statements). You can format your appendix in whatever way you think is best — as long as it’s easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, you’ve done your job!

Typically, the best way to start your outline is to list all these high-level sections. Then, you can add bullet points outlining what will go in each section and the resources you’ll need to write them. This should give you a solid starting point for your full-length plan.

Looking for a shortcut? Our  business plan templates  are basically outlines in a box! 

While your outline likely won’t go into as much detail, these templates are great examples of how to organize your sections.

Traditional format examples

A strong template can turn your long, dense business plan into an engaging, easy-to-read document. There are lots to choose from, but here are just a few ideas to inspire you… 

You can duplicate pages and use these styles for a traditional outline, or start with a lean outline as you build your business plan out over time:

typical parts of a business plan

Lean format examples

For lean format outlines, a simpler ‘ mind map ’ style is a good bet. With this style, you can get ideas down fast and quickly turn them into one or two-page plans. Plus, because they’re shorter, they’re easy to share with your team.

typical parts of a business plan

Writing tips to ace your business plan outline

Business plans are complex documents, so if you’re still not sure how to write your outline, don’t worry! Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when drafting your business plan outline:

  • Ask yourself why you’re writing an outline. Having a clear goal for your outline can help keep you on track as you write. Everything you include in your plan should contribute to your goal. If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be in there.
  • Keep it clear and concise. Whether you’re writing a traditional or lean format business plan, your outline should be easy to understand. Choose your words wisely and avoid unnecessary preambles or padding language. The faster you get to the point, the easier your plan will be to read.
  • Add visual aids. No one likes reading huge walls of text! Make room in your outline for visuals, data and charts. This keeps your audience engaged and helps those who are more visual learners. Psst,  infographics  are great for this.
  • Make it collaborative. Have someone (or several someones) look it over before finalizing your outline. If you have an established marketing / sales / finance team, have them look it over too. Getting feedback at the outline stage can help you avoid rewrites and wasted time down the line.

If this is your first time writing a business plan outline, don’t be too hard on yourself. You might not get it 100% right on the first try, but with these tips and the key components listed above, you’ll have a strong foundation. Remember, done is better than perfect. 

Most business plans fit into one of two formats. 

The format you choose largely depends on three factors: (1) the stage of your business, (2) if you’re presenting the plan to investors and (3) what you want to achieve with your business plan. 

Let’s have a closer look at these two formats and why you might choose one over the other.

Traditional format

Traditional business plans  are typically long, detailed documents. In many cases, they take up to 50-60 pages, but it’s not uncommon to see plans spanning 100+ pages. 

Traditional plans are long because they cover  every aspect  of your business. They leave nothing out. You’ll find a traditional business plan template with sections like executive summary, company description, target market, market analysis, marketing plan, financial plan, and more. Basically: the more information the merrier.

This business plan template isn’t of a traditional format, but you could expand it into one by duplicating pages:

typical parts of a business plan

Due to their high level of detail, traditional formats are the best way to sell your business. They show you’re reliable and have a clear vision for your business’s future. 

If you’re planning on presenting your plan to investors and stakeholders, you’ll want to go with a traditional plan format. The more information you include, the fewer doubts and questions you’ll get when you present your plan, so don’t hold back. 

Traditional business plans require more detailed outlines before drafting since there’s a lot of information to cover. You’ll want to list all the sections and include bullet points describing what each section should cover. 

It’s also a good idea to include all external resources and visuals in your outline, so you don’t have to gather them later. 

Lean format

Lean business plan formats are high level and quick to write. They’re often only one or two pages. Similar to a  business plan infographic , they’re scannable and quick to digest, like this template: 

typical parts of a business plan

This format is often referred to as a “startup” format due to (you guessed it!) many startups using it. 

Lean business plans require less detailed outlines. You can include high-level sections and a few lines in each section covering the basics. Since the final plan will only be a page or two, you don’t need to over prepare. Nor will you need a ton of external resources. 

Lean plans don’t answer all the questions investors and stakeholders may ask, so if you go this route, make sure it’s the right choice for your business . Companies not yet ready to present to investors will typically use a lean/startup business plan format to get their rough plan on paper and share it internally with their management team. 

Here’s another example of a lean business plan format in the form of a financial plan: 

typical parts of a business plan

Create a winning business plan by starting with a detailed, actionable outline

The best way to learn is by doing. So go ahead, get started on your business plan outline. As you develop your plan, you’ll no doubt learn more about your business and what’s important for success along the way. 

A clean, compelling template is a great way to get a head start on your outline. After all, the sections are already separated and defined for you! 

Explore Venngage’s business plan templates  for one that suits your needs. Many are free to use and there are premium templates available for a small monthly fee. Happy outlining!

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The 10 Key Components of a Business Plan

Written by Dave Lavinsky

Growthink.com Components of a Business Plan Step By Step Advice

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1 million entrepreneurs and business owners write business plans. These plans have been used to raise funding and grow countless businesses.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

From working with all these businesses, we know what the 10 elements in any great business plan. Providing a comprehensive assessment of each of these components is critical in attracting lenders, angel investors, venture capitalists or other equity investors.

Get started with a title page that includes your company name, logo and contact information, since interested readers must have a simple way to find and reach out to you. After that be sure to include the 10 parts of a business plan documented below.

What are the 10 Key Components of a Business Plan?

The 10 sections or elements of a business plan that you must include are as follows:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary provides a succinct synopsis of the business plan, and highlights the key points raised within. It often includes the company’s mission statement and description of the products and services. It’s recommended by me and many experts including the Small Business Administration to write the executive summary last.

The executive summary must communicate to the prospective investor the size and scope of the market opportunity, the venture’s business and profitability model, and how the resources/skills/strategic positioning of the company’s management team make it uniquely qualified to execute the business plan. The executive summary must be compelling, easy-to-read, and no longer than 2-4 pages.  

2. Company Analysis

This business plan section provides a strategic overview of the business and describes how the company is organized, what products and services it offers/will offer, and goes into further detail on the business’ unique qualifications in serving its target markets. As any good business plan template will point out, your company analysis should also give a snapshot of the company’s achievements to date, since the best indicator of future success are past accomplishments.

3. Industry or Market Analysis

This section evaluates the playing field in which the company will be competing, and includes well-structured answers to key market research questions such as the following:

  • What are the sizes of the target market segments?
  • What are the trends for the industry as a whole?
  • With what other industries do your services compete?

To conduct this market research, do research online and leverage trade associations that often have the information you need.  

4. Analysis of Customers

The customer analysis business plan section assesses the customer segment(s) that the company serves. In this section, the company must convey the needs of its target customers. It must then show how its products and services satisfy these needs to an extent that the customer will pay for them.

The following are examples of customer segments: moms, engaged couples, schools, online retailers, teens, baby boomers, business owners, etc.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of business you operate as different segments often have different needs. Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. With regards to psychographic variables, discuss whether your customers have any unique lifestyles, interests, opinions, attitudes and/or values that will help you market to them more effectively.

5. Analysis of Competition

All capable business plan writers discuss the competitive landscape of your business. This element of your plan must identify your direct and indirect competitors, assesses their strengths and weaknesses and delineate your company’s competitive advantages. It’s a crucial business plan section.

Direct competitors are those that provide the same product or service to the same customer. Indirect competitors are those who provide similar products or services. For example, the direct competitors to a pizza shop are other local pizza shops. Indirect competitors are other food options like supermarkets, delis, other restaurants, etc.

The first five components of your business plan provide an overview of the business opportunity and market research to support it. The remaining five business plan sections focus mainly on strategy, primarily the marketing, operational, financial and management strategies that your firm will employ.

6. Marketing, Sales & Product Plan

The marketing and sales plan component of your business plan details your strategy for penetrating the target markets. Key elements include the following:

  • A description of the company’s desired strategic positioning
  • Detailed descriptions of the company’s product and service offerings and potential product extensions
  • Descriptions of the company’s desired image and branding strategy
  • Descriptions of the company’s promotional strategies
  • An overview of the company’s pricing strategies
  • A description of current and potential strategic marketing partnerships/ alliances

7. Operations Strategy, Design and Development Plans

These sections detail the internal strategies for building the venture from concept to reality, and include answers to the following questions:

  • What functions will be required to run the business?
  • What milestones must be reached before the venture can be launched?
  • How will quality be controlled?

8. Management Team

The management team section demonstrates that the company has the required human resources to be successful. The business plan must answer questions including:

  • Who are the key management personnel and what are their backgrounds?
  • What management additions will be required to make the business a success?
  • Who are the other investors and/or shareholders, if any?
  • Who comprises the Board of Directors and/or Board of Advisors?
  • Who are the professional advisors (e.g., lawyer, accounting firm)?

9. Financial Plan

The financial plan involves the development of the company’s revenue and profitability model. These financial statements detail how you generate income and get paid from customers,. The financial plan includes detailed explanations of the key assumptions used in building the business plan model, sensitivity analysis on key revenue and cost variables, and description of comparable valuations for existing companies with similar business models.

One of the key purposes of your business plan is to determine the amount of capital the firm needs. The financial plan does this along with assessing the proposed use of these funds (e.g., equipment, working capital, labor expenses, insurance costs, etc.) and the expected future earnings. It includes Projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets (showing assets, liabilities and equity) and Cash Flow Statements, broken out quarterly for the first two years, and annually for years 1-5.

Importantly, all of the assumptions and projections in the financial plan must flow from and be supported by the descriptions and explanations offered in the other sections of the plan. The financial plan is where the entrepreneur communicates how he/she plans to “monetize” the overall vision for the new venture. Note that in addition to traditional debt and equity sources of startup and growth funding that require a business plan (bank loans, angel investors, venture capitalists, friends and family), you will probably also use other capital sources, such as credit cards and business credit, in growing your company.

10. Appendix

The appendix is used to support the rest of the business plan. Every business plan should have a full set of financial projections in the appendix, with the summary of these financials in the executive summary and the financial plan. Other documentation that could appear in the appendix includes technical drawings, partnership and/or customer letters, expanded competitor reviews and/or customer lists.

Find additional business plan help articles here.

Expertly and comprehensively discussing these components in their business plan helps entrepreneurs to better understand their business opportunity and assists them in convincing investors that the opportunity may be right for them too.

In addition to ensuring you included the proper elements of a business plan when developing your plan always think about why you are uniquely qualified to succeed in your business. For example, is your team’s expertise something that’s unique and can ensure your success? Or is it marketing partnerships you have executed? Importantly, if you don’t have any unique success factors, think about what you can add to make your company unique. Doing so can dramatically improve your success. Also, whether you write it on a word processor or use business plan software , remember to update your plan at least annually. After several years, you should have several business plans you can review to see what worked and what didn’t. This should prove helpful as you create future plans for your company’s growth.

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More From Forbes

Seven sections your business plan should have.

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Joseph is Director at  Wise Business Plans , a firm helping clients with professionally written business plans, branding, licensing and more.

To someone who’s never done it before, crafting a business plan can seem like a complicated, magical process that regular people are incapable of accomplishing. The finished product looks so complex and informative — who even knows what goes into something like that?

But, in reality, business plans are less like magic and more like baking. Gather the right ingredients, put them together in the proper order, and ta-da! The finished product is a road map for the company’s future success.

With a little help from a professional or the right recipe, even the newest small-business owner will be baking up business plans in no time.

So, what is that recipe for planning perfection? Like bread and pastry, every business plan has some flair of its own, from custom graphic design to unique financial information.

But some sections are universal and absolutely necessary if a business owner wants to be taken seriously by investors and banks.

1. An Executive Summary

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This concise, carefully written, first section of the plan offers an easy-to-follow introduction to the company, its purpose and its framework. This section sums up the information in your plan, so it can be helpful to go back and write it after the rest of the work is completed.

Pro Tip: In the opening statement, explain the business in one or two sentences. Once you have completed your business plan, write the Executive Summary last.

2. Company Overview

List the goods and services the company will provide, the market it will serve, short- and long-term goals for growth and a brief history of the company’s formation and past performance.

Pro Tip: Explain any momentum the company has made to date and future plans.

3. Products & Services

This section allows for a more complete explanation of the kinds of goods or services the business will be selling or providing. Make the descriptions compelling and engaging. 

Pro Tip: List a detailed description of your products or services and their competitive advantages over the competition.

4. Market Analysis

Use this as an opportunity to showcase the research and knowledge company leaders have to bring to the table with regard to the people and entities they hope to serve or sell to. Include information on the industry the company belongs to and the state of the competition locally, nationally and even internationally, if relevant. 

Pro Tip: Check out the census website  for statistics and demographics.

5. Marketing Strategy

How does the business intend to get the word out about what it has to offer? This section should list plans for all expected marketing channels, from traditional advertising to social media outreach efforts.

Pro Tip: The marketing budget and strategy should be a focal point of your plan. This will ultimately drive sales.

6. Organization & Management

This can be broken into separate sections, but both leadership and plans for employees must be addressed. This should include a basic visual “tree” showing the number of employees expected to be hired, as well as the reporting structure for those people. The management portion should contain an introduction to the company’s leaders and their expertise and career achievements. 

Pro Tip: Explain why you and your team are capable of executing the business goals and objectives.

7. Financials

Different kinds of plans will require slightly different financial information. However, every plan should show historical financial data, if available, and sensible projected expenditures and forecasted income. This section should also include an overview of the company’s current financial status.

Pro Tip: Every industry has a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Benchmark your company against its peers in the market.

It’s a fact that a quality business plan contains complicated information about not only the business being built but also the market and industry the company plans to compete in. Looking at a business plan as a piece-by-piece process, rather than a completed whole, can make creating your own a little less daunting. Including the seven sections listed above is a great starting point for making a plan that will impress any investor or financial institution.

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7 Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own (2024)

Need support creating your business plan? Check out these business plan examples for inspiration.

business plan examples

Any aspiring entrepreneur researching how to start a business will likely be advised to write a business plan. But few resources provide business plan examples to really guide you through writing one of your own.

Here are some real-world and illustrative business plan examples to help you craft your business plan .

7 business plan examples: section by section

The business plan examples in this article follow this template:

  • Executive summary.  An introductory overview of your business.
  • Company description.  A more in-depth and detailed description of your business and why it exists.
  • Market analysis.  Research-based information about the industry and your target market.
  • Products and services.  What you plan to offer in exchange for money.
  • Marketing plan.   The promotional strategy to introduce your business to the world and drive sales.
  • Logistics and operations plan.  Everything that happens in the background to make your business function properly.
  • Financial plan.  A breakdown of your numbers to show what you need to get started as well as to prove viability of profitability.
  • Executive summary

Your  executive summary  is a page that gives a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. It’s easiest to save this section for last.

In this  free business plan template , the executive summary is four paragraphs and takes a little over half a page:

A four-paragraph long executive summary for a business.

  • Company description

You might repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your About page, social media profile pages, or other properties that require a boilerplate description of your small business.

Soap brand ORRIS  has a blurb on its About page that could easily be repurposed for the company description section of its business plan.

A company description from the website of soap brand Orris

You can also go more in-depth with your company overview and include the following sections, like in the example for Paw Print Post:

  • Business structure.  This section outlines how you  registered your business —as an  LLC , sole proprietorship, corporation, or other  business type . “Paw Print Post will operate as a sole proprietorship run by the owner, Jane Matthews.”
  • Nature of the business.  “Paw Print Post sells unique, one-of-a-kind digitally printed cards that are customized with a pet’s unique paw prints.”
  • Industry.  “Paw Print Post operates primarily in the pet industry and sells goods that could also be categorized as part of the greeting card industry.”
  • Background information.  “Jane Matthews, the founder of Paw Print Post, has a long history in the pet industry and working with animals, and was recently trained as a graphic designer. She’s combining those two loves to capture a niche in the market: unique greeting cards customized with a pet’s paw prints, without needing to resort to the traditional (and messy) options of casting your pet’s prints in plaster or using pet-safe ink to have them stamp their ‘signature.’”
  • Business objectives.  “Jane will have Paw Print Post ready to launch at the Big Important Pet Expo in Toronto to get the word out among industry players and consumers alike. After two years in business, Jane aims to drive $150,000 in annual revenue from the sale of Paw Print Post’s signature greeting cards and have expanded into two new product categories.”
  • Team.  “Jane Matthews is the sole full-time employee of Paw Print Post but hires contractors as needed to support her workflow and fill gaps in her skill set. Notably, Paw Print Post has a standing contract for five hours a week of virtual assistant support with Virtual Assistants Pro.”

Your  mission statement  may also make an appearance here.  Passionfruit  shares its mission statement on its company website, and it would also work well in its example business plan.

A mission statement example on the website of apparel brand Passionfruit, alongside a picture of woman

  • Market analysis

The market analysis consists of research about supply and demand, your target demographics, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. You might run a SWOT analysis and include that in your business plan. 

Here’s an example  SWOT analysis  for an online tailored-shirt business:

A SWOT analysis table showing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

You’ll also want to do a  competitive analysis  as part of the market research component of your business plan. This will tell you who you’re up against and give you ideas on how to differentiate your brand. A broad competitive analysis might include:

  • Target customers
  • Unique value add  or what sets their products apart
  • Sales pitch
  • Price points  for products
  • Shipping  policy
  • Products and services

This section of your business plan describes your offerings—which products and services do you sell to your customers? Here’s an example for Paw Print Post:

An example products and services section from a business plan

  • Marketing plan

It’s always a good idea to develop a marketing plan  before you launch your business. Your marketing plan shows how you’ll get the word out about your business, and it’s an essential component of your business plan as well.

The Paw Print Post focuses on four Ps: price, product, promotion, and place. However, you can take a different approach with your marketing plan. Maybe you can pull from your existing  marketing strategy , or maybe you break it down by the different marketing channels. Whatever approach you take, your marketing plan should describe how you intend to promote your business and offerings to potential customers.

  • Logistics and operations plan

The Paw Print Post example considered suppliers, production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory.

Financial plan

The financial plan provides a breakdown of sales, revenue, profit, expenses, and other relevant financial metrics related to funding and profiting from your business.

Ecommerce brand  Nature’s Candy’s financial plan  breaks down predicted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.

A sample bar chart showing business expenses by month

It then dives deeper into the financials to include:

  • Funding needs
  • Projected profit-and-loss statement
  • Projected balance sheet
  • Projected cash-flow statement

You can use this financial plan spreadsheet to build your own financial statements, including income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement.

A sample financial plan spreadsheet

Types of business plans, and what to include for each

A one-page business plan is meant to be high level and easy to understand at a glance. You’ll want to include all of the sections, but make sure they’re truncated and summarized:

  • Executive summary: truncated
  • Market analysis: summarized
  • Products and services: summarized
  • Marketing plan: summarized
  • Logistics and operations plan: summarized
  • Financials: summarized

A startup business plan is for a new business. Typically, these plans are developed and shared to secure  outside funding . As such, there’s a bigger focus on the financials, as well as on other sections that determine viability of your business idea—market research, for example.

  • Market analysis: in-depth
  • Financials: in-depth

Your internal business plan is meant to keep your team on the same page and aligned toward the same goal.

A strategic, or growth, business plan is a bigger picture, more-long-term look at your business. As such, the forecasts tend to look further into the future, and growth and revenue goals may be higher. Essentially, you want to use all the sections you would in a normal business plan and build upon each.

  • Market analysis: comprehensive outlook
  • Products and services: for launch and expansion
  • Marketing plan: comprehensive outlook
  • Logistics and operations plan: comprehensive outlook
  • Financials: comprehensive outlook

Feasibility

Your feasibility business plan is sort of a pre-business plan—many refer to it as simply a feasibility study. This plan essentially lays the groundwork and validates that it’s worth the effort to make a full business plan for your idea. As such, it’s mostly centered around research.

Set yourself up for success as a business owner

Building a good business plan serves as a roadmap you can use for your ecommerce business at launch and as you reach each of your business goals. Business plans create accountability for entrepreneurs and synergy among teams, regardless of your  business model .

Kickstart your ecommerce business and set yourself up for success with an intentional business planning process—and with the sample business plans above to guide your own path.

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Business plan examples FAQ

How do i write a simple business plan, what is the best format to write a business plan, what are the 4 key elements of a business plan.

  • Executive summary: A concise overview of the company's mission, goals, target audience, and financial objectives.
  • Business description: A description of the company's purpose, operations, products and services, target markets, and competitive landscape.
  • Market analysis: An analysis of the industry, market trends, potential customers, and competitors.
  • Financial plan: A detailed description of the company's financial forecasts and strategies.

What are the 3 main points of a business plan?

  • Concept: Your concept should explain the purpose of your business and provide an overall summary of what you intend to accomplish.
  • Contents: Your content should include details about the products and services you provide, your target market, and your competition.
  • Cashflow: Your cash flow section should include information about your expected cash inflows and outflows, such as capital investments, operating costs, and revenue projections.

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Writing an Effective One-Page Business Plan: What You Need to Know (+ Free Template)

By Homebase Team

Person writing in a notebook

If you’ve started—or are starting—a small business, you’ve probably heard the words ‘business plan’ thrown around. That’s because a business plan is an important document with important information! Even a one-page business plan can help you address key questions early in the planning process.

That’s right—we said  one page. In many cases, there’s no need for a supermassive document that takes ages to create. In this article, we walk you through what a good business plan needs—and what a business plan one-pager should contain. 

Whether you’re writing your business plan for the first time or giving your existing plan a refresh, we’ve got your back. We’ve even got a free, downloadable business plan template to help you get started. Let’s get into it!

Why do you need a business plan?

A business plan is a blueprint for your business. It outlines everything your business needs, from goals to market to the steps you need to implement.

Business plans serve two main purposes:

  • To help you set your business up for success. As you put together your business plan, you’ll be forced to think strategically about all your business goals and activities . Are they realistic? Is something likely to go wrong? What haven’t you thought of? The goal is for you to walk away feeling confident in the future of your business.
  • To communicate the value of your business to others. It’s rare that entrepreneurs like yourself will go it 100% alone. You’ll likely work with partners, investors, or vendors to bring your small business to life. A business plan gives your collaborators confidence in you and your business and helps them support you in the best way possible.

Taking the time to create a business plan can feel like you’re wasting all-too-precious time, but it can help keep you focused and increase efficiency down the road. It’ll also help you make better business decisions off the bat so you can grow your small business quickly and wisely. 

What are the 7 main points in a business plan?

Every business plan is unique, which is part of the reason writing one can feel a tad overwhelming. You can’t just copy and paste the plan from another business—instead, you need to assess your business’s idea within its niche.

Luckily, the skeleton of every plan is usually very similar. Whether you’re creating a plan for a neighborhood daycare or that cool new bar down the street , here are a few main points to put into any comprehensive business plan.

1. Executive summary

Your executive summary is an overview of your business plan. 

Think about this section like a TL;DR or too long, don’t read . If someone wants to understand the gist of your business plan in just a few minutes, what information would they need to know?

If you find yourself just sharing your executive summary with your business’s interested parties, it may be that your business plan is too long! Consider a one-page business plan as your business’s elevator pitch, or a longer executive summary.

2. Company overview and description

In this section, you should introduce your business to the reader. By the time they finish reading this section, they should have a good idea of who you are, what you do, and what you sell—in other words, your business’s niche.

Don’t be afraid to dive into your own background and why you decided to start this business. Building a small business is personal, and your story can go a long way in giving the reader some context.

3. Market and competitive analysis

Every business needs customers. Here’s where you’ll detail who they are and the potential target market of your business, including your ideal customer.

You’ll also want to take note of potential competitors that may impact your business. These might be direct competitors, but could also be similar businesses that may compete for your customers’ time and money. For example, if you’re opening a cycling studio, you might consider any other type of fitness studio to be a competitor.

Competition isn’t a bad thing, but being aware of your competition is one way to ensure your business stands out from the crowd. 

4. Business offerings

Here’s where you’ll outline what products or services your business will offer in more detail. It doesn’t have to be a complete laundry list, but it should give readers a general idea and show a certain degree of forethought and attention to details.

For example, if you’re opening a bakery , this might be a sample of your menu. Or if you’re an HVAC repair company , you might share an overview of the services you’ll offer your customers. This section might even mention the products or services you won’t offer and why, especially if it helps clarify how your business is unique.

5. Management and operational plan

From managing employees and inventory to securing equipment and a lease, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. Every business plan should touch on how you’ll manage the day-to-day of your business.

This is also a great place to indicate key milestones and timelines so you know that you’re on track for a successful grand opening. 

6. Sales, marketing, and PR strategy

Now that you’ve got all the research and operational plans in place , it’s time to start attracting customers and securing those sales. Even with the best products or services in town, every business can use a little marketing boost. Feel free to get creative. From social media to paid ads, there are tons of ways you can spread the word about your budding business . 

7. Financial forecast and budget

No one loves to crunch financials, but when it comes to business, money talks. And a strong financial plan is key to the long-term success of your business.

This final section of your business plan should estimate the costs, revenue, and profits of your business in the short and long term. How do you plan to finance your business? What costs will you incur before opening day ? What are the ongoing costs?

Not only will this give your vendors and investors confidence in your business, but it helps you make sure that your business is profitable in the long run.

What is a one-page business plan?

A one-page business plan is essentially a condensed version of a full business plan.  

It covers all the core information about your business without overwhelming the reader with details. The goal is to summarize your business plan for yourself and potential stakeholders so they can understand your business at a glance.

Depending on your business needs, this concise document may even be all you need to get your business off the ground. Or it could serve as a stepping stone to a more robust plan in the future. 

Top benefits of a one-page business plan.

Bigger isn’t always better—and one-page business plans are here to prove it.

Here are some benefits and reasons why you might opt for a one-page business plan:

  • To kickstart your business planning: A full business plan can be incredibly daunting. A one-page business plan gives you a place to start without feeling overwhelmed with the nitty gritty. 
  • To share and distribute: Sometimes potential vendors, partners, or investors want to get more information about your business before they sign on officially. Instead of leaving them with a massive document, a one-page business plan helps you share the relevant need-to-know information easily.
  • To focus on the key details: If you’re early on in the business ideation process and want to make sure you have all the important information, a one-page business plan can help you easily validate your business plan.
  • To save time: In the long term, you may still expect to put together a full business plan at some point. However, if you’re in a time crunch, a one-page plan can help you get the important insights without the time commitment.
  • To easily edit: In an ever-changing business environment, a one-page business plan is much easier to keep updated. 

Key details to include in a one-page business plan.

Above, we outlined the key components of any business plan. The key with a one-pager is to keep it brief without losing any of those important details. 

Let’s look at the sections of a business plan one-pager and dig into how you can adapt them to cover all the details of your business—all on one page. 

Summary and overview

Start your one-page plan by sharing the name of your business, what you do, and your main value proposition.

The problem—and your solution

In a few sentences, share the problem that your business solves and how you solve it. This clarifies why your business should exist, so it’s an important section!

Depending on your business, you may also want to share a few of your team members to help readers put a face to your business. Great examples include the executive chef for a restaurant, or the lead veterinarian for your vet clinic.

Target market

Briefly describe who you expect to be a customer and their characteristics. This could be in the form of a short “ideal customer” profile.

Competitor overview

Here, you’ll touch on potential competitors and what makes your business stand out.

Business timeline

Share the key milestones for your business. For example, pitch when you’ll start marketing your business, when you’ll hire employees , and when you expect to open.

Sales and marketing plan

Here, you’ll quickly highlight the key marketing activities that you’ll use to drive new customers to your business. Try to stick to the most interesting or high-value stuff, like a website or social media .

Financial projections

Outline your expected revenue , expenses, and profits to give the reader an idea of your financial future.

Our tips for creating a one-page business plan.

If you’ve ever written something with a limited word count, you know that sometimes keeping things concise can be easier said than done.

As you get writing your one-page business plan, here are some of our top tips so you can make the most of that one page.

  • Focus on the need-to-know information.
  • Avoid fluff and keep your sentences short.
  • Link out to additional resources and material if more information is necessary.
  • Don’t be afraid to strategically incorporate visuals to emphasize the important points.
  • Feel free to up sections or have different versions of your one-page business plan based on who’s reading it. 
  • Get creative with formatting to keep information organized.

One-page business plan example.

If you’re skeptical that all that information can fit on one page—we have proof!  Here’s an example that you can use to start thinking about your business plan.

Example of business plan

Download our free one-page business plan template.

A one-page business plan is one of the most important pages you’ll write for your business. While there’s a lot to think about, it’s worth the effort to give both you and your partners peace of mind.

The good news is that we’ve done the heavy lifting for you! If the above one-pager looks good to you, we’ve pulled it together as a download for you. All that’s left for you to customize it for your unique business, fill in the sections, and get ready to launch your business.

Download your one-page business plan template PDF

As you think about starting your business, think about how you’re going to keep track of your team! Get your business on track with one app to manage everything from employee scheduling to team communication.

Get your team in sync with our easy-to-use, all-in-one employee app.

One-page business plan FAQs

Why should you create a business plan.

There are several reasons you should create a business plan, such as:

  • Improving your decision-making as you start and grow your business.
  • Setting realistic goals and timelines.
  • Attracting top-notch suppliers, investors, and even employees.
  • Keeping your business profitable and your financials in order.

What types of companies need a business plan?

From brand-new small businesses to established corporations, companies of all shapes and sizes need a business plan. It’s a key part of setting your business up for success and improving your business trajectory.

Even if you already have a business plan in place, revisiting it from time to time can help you stay on track with your goals and adapt as your business changes.

Can a business plan be one page?

Yes, in many cases a business page can be one page. The trick to creating an effective one-page business plan is making sure that you’re covering the most important pieces of information. 

Our top tips? Keep it as concise and organized as possible, so you can effectively communicate the value of your business to your audience.

Writing a one-page business plan is simple. You can create a business plan from scratch or use a free template like the one above to stay on track, but generally, the steps to writing a one-page business plan include:

  • Start with a short executive summary and value proposition to introduce your business.
  • Share the problem your business solves and your solution.
  • Give an outline of top competitors and how your business compares.
  • Create a timeline of key milestones.
  • Outline your sales and marketing plan for attracting customers.
  • Summarize your financial projections and funding plans.

Remember:  This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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Elements of a Business Plan There are seven major sections of a business plan, and each one is a complex document. Read this selection from our business plan tutorial to fully understand these components.

Now that you understand why you need a business plan and you've spent some time doing your homework gathering the information you need to create one, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get everything down on paper. The following pages will describe in detail the seven essential sections of a business plan: what you should include, what you shouldn't include, how to work the numbers and additional resources you can turn to for help. With that in mind, jump right in.

Executive Summary

Within the overall outline of the business plan, the executive summary will follow the title page. The summary should tell the reader what you want. This is very important. All too often, what the business owner desires is buried on page eight. Clearly state what you're asking for in the summary.

The statement should be kept short and businesslike, probably no more than half a page. It could be longer, depending on how complicated the use of funds may be, but the summary of a business plan, like the summary of a loan application, is generally no longer than one page. Within that space, you'll need to provide a synopsis of your entire business plan. Key elements that should be included are:

  • Business concept. Describes the business, its product and the market it will serve. It should point out just exactly what will be sold, to whom and why the business will hold a competitive advantage.
  • Financial features. Highlights the important financial points of the business including sales, profits, cash flows and return on investment.
  • Financial requirements. Clearly states the capital needed to start the business and to expand. It should detail how the capital will be used, and the equity, if any, that will be provided for funding. If the loan for initial capital will be based on security instead of equity, you should also specify the source of collateral.
  • Current business position. Furnishes relevant information about the company, its legal form of operation, when it was formed, the principal owners and key personnel.
  • Major achievements. Details any developments within the company that are essential to the success of the business. Major achievements include items like patents, prototypes, location of a facility, any crucial contracts that need to be in place for product development, or results from any test marketing that has been conducted.

When writing your statement of purpose, don't waste words. If the statement of purpose is eight pages, nobody's going to read it because it'll be very clear that the business, no matter what its merits, won't be a good investment because the principals are indecisive and don't really know what they want. Make it easy for the reader to realize at first glance both your needs and capabilities.

Business Description

Tell them all about it.

The business description usually begins with a short description of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss the present outlook as well as future possibilities. You should also provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including any new products or developments that will benefit or adversely affect your business. Base all of your observations on reliable data and be sure to footnote sources of information as appropriate. This is important if you're seeking funding; the investor will want to know just how dependable your information is, and won't risk money on assumptions or conjecture.

When describing your business, the first thing you need to concentrate on is its structure. By structure we mean the type of operation, i.e. wholesale, retail, food service, manufacturing or service-oriented. Also state whether the business is new or already established.

In addition to structure, legal form should be reiterated once again. Detail whether the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, who its principals are, and what they will bring to the business.

You should also mention who you will sell to, how the product will be distributed, and the business's support systems. Support may come in the form of advertising, promotions and customer service.

Once you've described the business, you need to describe the products or services you intend to market. The product description statement should be complete enough to give the reader a clear idea of your intentions. You may want to emphasize any unique features or variations from concepts that can typically be found in the industry.

Be specific in showing how you will give your business a competitive edge. For example, your business will be better because you will supply a full line of products; competitor A doesn't have a full line. You're going to provide service after the sale; competitor B doesn't support anything he sells. Your merchandise will be of higher quality. You'll give a money-back guarantee. Competitor C has the reputation for selling the best French fries in town; you're going to sell the best Thousand Island dressing.

How Will I Profit?

Now you must be a classic capitalist and ask yourself, "How can I turn a buck? And why do I think I can make a profit that way?" Answer that question for yourself, and then convey that answer to others in the business concept section. You don't have to write 25 pages on why your business will be profitable. Just explain the factors you think will make it successful, like the following: it's a well-organized business, it will have state-of-the-art equipment, its location is exceptional, the market is ready for it, and it's a dynamite product at a fair price.

If you're using your business plan as a document for financial purposes, explain why the added equity or debt money is going to make your business more profitable.

Show how you will expand your business or be able to create something by using that money.

Show why your business is going to be profitable. A potential lender is going to want to know how successful you're going to be in this particular business. Factors that support your claims for success can be mentioned briefly; they will be detailed later. Give the reader an idea of the experience of the other key people in the business. They'll want to know what suppliers or experts you've spoken to about your business and their response to your idea. They may even ask you to clarify your choice of location or reasons for selling this particular product.

The business description can be a few paragraphs in length to a few pages, depending on the complexity of your plan. If your plan isn't too complicated, keep your business description short, describing the industry in one paragraph, the product in another, and the business and its success factors in three or four paragraphs that will end the statement.

While you may need to have a lengthy business description in some cases, it's our opinion that a short statement conveys the required information in a much more effective manner. It doesn't attempt to hold the reader's attention for an extended period of time, and this is important if you're presenting to a potential investor who will have other plans he or she will need to read as well. If the business description is long and drawn-out, you'll lose the reader's attention, and possibly any chance of receiving the necessary funding for the project.

Market Strategies

Define your market.

Market strategies are the result of a meticulous market analysis. A market analysis forces the entrepreneur to become familiar with all aspects of the market so that the target market can be defined and the company can be positioned in order to garner its share of sales. A market analysis also enables the entrepreneur to establish pricing, distribution and promotional strategies that will allow the company to become profitable within a competitive environment. In addition, it provides an indication of the growth potential within the industry, and this will allow you to develop your own estimates for the future of your business.

Begin your market analysis by defining the market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales potential.

The total aggregate sales of your competitors will provide you with a fairly accurate estimate of the total potential market. Once the size of the market has been determined, the next step is to define the target market. The target market narrows down the total market by concentrating on segmentation factors that will determine the total addressable market--the total number of users within the sphere of the business's influence. The segmentation factors can be geographic, customer attributes or product-oriented.

For instance, if the distribution of your product is confined to a specific geographic area, then you want to further define the target market to reflect the number of users or sales of that product within that geographic segment.

Once the target market has been detailed, it needs to be further defined to determine the total feasible market. This can be done in several ways, but most professional planners will delineate the feasible market by concentrating on product segmentation factors that may produce gaps within the market. In the case of a microbrewery that plans to brew a premium lager beer, the total feasible market could be defined by determining how many drinkers of premium pilsner beers there are in the target market.

It's important to understand that the total feasible market is the portion of the market that can be captured provided every condition within the environment is perfect and there is very little competition. In most industries this is simply not the case. There are other factors that will affect the share of the feasible market a business can reasonably obtain. These factors are usually tied to the structure of the industry, the impact of competition, strategies for market penetration and continued growth, and the amount of capital the business is willing to spend in order to increase its market share.

Projecting Market Share

Arriving at a projection of the market share for a business plan is very much a subjective estimate. It's based on not only an analysis of the market but on highly targeted and competitive distribution, pricing and promotional strategies. For instance, even though there may be a sizable number of premium pilsner drinkers to form the total feasible market, you need to be able to reach them through your distribution network at a price point that's competitive, and then you have to let them know it's available and where they can buy it. How effectively you can achieve your distribution, pricing and promotional goals determines the extent to which you will be able to garner market share.

For a business plan, you must be able to estimate market share for the time period the plan will cover. In order to project market share over the time frame of the business plan, you'll need to consider two factors:

  • Industry growth which will increase the total number of users. Most projections utilize a minimum of two growth models by defining different industry sales scenarios. The industry sales scenarios should be based on leading indicators of industry sales, which will most likely include industry sales, industry segment sales, demographic data and historical precedence.
  • Conversion of users from the total feasible market. This is based on a sales cycle similar to a product life cycle where you have five distinct stages: early pioneer users, early users, early majority users, late majority users and late users. Using conversion rates, market growth will continue to increase your market share during the period from early pioneers to early majority users, level off through late majority users, and decline with late users.

Defining the market is but one step in your analysis. With the information you've gained through market research, you need to develop strategies that will allow you to fulfill your objectives.

Positioning Your Business

When discussing market strategy, it's inevitable that positioning will be brought up. A company's positioning strategy is affected by a number of variables that are closely tied to the motivations and requirements of target customers within as well as the actions of primary competitors.

Before a product can be positioned, you need to answer several strategic questions such as:

  • How are your competitors positioning themselves?
  • What specific attributes does your product have that your competitors' don't?
  • What customer needs does your product fulfill?

Once you've answered your strategic questions based on research of the market, you can then begin to develop your positioning strategy and illustrate that in your business plan. A positioning statement for a business plan doesn't have to be long or elaborate. It should merely point out exactly how you want your product perceived by both customers and the competition.

How you price your product is important because it will have a direct effect on the success of your business. Though pricing strategy and computations can be complex, the basic rules of pricing are straightforward:

  • All prices must cover costs.
  • The best and most effective way of lowering your sales prices is to lower costs.
  • Your prices must reflect the dynamics of cost, demand, changes in the market and response to your competition.
  • Prices must be established to assure sales. Don't price against a competitive operation alone. Rather, price to sell.
  • Product utility, longevity, maintenance and end use must be judged continually, and target prices adjusted accordingly.
  • Prices must be set to preserve order in the marketplace.

There are many methods of establishing prices available to you:

  • Cost-plus pricing. Used mainly by manufacturers, cost-plus pricing assures that all costs, both fixed and variable, are covered and the desired profit percentage is attained.
  • Demand pricing. Used by companies that sell their product through a variety of sources at differing prices based on demand.
  • Competitive pricing. Used by companies that are entering a market where there is already an established price and it is difficult to differentiate one product from another.
  • Markup pricing. Used mainly by retailers, markup pricing is calculated by adding your desired profit to the cost of the product. Each method listed above has its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Distribution

Distribution includes the entire process of moving the product from the factory to the end user. The type of distribution network you choose will depend upon the industry and the size of the market. A good way to make your decision is to analyze your competitors to determine the channels they are using, then decide whether to use the same type of channel or an alternative that may provide you with a strategic advantage.

Some of the more common distribution channels include:

  • Direct sales. The most effective distribution channel is to sell directly to the end-user.
  • OEM (original equipment manufacturer) sales. When your product is sold to the OEM, it is incorporated into their finished product and it is distributed to the end user.
  • Manufacturer's representatives. One of the best ways to distribute a product, manufacturer's reps, as they are known, are salespeople who operate out of agencies that handle an assortment of complementary products and divide their selling time among them.
  • Wholesale distributors. Using this channel, a manufacturer sells to a wholesaler, who in turn sells it to a retailer or other agent for further distribution through the channel until it reaches the end user.
  • Brokers. Third-party distributors who often buy directly from the distributor or wholesaler and sell to retailers or end users.
  • Retail distributors. Distributing a product through this channel is important if the end user of your product is the general consuming public.
  • Direct Mail. Selling to the end user using a direct mail campaign.

As we've mentioned already, the distribution strategy you choose for your product will be based on several factors that include the channels being used by your competition, your pricing strategy and your own internal resources.

Promotion Plan

With a distribution strategy formed, you must develop a promotion plan. The promotion strategy in its most basic form is the controlled distribution of communication designed to sell your product or service. In order to accomplish this, the promotion strategy encompasses every marketing tool utilized in the communication effort. This includes:

  • Advertising. Includes the advertising budget, creative message(s), and at least the first quarter's media schedule.
  • Packaging. Provides a description of the packaging strategy. If available, mockups of any labels, trademarks or service marks should be included.
  • Public relations. A complete account of the publicity strategy including a list of media that will be approached as well as a schedule of planned events.
  • Sales promotions. Establishes the strategies used to support the sales message. This includes a description of collateral marketing material as well as a schedule of planned promotional activities such as special sales, coupons, contests and premium awards.
  • Personal sales. An outline of the sales strategy including pricing procedures, returns and adjustment rules, sales presentation methods, lead generation, customer service policies, salesperson compensation, and salesperson market responsibilities.

Sales Potential

Once the market has been researched and analyzed, conclusions need to be developed that will supply a quantitative outlook concerning the potential of the business. The first financial projection within the business plan must be formed utilizing the information drawn from defining the market, positioning the product, pricing, distribution, and strategies for sales. The sales or revenue model charts the potential for the product, as well as the business, over a set period of time. Most business plans will project revenue for up to three years, although five-year projections are becoming increasingly popular among lenders.

When developing the revenue model for the business plan, the equation used to project sales is fairly simple. It consists of the total number of customers and the average revenue from each customer. In the equation, "T" represents the total number of people, "A" represents the average revenue per customer, and "S" represents the sales projection. The equation for projecting sales is: (T)(A) = S

Using this equation, the annual sales for each year projected within the business plan can be developed. Of course, there are other factors that you'll need to evaluate from the revenue model. Since the revenue model is a table illustrating the source for all income, every segment of the target market that is treated differently must be accounted for. In order to determine any differences, the various strategies utilized in order to sell the product have to be considered. As we've already mentioned, those strategies include distribution, pricing and promotion.

Competitive Analysis

Identify and analyze your competition.

The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy and how it relates to the competition. The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle.

The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify the current and potential competition. There are essentially two ways you can identify competitors. The first is to look at the market from the customer's viewpoint and group all your competitors by the degree to which they contend for the buyer's dollar. The second method is to group competitors according to their various competitive strategies so you understand what motivates them.

Once you've grouped your competitors, you can start to analyze their strategies and identify the areas where they're most vulnerable. This can be done through an examination of your competitors' weaknesses and strengths. A competitor's strengths and weaknesses are usually based on the presence and absence of key assets and skills needed to compete in the market.

To determine just what constitutes a key asset or skill within an industry, David A. Aaker in his book, Developing Business Strategies , suggests concentrating your efforts in four areas:

  • The reasons behind successful as well as unsuccessful firms
  • Prime customer motivators
  • Major component costs
  • Industry mobility barriers

According to theory, the performance of a company within a market is directly related to the possession of key assets and skills. Therefore, an analysis of strong performers should reveal the causes behind such a successful track record. This analysis, in conjunction with an examination of unsuccessful companies and the reasons behind their failure, should provide a good idea of just what key assets and skills are needed to be successful within a given industry and market segment.

Through your competitor analysis, you will also have to create a marketing strategy that will generate an asset or skill competitors don't have, which will provide you with a distinct and enduring competitive advantage. Since competitive advantages are developed from key assets and skills, you should sit down and put together a competitive strength grid. This is a scale that lists all your major competitors or strategic groups based upon their applicable assets and skills and how your own company fits on this scale.

Create a Competitive Strength Grid

To put together a competitive strength grid, list all the key assets and skills down the left margin of a piece of paper. Along the top, write down two column headers: "weakness" and "strength." In each asset or skill category, place all the competitors that have weaknesses in that particular category under the weakness column, and all those that have strengths in that specific category in the strength column. After you've finished, you'll be able to determine just where you stand in relation to the other firms competing in your industry.

Once you've established the key assets and skills necessary to succeed in this business and have defined your distinct competitive advantage, you need to communicate them in a strategic form that will attract market share as well as defend it. Competitive strategies usually fall into these five areas:

  • Advertising

Many of the factors leading to the formation of a strategy should already have been highlighted in previous sections, specifically in marketing strategies. Strategies primarily revolve around establishing the point of entry in the product life cycle and an endurable competitive advantage. As we've already discussed, this involves defining the elements that will set your product or service apart from your competitors or strategic groups. You need to establish this competitive advantage clearly so the reader understands not only how you will accomplish your goals, but also why your strategy will work.

Design and Development Plan

What you'll cover in this section.

The purpose of the design and development plan section is to provide investors with a description of the product's design, chart its development within the context of production, marketing and the company itself, and create a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals.

There are generally three areas you'll cover in the development plan section:

  • Product development
  • Market development
  • Organizational development

Each of these elements needs to be examined from the funding of the plan to the point where the business begins to experience a continuous income. Although these elements will differ in nature concerning their content, each will be based on structure and goals.

The first step in the development process is setting goals for the overall development plan. From your analysis of the market and competition, most of the product, market and organizational development goals will be readily apparent. Each goal you define should have certain characteristics. Your goals should be quantifiable in order to set up time lines, directed so they relate to the success of the business, consequential so they have impact upon the company, and feasible so that they aren't beyond the bounds of actual completion.

Goals For Product Development

Goals for product development should center on the technical as well as the marketing aspects of the product so that you have a focused outline from which the development team can work. For example, a goal for product development of a microbrewed beer might be "Produce recipe for premium lager beer" or "Create packaging for premium lager beer." In terms of market development, a goal might be, "Develop collateral marketing material." Organizational goals would center on the acquisition of expertise in order to attain your product and market-development goals. This expertise usually needs to be present in areas of key assets that provide a competitive advantage. Without the necessary expertise, the chances of bringing a product successfully to market diminish.

With your goals set and expertise in place, you need to form a set of procedural tasks or work assignments for each area of the development plan. Procedures will have to be developed for product development, market development, and organization development. In some cases, product and organization can be combined if the list of procedures is short enough.

Procedures should include how resources will be allocated, who is in charge of accomplishing each goal, and how everything will interact. For example, to produce a recipe for a premium lager beer, you would need to do the following:

  • Gather ingredients.
  • Determine optimum malting process.
  • Gauge mashing temperature.
  • Boil wort and evaluate which hops provide the best flavor.
  • Determine yeast amounts and fermentation period.
  • Determine aging period.
  • Carbonate the beer.
  • Decide whether or not to pasteurize the beer.

The development of procedures provides a list of work assignments that need to be accomplished, but one thing it doesn't provide are the stages of development that coordinate the work assignments within the overall development plan. To do this, you first need to amend the work assignments created in the procedures section so that all the individual work elements are accounted for in the development plan. The next stage involves setting deliverable dates for components as well as the finished product for testing purposes. There are primarily three steps you need to go through before the product is ready for final delivery:

  • Preliminary product review . All the product's features and specifications are checked.
  • Critical product review . All the key elements of the product are checked and gauged against the development schedule to make sure everything is going according to plan.
  • Final product review . All elements of the product are checked against goals to assure the integrity of the prototype.

Scheduling and Costs

This is one of the most important elements in the development plan. Scheduling includes all of the key work elements as well as the stages the product must pass through before customer delivery. It should also be tied to the development budget so that expenses can be tracked. But its main purpose is to establish time frames for completion of all work assignments and juxtapose them within the stages through which the product must pass. When producing the schedule, provide a column for each procedural task, how long it takes, start date and stop date. If you want to provide a number for each task, include a column in the schedule for the task number.

Development Budget

That leads us into a discussion of the development budget. When forming your development budget, you need to take into account all the expenses required to design the product and to take it from prototype to production.

Costs that should be included in the development budget include:

  • Material . All raw materials used in the development of the product.
  • Direct labor . All labor costs associated with the development of the product.
  • Overhead . All overhead expenses required to operate the business during the development phase such as taxes, rent, phone, utilities, office supplies, etc.
  • G&A costs . The salaries of executive and administrative personnel along with any other office support functions.
  • Marketing & sales . The salaries of marketing personnel required to develop pre-promotional materials and plan the marketing campaign that should begin prior to delivery of the product.
  • Professional services . Those costs associated with the consultation of outside experts such as accountants, lawyers, and business consultants.
  • Miscellaneous Costs . Costs that are related to product development.
  • Capital equipment . To determine the capital requirements for the development budget, you first have to establish what type of equipment you will need, whether you will acquire the equipment or use outside contractors, and finally, if you decide to acquire the equipment, whether you will lease or purchase it.

As we mentioned already, the company has to have the proper expertise in key areas to succeed; however, not every company will start a business with the expertise required in every key area. Therefore, the proper personnel have to be recruited, integrated into the development process, and managed so that everyone forms a team focused on the achievement of the development goals.

Before you begin recruiting, however, you should determine which areas within the development process will require the addition of personnel. This can be done by reviewing the goals of your development plan to establish key areas that need attention. After you have an idea of the positions that need to be filled, you should produce a job description and job specification.

Once you've hired the proper personnel, you need to integrate them into the development process by assigning tasks from the work assignments you've developed. Finally, the whole team needs to know what their role is within the company and how each interrelates with every position within the development team. In order to do this, you should develop an organizational chart for your development team.

Assessing Risks

Finally, the risks involved in developing the product should be assessed and a plan developed to address each one. The risks during the development stage will usually center on technical development of the product, marketing, personnel requirements, and financial problems. By identifying and addressing each of the perceived risks during the development period, you will allay some of your major fears concerning the project and those of investors as well.

Operations & Management

The operations and management plan is designed to describe just how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan will highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business. In fact, within the operations plan you'll develop the next set of financial tables that will supply the foundation for the "Financial Components" section.

The financial tables that you'll develop within the operations plan include:

  • The operating expense table
  • The capital requirements table
  • The cost of goods table

There are two areas that need to be accounted for when planning the operations of your company. The first area is the organizational structure of the company, and the second is the expense and capital requirements associated with its operation.

Organizational Structure

The organizational structure of the company is an essential element within a business plan because it provides a basis from which to project operating expenses. This is critical to the formation of financial statements, which are heavily scrutinized by investors; therefore, the organizational structure has to be well-defined and based within a realistic framework given the parameters of the business.

Although every company will differ in its organizational structure, most can be divided into several broad areas that include:

  • Marketing and sales (includes customer relations and service)
  • Production (including quality assurance)
  • Research and development
  • Administration

These are very broad classifications and it's important to keep in mind that not every business can be divided in this manner. In fact, every business is different, and each one must be structured according to its own requirements and goals.

The four stages for organizing a business are:

Calculate Your Personnel Numbers

Once you've structured your business, however, you need to consider your overall goals and the number of personnel required to reach those goals. In order to determine the number of employees you'll need to meet the goals you've set for your business, you'll need to apply the following equation to each department listed in your organizational structure: C / S = P

In this equation, C represents the total number of customers, S represents the total number of customers that can be served by each employee, and P represents the personnel requirements. For instance, if the number of customers for first year sales is projected at 10,110 and one marketing employee is required for every 200 customers, you would need 51 employees within the marketing department: 10,110 / 200 = 51

Once you calculate the number of employees that you'll need for your organization, you'll need to determine the labor expense. The factors that need to be considered when calculating labor expense (LE) are the personnel requirements (P) for each department multiplied by the employee salary level (SL). Therefore, the equation would be: P * SL = LE

Using the marketing example from above, the labor expense for that department would be: 51 * $40,000 = $2,040,000

Calculate Overhead Expenses

Once the organization's operations have been planned, the expenses associated with the operation of the business can be developed. These are usually referred to as overhead expenses. Overhead expenses refer to all non-labor expenses required to operate the business. Expenses can be divided into fixed (those that must be paid, usually at the same rate, regardless of the volume of business) and variable or semivariable (those which change according to the amount of business).

Overhead expenses usually include the following:

  • Maintenance and repair
  • Equipment leases
  • Advertising & promotion
  • Packaging & shipping
  • Payroll taxes and benefits
  • Uncollectible receivables
  • Professional services
  • Loan payments
  • Depreciation

In order to develop the overhead expenses for the expense table used in this portion of the business plan, you need to multiply the number of employees by the expenses associated with each employee. Therefore, if NE represents the number of employees and EE is the expense per employee, the following equation can be used to calculate the sum of each overhead (OH) expense: OH = NE * EE

Develop a Capital Requirements Table

In addition to the expense table, you'll also need to develop a capital requirements table that depicts the amount of money necessary to purchase the equipment you'll use to establish and continue operations. It also illustrates the amount of depreciation your company will incur based on all equipment elements purchased with a lifetime of more than one year.

In order to generate the capital requirements table, you first have to establish the various elements within the business that will require capital investment. For service businesses, capital is usually tied to the various pieces of equipment used to service customers.

Capital for manufacturing companies, on the other hand, is based on the equipment required in order to produce the product. Manufacturing equipment usually falls into three categories: testing equipment, assembly equipment and packaging equipment.

With these capital elements in mind, you need to determine the number of units or customers, in terms of sales, that each equipment item can adequately handle. This is important because capital requirements are a product of income, which is produced through unit sales. In order to meet sales projections, a business usually has to invest money to increase production or supply better service. In the business plan, capital requirements are tied to projected sales as illustrated in the revenue model shown earlier in this chapter.

For instance, if the capital equipment required is capable of handling the needs of 10,000 customers at an average sale of $10 each, that would be $100,000 in sales, at which point additional capital will be required in order to purchase more equipment should the company grow beyond this point. This leads us to another factor within the capital requirements equation, and that is equipment cost.

If you multiply the cost of equipment by the number of customers it can support in terms of sales, it would result in the capital requirements for that particular equipment element. Therefore, you can use an equation in which capital requirements (CR) equals sales (S) divided by number of customers (NC) supported by each equipment element, multiplied by the average sale (AS), which is then multiplied by the capital cost (CC) of the equipment element. Given these parameters, your equation would look like the following: CR = [(S / NC) * AS] * CC

The capital requirements table is formed by adding all your equipment elements to generate the total new capital for that year. During the first year, total new capital is also the total capital required. For each successive year thereafter, total capital (TC) required is the sum of total new capital (NC) plus total capital (PC) from the previous year, less depreciation (D), once again, from the previous year. Therefore, your equation to arrive at total capital for each year portrayed in the capital requirements model would be: TC = NC + PC - D

Keep in mind that depreciation is an expense that shows the decrease in value of the equipment throughout its effective lifetime. For many businesses, depreciation is based upon schedules that are tied to the lifetime of the equipment. Be careful when choosing the schedule that best fits your business. Depreciation is also the basis for a tax deduction as well as the flow of money for new capital. You may need to seek consultation from an expert in this area.

Create a Cost of Goods Table

The last table that needs to be generated in the operations and management section of your business plan is the cost of goods table. This table is used only for businesses where the product is placed into inventory. For a retail or wholesale business, cost of goods sold --or cost of sales --refers to the purchase of products for resale, i.e. the inventory. The products that are sold are logged into cost of goods as an expense of the sale, while those that aren't sold remain in inventory.

For a manufacturing firm, cost of goods is the cost incurred by the company to manufacture its product. This usually consists of three elements:

As in retail, the merchandise that is sold is expensed as a cost of goods , while merchandise that isn't sold is placed in inventory. Cost of goods has to be accounted for in the operations of a business. It is an important yardstick for measuring the firm's profitability for the cash-flow statement and income statement.

In the income statement, the last stage of the manufacturing process is the item expensed as cost of goods, but it is important to document the inventory still in various stages of the manufacturing process because it represents assets to the company. This is important to determining cash flow and to generating the balance sheet.

That is what the cost of goods table does. It's one of the most complicated tables you'll have to develop for your business plan, but it's an integral part of portraying the flow of inventory through your operations, the placement of assets within the company, and the rate at which your inventory turns.

In order to generate the cost of goods table, you need a little more information in addition to what your labor and material cost is per unit. You also need to know the total number of units sold for the year, the percentage of units which will be fully assembled, the percentage which will be partially assembled, and the percentage which will be in unassembled inventory. Much of these figures will depend on the capacity of your equipment as well as on the inventory control system you develop. Along with these factors, you also need to know at what stage the majority of the labor is performed.

Financial Components

Financial statements to include.

Financial data is always at the back of the business plan, but that doesn't mean it's any less important than up-front material such as the business concept and the management team. Astute investors look carefully at the charts, tables, formulas and spreadsheets in the financial section, because they know that this information is like the pulse, respiration rate and blood pressure in a human--it shows whether the patient is alive and what the odds are for continued survival.

Financial statements, like bad news, come in threes. The news in financial statements isn't always bad, of course, but taken together it provides an accurate picture of a company's current value, plus its ability to pay its bills today and earn a profit going forward.

The three common statements are a cash flow statement, an income statement and a balance sheet. Most entrepreneurs should provide them and leave it at that. But not all do. But this is a case of the more, the less merry. As a rule, stick with the big three: income, balance sheet and cash flow statements.

These three statements are interlinked, with changes in one necessarily altering the others, but they measure quite different aspects of a company's financial health. It's hard to say that one of these is more important than another. But of the three, the income statement may be the best place to start.

Income Statement

The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on the proposed business's cash-generating ability. It's a score card on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models developed earlier such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation), and cost of goods. By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result--which is either a profit or a loss.

For a business plan, the income statement should be generated on a monthly basis during the first year, quarterly for the second, and annually for each year thereafter. It's formed by listing your financial projections in the following manner:

  • Income . Includes all the income generated by the business and its sources.
  • Cost of goods . Includes all the costs related to the sale of products in inventory.
  • Gross profit margin . The difference between revenue and cost of goods. Gross profit margin can be expressed in dollars, as a percentage, or both. As a percentage, the GP margin is always stated as a percentage of revenue.
  • Operating expenses . Includes all overhead and labor expenses associated with the operations of the business.
  • Total expenses . The sum of all overhead and labor expenses required to operate the business.
  • Net profit . The difference between gross profit margin and total expenses, the net income depicts the business's debt and capital capabilities.
  • Depreciation . Reflects the decrease in value of capital assets used to generate income. Also used as the basis for a tax deduction and an indicator of the flow of money into new capital.
  • Net profit before interest . The difference between net profit and depreciation.
  • Interest . Includes all interest derived from debts, both short-term and long-term. Interest is determined by the amount of investment within the company.
  • Net profit before taxes . The difference between net profit before interest and interest.
  • Taxes . Includes all taxes on the business.
  • Profit after taxes . The difference between net profit before taxes and the taxes accrued. Profit after taxes is the bottom line for any company.

Following the income statement is a short note analyzing the statement. The analysis statement should be very short, emphasizing key points within the income statement.

Cash Flow Statement

The cash-flow statement is one of the most critical information tools for your business, showing how much cash will be needed to meet obligations, when it is going to be required, and from where it will come. It shows a schedule of the money coming into the business and expenses that need to be paid. The result is the profit or loss at the end of the month or year. In a cash-flow statement, both profits and losses are carried over to the next column to show the cumulative amount. Keep in mind that if you run a loss on your cash-flow statement, it is a strong indicator that you will need additional cash in order to meet expenses.

Like the income statement, the cash-flow statement takes advantage of previous financial tables developed during the course of the business plan. The cash-flow statement begins with cash on hand and the revenue sources. The next item it lists is expenses, including those accumulated during the manufacture of a product. The capital requirements are then logged as a negative after expenses. The cash-flow statement ends with the net cash flow.

The cash-flow statement should be prepared on a monthly basis during the first year, on a quarterly basis during the second year, and on an annual basis thereafter. Items that you'll need to include in the cash-flow statement and the order in which they should appear are as follows:

  • Cash sales . Income derived from sales paid for by cash.
  • Receivables . Income derived from the collection of receivables.
  • Other income . Income derived from investments, interest on loans that have been extended, and the liquidation of any assets.
  • Total income . The sum of total cash, cash sales, receivables, and other income.
  • Material/merchandise . The raw material used in the manufacture of a product (for manufacturing operations only), the cash outlay for merchandise inventory (for merchandisers such as wholesalers and retailers), or the supplies used in the performance of a service.
  • Production labor . The labor required to manufacture a product (for manufacturing operations only) or to perform a service.
  • Overhead . All fixed and variable expenses required for the production of the product and the operations of the business.
  • Marketing/sales . All salaries, commissions, and other direct costs associated with the marketing and sales departments.
  • R&D . All the labor expenses required to support the research and development operations of the business.
  • G&A . All the labor expenses required to support the administrative functions of the business.
  • Taxes . All taxes, except payroll, paid to the appropriate government institutions.
  • Capital . The capital required to obtain any equipment elements that are needed for the generation of income.
  • Loan payment . The total of all payments made to reduce any long-term debts.
  • Total expenses . The sum of material, direct labor, overhead expenses, marketing, sales, G&A, taxes, capital and loan payments.
  • Cash flow . The difference between total income and total expenses. This amount is carried over to the next period as beginning cash.
  • Cumulative cash flow . The difference between current cash flow and cash flow from the previous period.

As with the income statement, you will need to analyze the cash-flow statement in a short summary in the business plan. Once again, the analysis statement doesn't have to be long and should cover only key points derived from the cash-flow statement.

The Balance Sheet

The last financial statement you'll need to develop is the balance sheet. Like the income and cash-flow statements, the balance sheet uses information from all of the financial models developed in earlier sections of the business plan; however, unlike the previous statements, the balance sheet is generated solely on an annual basis for the business plan and is, more or less, a summary of all the preceding financial information broken down into three areas:

To obtain financing for a new business, you may need to provide a projection of the balance sheet over the period of time the business plan covers. More importantly, you'll need to include a personal financial statement or balance sheet instead of one that describes the business. A personal balance sheet is generated in the same manner as one for a business.

As mentioned, the balance sheet is divided into three sections. The top portion of the balance sheet lists your company's assets. Assets are classified as current assets and long-term or fixed assets. Current assets are assets that will be converted to cash or will be used by the business in a year or less. Current assets include:

  • Cash . The cash on hand at the time books are closed at the end of the fiscal year.
  • Accounts receivable . The income derived from credit accounts. For the balance sheet, it's the total amount of income to be received that is logged into the books at the close of the fiscal year.
  • Inventory . This is derived from the cost of goods table. It's the inventory of material used to manufacture a product not yet sold.
  • Total current assets . The sum of cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and supplies.

Other assets that appear in the balance sheet are called long-term or fixed assets. They are called long-term because they are durable and will last more than one year. Examples of this type of asset include:

  • Capital and plant . The book value of all capital equipment and property (if you own the land and building), less depreciation.
  • Investment . All investments by the company that cannot be converted to cash in less than one year. For the most part, companies just starting out have not accumulated long-term investments.
  • Miscellaneous assets . All other long-term assets that are not "capital and plant" or "investments."
  • Total long-term assets . The sum of capital and plant, investments, and miscellaneous assets.
  • Total assets . The sum of total current assets and total long-term assets.

After the assets are listed, you need to account for the liabilities of your business. Like assets, liabilities are classified as current or long-term. If the debts are due in one year or less, they are classified as a current liabilities. If they are due in more than one year, they are long-term liabilities. Examples of current liabilities are as follows:

  • Accounts payable . All expenses derived from purchasing items from regular creditors on an open account, which are due and payable.
  • Accrued liabilities . All expenses incurred by the business which are required for operation but have not been paid at the time the books are closed. These expenses are usually the company's overhead and salaries.
  • Taxes . These are taxes that are still due and payable at the time the books are closed.
  • Total current liabilities . The sum of accounts payable, accrued liabilities, and taxes.

Long-term liabilities include:

  • Bonds payable . The total of all bonds at the end of the year that are due and payable over a period exceeding one year.
  • Mortgage payable . Loans taken out for the purchase of real property that are repaid over a long-term period. The mortgage payable is that amount still due at the close of books for the year.
  • Notes payable . The amount still owed on any long-term debts that will not be repaid during the current fiscal year.
  • Total long-term liabilities . The sum of bonds payable, mortgage payable, and notes payable.
  • Total liabilities . The sum of total current and long-term liabilities.

Once the liabilities have been listed, the final portion of the balance sheet-owner's equity-needs to be calculated. The amount attributed to owner's equity is the difference between total assets and total liabilities. The amount of equity the owner has in the business is an important yardstick used by investors when evaluating the company. Many times it determines the amount of capital they feel they can safely invest in the business.

In the business plan, you'll need to create an analysis statement for the balance sheet just as you need to do for the income and cash flow statements. The analysis of the balance sheet should be kept short and cover key points about the company.

Source: The Small Business Encyclopedia , Business Plans Made Easy, Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine.

Business Plan Guide

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Money blog: Energy bills 'to rise 10% in October' as wholesale costs head up again

Welcome to the Money blog, your place for personal finance and consumer news and tips. Enjoy our Weekend Money content below and we'll be back with live updates on Monday - when we'll also have a Q&A on energy prices. Submit a question below.

Sunday 30 June 2024 09:34, UK

Weekend Money

  • Winter energy bills projected to rise for millions of households - submit a question for Q&A on Monday above
  • How to split housework fairly with your partner
  • Ofgem urged not to lift ban on acquisition-only energy tariffs
  • Your comments : Paying off a mortgage into retirement and new cars turning faulty

Essential reads

  • A week when probable future of mortgage rates became clearer
  • Women in Business : How accident in cafe and £400 turned into a genius business idea that's about to go global
  • Money Problem : 'I bought a new car but it's been back six times with same fault - what can I do?'
  • How to stop your car from being stolen - or even 'cannibalised'
  • Best of the Money blog - an archive

Ask a question or make a comment

Winter energy bills are projected to rise significantly due to an uptick in the wholesale market, according to a closely watched forecast.

Market specialist Cornwall Insight released an updated winter forecast ahead of the latest price cap change kicking in on Monday.

Britons who pay by direct debit will see their typical annual bill for gas and electricity go down 7%, or £122, to £1,568 this week until 1 October.

However, a 10% rise is then expected, taking the annual bill for a typical household back up to £1,763, Cornwall predicts.

This is actually slightly lower than its previous forecast - but still represents bad news for Britons who may have thought energy bills were on a linear path down following two years of sky-high prices.

"The drop in forecasts for October are positive, but we need to keep this in perspective," the Cornwall report says.

"We are still facing an average 10% increase in bills from October, and as winter approaches this will put a strain on many household finances."

We'll have experts from Cornwall Insights and consumer group Which? answering your energy-related questions here in the Money blog on Monday afternoon - so whether it's about why bills could rise again or if now is a good time to switch, submit your query above.

By Jess Sharp , Money team

Splitting up household jobs, whether that be cleaning, washing or life admin, is an issue that affects a lot of couples. 

Starling Bank found women do a total of 36 hours of household tasks and admin per week - equivalent to a full-time job. 

This is nine hours more than men - and yet men believe they do the majority in their household. The average man estimates they do 52% of work overall.

It's the discrepancy between perception and reality (and, of course, this can work both ways) that leads to arguments.

Couples who don't divide the housework equally have roughly five arguments about housework each month - rising to eight for couples who rely on just one person for the work.

We spoke to relationship expert Hayley Quinn about the best ways to split household work - and how to deal with arguments should they arise with your partner. 

She explained that it's necessary to be "transparent" when deciding how to split the workload - but also to be flexible in order to find a solution that suits all involved. 

While a 50/50 split might be your idea of perfection, Hayley said it was "almost inevitable that one partner may take on slightly more of the load" at different periods of time. 

"Striving for perfect 50/50 fairness at all times is a really nice ideal, but it just may not be that practical for modern life," she said. 

She said some jobs may be more visible than others, like cleaning, sorting out the washing, and taking the bins out.

Other jobs can take up just as much time and resource, but will fly under the radar. She gave the examples or sorting out travel insurance or changing over internet provider. 

How should you approach a conversation with your partner about splitting the work? 

To start off, Hayley said you should enter the conversation with a positive mindset - think how you are both contributing to the relationship in different ways.

"When you're having these conversations, it's not that many people are sitting around feeling like they're not contributing," Hayley said. 

"In fact, I think if there's a discrepancy in how people contribute, it's just due to a lack of awareness as to what the other partner does, and some chores are just more obviously visible than others."

Try to avoid starting the chat with the perspective that you are working a lot harder than your partner and they're not pulling their weight. 

"That way, you start from a place of we're all on the same team," she said. 

"When you're doing that as well, it's really important not to make statements which assume what the other partner is thinking, feeling, or contributing. 

"So, for instance, saying something like 'I'm always the one that's picking the kids up from school and you never do anything',  becomes easily very accusational, and this is when arguments start.

"Instead, most partners will be much more receptive if you simply ask for more help and assistance." 

When asking for help, Hayley said it's important to ask in a way that's verbal and clear - don't assume your partner is going to intuitively know what share of household chores to take on if you just complain. 

"In a nice way, explicitly ask for what you want. It could be something like saying, 'Look, I know that we're both working a long week, but I feel like there's so much to do. It would be really helpful if... I'd really appreciate it if you take over lunch,'" she explained. 

"Again, start from a place of appreciation. Acknowledge what your partner contributes already, and be explicitly clear as to what you would like them to do. Phrase it as a request for their help." 

She also said some people can feel protective of how jobs are completed, and learning to relinquish that control can be helpful. 

"If you want it to feel more equitable, you have to let your partner do things in their own way," she said. 

What happens if that doesn't work? 

If you find the conversations aren't helping, you can always try organising a rota, Hayley said. 

She recommended using Starling Bank's Share the Load tool to work out your chore split. 

However, she said if you feel there are constant conversations and nothing is changing then the issue is becoming more about communication than sharing the workload. 

"It's actually about someone not hearing what you're trying to communicate to them, so it's more of a relationship-wide issue," she said. 

She advised sitting down and trying to have another transparent verbal conversation, making it clear that you have spoken about this before and how it's making you feel in a factual way, without placing blame. 

Using phrases like "I've noticed" or "I've observed" can help, she said. 

If after all that, the situation still isn't getting better, she said it's time to consider confiding in friends or family for support, or seeing a relationship counsellor. 

The oldest and most prestigious tennis event in the world returns on Monday, with the best of the best players to battle over two weeks to be named champion.

Crowds in their thousands will flock to Wimbledon to enjoy a spot of sport - as well as the range of food and drink on offer.

It's not the cheapest day out, with a cool cup of Pimms setting you back just under £10 and a bottle of water coming in at nearly £3.

But did you know that despite souring inflation in recent years sending food prices through the roof, one fan favourite - the quintessentially British strawberries and cream combo - has stayed at the same price since 2010?

A pot of the sweet snack costs just £2.50, making it one of the more affordable offerings at the All England Club. It has been served up there since the very first Wimbledon tournament in 1877.

Perdita Sedov, Wimbledon's head of food and beverage, previously told The Telegraph the price freeze "goes back to a long-standing tradition" of strawberries and cream being associated with the championship.

"It's about being accessible to all," she said.

According to the Wimbledon website, each year more than 38.4 tonnes of strawberries are picked and consumed during the tournament.

Ofgem is being urged not to lift a ban on acquisition-only energy tariffs (deals that are available only to new customers, not existing ones).

A coalition of consumer organisations and energy companies led by Which? has penned a letter to the government regulator for electricity and gas warning it of the risk of a "return to a market which discriminates against loyal customers". 

They have also raised the potential impact on customers in debt, who may not be able to switch but could also find themselves struggling to access a better deal with their current supplier under the plans. 

The letter also notes the "very recent history" when more than 30 suppliers went bust - many after trying to win customers with unsustainably cheap tariffs.

Ofgem has said it could remove the ban on acquisition-only tariffs from 1 October but consumer choice website Which?  has research that shows the public are opposed to cheap deals that exclude existing customers, with 81% feeling it would be unfair if their supplier was offering cheaper deals to new customers only. 

The consumer champion has signed the letter to Ofgem alongside E.ON, Octopus, So Energy, Rebel Energy, End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Citizens Advice and Fair by Design.

Two topics dominated our inbox this week.

Many readers got in touch about our Weekend Money feature on older Britons who face having to work past pension age to pay off long-term mortgages.

Lots of you share the fears of those we spoke to in the feature...

I am in my 70s with still about five years to go on my mortgage. It stands at 30k on a 300k house. The mortgage repayments are £800 a month, this doesn't sound much but on a static pension it is massive and I am literally on the point of not having sufficient money to pay it. Red
I was supposed to retire in 2.5 years at 66 and 4 months, my mortgage finishes when I'm 70. I was paying off extra (double) on my previous rate to reduce an interest only mortgage, but the recent increases in mortgage rates have meant I'm paying off hardly any. AVB
I'm 67 and still trying to pay off a mortgage that has another five years to run. I can't stop working and do over 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Keith
My problem is going to be paying off an interest-only mortgage. More than anything I wish I hadn't changed when I had my twins but we couldn't make ends meet at the time. Sazavan
Six years ago I reached the age of 70 and my interest-only mortgage ended - to extend it was impossible with the conditions attached. This then threw me into the rental market, paying more than my mortgage. Now I am facing eviction from the rental due to it being sold. Marianj

We also heard from a mortgage adviser, whose recommendations matched those of Gerard Boon, the managing director of online mortgage broker Boon Brokers, who we spoke to for the feature...

I am a mortgage adviser in Leicestershire and have found an increasing number of people asking to go as long as possible past normal retirement age. I always point out that it's great to have lower payments in the short term but you will need to work to 75. There's no choice. Semaine

Onto the second topic that dominated your correspondence, and we were sorry to learn that lots of you face similar issues as reader Adam, who has had to take his faulty car back to the garage six times - and is still not convinced it is fixed. 

Scott Dixon, from The Complaints Resolver , was on hand to help break down what Adam could do for our Money Problem feature - read his advice here:

Same thing happened to me, except that they didn't let me refund the vehicle and claimed it was my fault even though I told them about the issue during the six months' warranty multiple times... they barely replied. K
I have bought a used car and there is an engine management light on. The garage where I bought it from has since changed name and moved premises (found out by accident). When I call to book in I am told to expect a call back or the mechanic will ring me but they never do. Andy D
I have taken my car to Halfords four times in the last 14 months. Each time they guarantee me it's fixed and within a week it's back to normal. Can I get it repaired elsewhere and bill Halfords? Simon
I have a JAG SVR that's been faulty since day one, the garage sent me home with it faulty and not working correctly. I have tried to reject it but the finance company are playing David versus Goliath... we can prove issues from day one, we have two vehicle reports to back it up. Jezza
Have a Nissan Juke, which has a seat issue where it sinks on its own… Nissan saying it's not a manufacturing fault, but "user error". Where do I stand in getting it fixed? Technical team keeps fobbing it off as our fault. Esmith97

If you're in a position like this, do check out Scott Dixon's advice in the feature above.

The Money blog is your place for consumer news, economic analysis and everything you need to know about the cost of living - bookmark news.sky.com/money.

It runs with live updates every weekday - while on Saturdays we scale back and offer you a selection of weekend reads.

Check them out this morning and we'll be back on Monday with rolling news and features.

The Money team is Bhvishya Patel, Jess Sharp, Katie Williams, Brad Young, Ollie Cooper and Mark Wyatt, with sub-editing by Isobel Souster. The blog is edited by Jimmy Rice.

Starting from next month, gamers will be able to play Xbox titles like Fallout 4, Starfield and Fortnite using Amazon Fire TV.

A new upgrade coming to the Fire TV 4K devices transforms your television into a console, thanks to Xbox Cloud Gaming.

You'll need to be a member of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to take advantage, plus you'll need a compatible controller and a solid internet connection.

"One of the biggest benefits of cloud gaming is the ability to play premium games without needing a console," Amazon explained.

"The Fire TV Stick may be compact, but it can stream and run graphically intense Xbox games like Senua's Saga: Hellblade II.

"This portability also means you can easily move your cloud gaming setup from the living room TV to a different room or even take it on the road.

"As long as you have a solid internet connection and your compatible Fire TV Stick, and a compatible controller, you can take your Xbox Game Pass games and saved progress travels with you."

Once downloaded, the Xbox app is designed to offer a smooth and seamless experience. Here’s how it works:

  • Install and launch the Xbox app from your Fire TV device;
  • Sign in with your Microsoft account to play. If you’re an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate member, you’ll have instant access to hundreds of cloud-enabled games;
  • Connect a Bluetooth-enabled wireless controller. Controllers like the Xbox Wireless Controller, Xbox Adaptive Controller, PlayStation DualSense, or DualShock 4 controller are all compatible.

A new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K will set you back £59.99 on Amazon, while a new Xbox Wireless Controller costs £49.59.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate currently costs £1 for the first 14 days for new members, then is billed at £12.99 per month.

House prices are overvalued by thousands of pounds, according to a major property company.

The typical property is £20,000 more than is affordable to the average household, says Zoopla.

But rising incomes and longer mortgage terms mean the "over-valuation" is expected to disappear by the end of the year.

Zoopla's report said: "House prices still look expensive on various measures of affordability.

"We expect house price inflation to remain muted, likely to rise more slowly than household incomes over the next one to two years."

The average house price is around £264,900 – but according to Zoopla's calculations, the affordable price is £245,200.

"A new government will add a dimension of political stability when the autumn market starts in September and even if the [Bank of England base] rate is not lower by then, a cut will be imminent," said Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at estate agent Knight Frank.

"Given that mortgage rates will steadily reduce as services inflation comes under control, we expect UK house prices to rise by 3% this year."

Zoopla's over-valuation estimate was reached by comparing the actual average house price in its index with an "affordable" price, which was calculated based on households' disposable incomes, average mortgage rates and average deposit sizes for home buyers.

It's one of the most iconic and popular music festivals in the world, and it's notoriously hard to get a ticket.

Glastonbury has rolled around once again and roughly 210,000 people have flocked to Somerset this year as Dua Lipa, Coldplay and SZA headline the UK's biggest festival this weekend.

Those in the crowd are in the lucky minority — an estimated 2.5 million people tried to get tickets for this year's event, meaning the odds really aren't in your favour if you fancy going.

Tickets routinely sell out within an hour of going on sale, and that demand is unlikely to decrease next year, given the festival will likely take a fallow year in 2026.

So, if you're feeling jealous this year, how do you get tickets for Glastonbury 2025, and how can you give yourself the best possible chance?

We've run through all the available details as well as some tips so you're best prepared when the time comes.

Registration details:  Before potential festivalgoers get the chance to buy tickets, they must register on the official website.

One of the reasons this is done is to stop ticket touting, with all tickets non-transferable. Each ticket features the photograph of the registered ticket holder, with security checks carried out to ensure that only the person in the photograph is admitted to the festival.

Registration is free and only takes a few minutes. You will be asked to provide basic contact details and to upload a passport-standard photo.

Registration closes a few weeks before tickets are released.

Where to buy tickets:  Tickets can be bought exclusively at  glastonbury.seetickets.com   once they become available.

No other site or agency will be allocated tickets, so if you see anyone else claiming to have Glastonbury tickets available for purchase, it's most likely a scam.

When tickets go on sale: We don't know the details for next year yet - but Glastonbury ticket sales usually take place in October or November of the year before the festival. 

This year's ticket sales began, following a delay, in November 2023. Coach tickets typically go on sale a few days before (traditionally on a Thursday), with general admission tickets following on the Sunday morning a few days later.

For those that miss out, there's also a resale that takes place in April for tickets that have been returned or for those with a balance that has not been paid.

This year's April resale took place on 18 April (for ticket and coach travel options) and 21 April (general admission tickets and accommodation options).

How much it costs:  General admission tickets for this year's festival cost £355 each, plus a £5 booking fee. That's an increase on last year's price of £335 each, which was also an increase on the 2022 price of around £280.

So, we can probably assume that ticket prices will go up once again for next year's festival. 

Remember, there are options to pay for your ticket in instalments, so you won't have to pay the full price in one go if you don't want to. All tickets are subject to a £75 deposit, with the remaining balance payable by the first week of April.

It's also worth noting that Glastonbury is a family festival, and that's reflected in the fact that children aged 12 and under when the festival takes place are admitted free of charge.

TIPS FOR THE BIG TICKET SALE DAY

The scramble for tickets when they go on general sale is nothing short of painstaking, with demand far outweighing supply.

Here are some tips to give you the best possible chance of bagging tickets:

Familiarise yourself with the website: You may see a reduced, bare-looking version of the booking page once you gain entry. The organisers say this is intentional to cope with high traffic and does not mean the site has crashed, so be sure not to refresh or leave the page.

Once you reach the first page of the booking site, you will need to enter the registration number and registered postcode for yourself and the other people you are attempting to book tickets for.

When you proceed, the details you have provided will be displayed on the next page.

Once you have double checked all of your information is correct, click 'confirm' to enter the payment page, where you will need to check/amend your billing address, confirm your payment information, accept the terms and conditions, and complete the checkout within the allocated time.

Timekeeping: You can get timed out if you don't act fast, so it's a good idea to have your details saved on a separate document so you can copy and paste them over quickly.

You might also have to approve your payment, which could mean answering security questions from your card issuer. Have a device on hand to ensure you're ready for this.

Internet connection: This should go without saying, but you won't stand a chance without a solid internet connection.

Avoid trying to rely on your mobile phone signal, and politely ask those you might share the internet with to delay any online activity that might slow your connection.

Don't give up: Until the page tells you that tickets have sold out, you still have a chance. 

Shortly before that point, there will be a message saying 'all available tickets have now been allocated,' which users often think means their chances are up. 

What it actually means is that orders are being processed for all the tickets that are available. But if somebody whose order is being processed doesn't take our previous advice and runs out of time, their loss could be your gain.

Multiple tabs and devices: Glastonbury advises against its customers trying to run multiple tabs and devices to boost their chances of getting a ticket.

Glastonbury's website says running multiple devices simultaneously is "a waste of valuable resources, and doesn't reflect the ethos of the festival".

"Please stick to one device and one tab," it adds, "so that you can focus on entering your details without confusing your browser and help us make the ticket sale as quick and stress free as possible for all."

Shoppers have been buying bigger TVs to enjoy this summer's European Championships, according to the electrical retailer Currys.

The chain said UK sales were up by more than 30% in the past month, with "supersize" screens — 85-inch and above — selling well in the run-up to the Euros.

"Having a third of the TV market and the Euros being a big event for many people, we're seeing that super-sizing trend keep on giving," said Currys chief executive Alex Baldock.

The most popular, and also cheapest, 85-inch TV on the Currys website costs £999. 

The most expensive super-size TV is a 98-inch offering from Samsung that will set you back £9,499.

Currys reported adjusted pre-tax profits of £118m for the year to 27 April. That represented a 10% increase from the previous year's profits of £107m.

Like-for-like sales for Currys UK and Ireland declined by 2% to £4.97bn in the 12 months to 27 April, with consumer confidence knocked by high inflation levels and rising interest rates.

"We can see our progress in ever-more engaged colleagues, more satisfied customers and better financial performance," Mr Baldock added.

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Fact-Checking Biden’s and Trump’s Claims About the Economy

We fact-checked claims about inflation, jobs and tax policy from both presidential candidates.

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President Joe Biden speaks at a podium to a crowd, with “Bidenomics” on a backdrop behind him.

By Linda Qiu

Reporting from Washington

Consumer sentiment about the state of the economy could be pivotal in shaping the 2024 presidential election.

President Biden is still grappling with how to address one of his biggest weaknesses : inflation, which has recently cooled but soared in his first years in office. Former President Donald J. Trump’s frequent economic boasts are undermined by the mass job losses and supply chain disruptions wrought by the pandemic.

Here’s a fact check of some of their more recent claims about the economy.

Both candidates misrepresented inflation.

What Was Said

“They had inflation of — the real number, if you really get into the real number, it’s probably 40 percent or 50 percent when you add things up, when you don’t just put in the numbers that they want to hear.” — Mr. Trump at a campaign event in Detroit in June

“I think it could be as high as 50 percent if you add everything in, when you start adding energy prices in, when you start adding interest rates.” — Mr. Trump in a June interview on Fox News

This is misleading. Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, cited a 41 percent increase in energy prices since January 2021, and prices for specific energy costs like gasoline rising more than 50 percent during that time.

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How to use the mortgage calculator

Why use a mortgage calculator, key factors that affect your mortgage payments, how to calculate a mortgage payment, what is amortization, how lenders decide how much house you can afford, tips for lowering your monthly payments, common mistakes to avoid.

  • Reasons your payment could increase

Mortgage Calculator: Estimate Your Monthly Payments

Affiliate links for the products on this page are from partners that compensate us (see our advertiser disclosure with our list of partners for more details). However, our opinions are our own. See how we rate mortgages to write unbiased product reviews.

Calculating Your Mortgage Payment

Before you start house hunting, you need to know much house you can afford. A mortgage calculator can help by showing you how much you'll pay each month depending on the price of the home you buy and the size of your down payment.

The free Business Insider mortgage calculator shows how much you'll pay each month based on your home price, down payment, term length, and mortgage rate . We also provide customized tips on how to save money on your mortgage.

Mortgage Calculator

  • Paying a 25% higher down payment would save you $8,916.08 on interest charges
  • Lowering the interest rate by 1% would save you $51,562.03
  • Paying an additional $500 each month would reduce the loan length by 146 months

To see your mortgage payment with our calculator, here's what you'll need to provide:

The purchase price of the home: This is the amount you agree to pay the seller.

Down payment: How much of your own cash you'll be bringing to the transaction. A down payment on a house may be as low as 3%, or even 0%, depending on the loan type. The calculator's default is 20%, which is the amount you'll need to put down if you want to avoid paying for private mortgage insurance if you're getting a conventional loan.

Length of the loan: Your loan term, or the amount of time it takes to pay off your mortgage. The calculator uses a 30-year mortgage term as the default.

Interest rate: The amount your mortgage lender charges you for borrowing the money to purchase your home.

With these inputs, you can use the calculator to help determine how much house you can afford and what your monthly payments and overall expenses will be.

Click on "more details" to see how much you might pay in interest over the life of your loan, and how different rates and term lengths can impact that amount. You'll also get some tips on exactly how you can save on interest.

How can it help homebuyers?

You've entered numbers into the mortgage calculator. What can you do with this information?

  • Determine how much house you can afford. With our mortgage calculator, you can enter how much you want to spend on a home and the amount you have for a down payment. If the monthly payment is too high for your current budget, you may decide that you need to buy a less expensive home.
  • See how much more you need to save. The calculator also shows how a higher or lower down payment will affect your monthly mortgage payments. This can help you decide if you're ready to buy a house now, or if it makes more sense to wait a little longer to save more.
  • Choose a term length. Input a few term lengths to figure out which one best fits your budget. With a 30-year term, your monthly payments will be lower, but you'll pay more in the long run since you're spreading payments out over a longer period of time. A 15-year mortgage will give you a higher monthly payment but cost less over the years. Play around with term lengths and think about which one best suits your goals.
  • Find out how your interest rate affects payments. This can be particularly helpful if you're thinking about refinancing , or if you think you could snag a lower rate by improving your credit score before applying for a mortgage. Use the calculator to see how much of a difference a slightly lower rate could make, and if it's worth it to you.
  • Learn how to save money. Once you've entered your numbers, we provide a few suggestions on how you can either lower your monthly payments or save in the long term.

This mortgage calculator shows you how much you'll pay toward your principal and interest each month, but your actual mortgage payment will likely include a couple other charges. Here's a breakdown of the different items that make up your mortgage payment.

  • Principal : This is the amount you borrow to buy your home. For example, if you want to buy a $400,000 home and have $50,000 for a down payment, you'll need to borrow $350,000. Your loan principal is $350,000. You'll pay a portion of this each month, reducing your principal balance over time.
  • Interest:  This is what the bank charges you to borrow money. 
  • Taxes:  Mortgage lenders typically include your property taxes in your monthly mortgage payment and hold this part of your payment in an escrow account. When the taxes come due, the lender will pay them on your behalf using the money in the escrow account. 
  • Insurance:  As with property taxes, your homeowners insurance premium will also be included in your monthly payment and set aside in an escrow account. If you made a small down payment or you have an FHA mortgage , a small portion of your monthly payment will also go toward a mortgage insurance premium, which protects the lender.

You may see this full mortgage payment amount referred to as "PITI."

Interest rates and their impact

Mortgage rates fluctuate from day to day and even from hour to hour. The higher your rate, the more you'll pay on your mortgage, both on a monthly basis and over the life of the loan. 

You can get a better rate by making a larger down payment or improving your credit score . But overall rate trends are influenced by what's going on in the economy. So a homeowner who got their mortgage several years ago may have a significantly lower rate compared to someone getting a mortgage right now.

The role of property taxes and insurance

Because your lender benefits when you pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance, it typically will include these costs in your monthly mortgage payment. 

The average cost of homeowners insurance in the US is $1,428 per year, which would add $119 to your monthly payment. 

You can also check out the average property taxes in your state to get an idea of how much you might pay for this cost, but keep in mind that tax rates can vary a lot from city to city. Your mortgage lender should be able to give you an estimate based on where you're planning to buy. 

Prefer to do it by hand? You can calculate your monthly mortgage payment (excluding property taxes and insurance) using the following equation:

M = P [ i(1 + i)^n ] / [ (1 + i)^n – 1]

"P" is your principal .

The "i" is your monthly interest rate . This is different than the interest rate you see on your mortgage documents. The lender provides the yearly interest rate, so divide that rate by 12 for this equation. If your interest rate is 4.25%, divide 0.0425 by 12 to find your monthly rate: 0.00354166%.

To find "n," the number of months required to repay the loan , multiply the number of years by 12. If you have a 30-year mortgage, multiply 30 by 12 to get 360 months.

Once you calculate M (monthly mortgage payment), you can add in the monthly property tax and homeowners insurance payment. 

Amortization refers to the process of making payments toward a debt until you've fully repaid it. With a mortgage, you'll make monthly payments that are calculated in a way that allows you to pay off your balance by the end of your term while also accounting for the interest you owe. 

When you get a mortgage, you'll receive an amortization schedule for your loan. This schedule will show you how each of your monthly payments breaks down in terms of how much you're paying toward your principal vs. interest.

For example, say you have a $300,000 mortgage with a 6.5% interest rate. Your monthly payment would be $1,896. To determine how this payment breaks down each month, you'll need to multiply the loan amount by your interest rate. Then, divide that number by 12 to see how much you'll pay in interest on a monthly basis.

300,000 × 0.065 = 19,500

19,500 / 12 = 1,625

This means that on your very first mortgage payment, you'll pay $1,625 in interest. The remaining $271 will go toward reducing your principal.

To determine how your second monthly payment breaks down, simply subtract the $271 from your principal and run the calculation again with the new loan amount.

You can use a spreadsheet tool like Excel to make it easier to calculate your full amortization schedule, or you can simply use an online amortization calculator.

Lenders have a responsibility to make sure they aren't lending more than what their borrowers can afford to pay back. This is known as the ability-to-repay rule.

To determine how much you can afford to borrow, lenders will look at your income, debts, assets, employment, and credit. They want to make sure that you have the income to afford your monthly payments, and that a mortgage wouldn't push your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to an unacceptable level.

On conventional loans , you can't have a DTI higher than 50%, and borrowers with lower ratios will typically get better rates. 

But just because a lender says you can afford a certain amount doesn't mean you'll necessarily be comfortable with the monthly payment. Think about what your budget can comfortably handle when deciding your price range. 

Explore different down payment options

As you play around with the calculator, you can see how different down payment amounts will ultimately impact your monthly payment. The less money you borrow, the less you'll need to pay each month. 

However, the more you put down, the less money you'll have left over for things like furnishing your new home or paying for repairs and maintenance. Find the right balance that gives you a sufficient down payment but also leaves you enough cash for other costs.

The benefits of shorter term loans vs. longer term loans

The longer your loan term is, the lower your monthly payment will be.

Paying back $200,000 over the course of 30 years is going to yield a much lower monthly payment than paying that same amount back over the course of 15 years. However, you'll pay a lot more interest on the 30-year loan. This is because you'll not only be accruing interest for a longer period of time, but longer terms also come with higher interest rates. 

If you can afford a higher monthly payment, a shorter term could be worth it if your goal is to save money overall. But if you want to keep your monthly payment as low as possible, it's best to go with a longer term. 

Get a better rate

Rates vary among mortgage lenders, so be sure to get approved with three or four different lenders to be sure you're getting the lowest rate possible.

You can also work on getting a higher credit score and lowering your DTI to get access to lower rates.

Buy a less expensive home

You don't need to borrow the full amount a lender is willing to lend to you. For example, if your lender offers you a loan for $300,000 but you only borrow $270,000, you could potentially save around $200 per month.

Underestimating property taxes and insurance

First-time homebuyers are often surprised by how much their taxes and insurance can raise their monthly payment amount. Property taxes in particular can be fairly expensive, often adding at least a couple hundred dollars more to the payment. 

It's also important to understand that these costs can change every year. If your property taxes or homeowners insurance premium increase, your payment will go up as well. 

Forgetting to consider closing costs

The down payment isn't the only thing you'll need cash for at closing. Closing costs include lender fees, the cost of your appraisal, things you need to prepay like homeowners insurance, and other costs related to the mortgage and the home purchase.

In total, you'll typically pay between 3% and 6% of the loan amount in closing costs.

Reasons your monthly mortgage payment could increase

Your monthly mortgage payment amount will likely change slightly over the years, and may go up over time. Two of the most common reasons for this include:

  • You have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM): Once your ARM's fixed-rate period is over, your rate will reset periodically, and your monthly payment could go up as a result.
  • Your taxes or insurance increased: Most borrowers pay their property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums into an escrow account, which the lender pays out of on your behalf when those bills are due. If your taxes or premium have increased, so will your monthly payment.

Mortgage calculator FAQs

A mortgage calculator can give you an estimate of how much you might pay each month for a mortgage based on the home price, the size of your down payment, the loan term length, and your interest rate.

Mortgage calculators can be used for many different types of mortgages, including government-backed loans or adjustable-rate mortgages. Just be sure to account for any additional costs the calculator doesn't include (like FHA mortgage insurance, for example). 

Mortgage calculators are only as good as the information they're given. If you end up with a different rate than what you put into the calculator, your monthly payment will be different, too.

With current average rates, you might be able to borrow a little over $300,000 on a 30-year loan if you're looking to pay $2,000 a month for a mortgage, not including taxes or insurance. This is higher than the median monthly mortgage payment, but lower than the average monthly mortgage payment . 

You might need an annual salary of $120,000 or more to qualify for a $400,000 30-year mortgage. This is just a rough estimate — the amount you'll qualify for will depend on your current debt load and your estimated taxes and insurance in addition to your income. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may need to make more or less than this to qualify. 

Based on current rates, an average mortgage payment on a $300,000 house might be between $1,700 and $1,800 per month, not including taxes or insurance. But this will vary depending on the rate you can get.

A $500,000 mortgage might cost between $3,200 or $3,300 per month plus taxes and insurance. Depending on your individual mortgage rate, you may pay more or less than this. 

typical parts of a business plan

  • Mortgages and mortgage lenders
  • Home equity
  • The housing market
  • The economy and the forces that impact mortgage rates
  • Budgeting and saving
  • Retirement savings

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