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Building a Business Plan: 18 Methods and Tools to Help You

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

Creating and maintaining a plan is far easier when you have the right tools and approaches.

One of the most important tasks any new entrepreneur has on their plate is drafting a business plan. This essential document lays out all the basics of a company, including financial projections and its short- and long-term goals.

While writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task, there are plenty of tech tools, templates and approaches available to help you streamline the process. To learn more, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) about their favorite ways to easily build or maintain a business plan. Here is what they said.

1. Evernote

"I really like the flexibility that Evernote offers when it comes to jotting down ideas and just plain old throwing paint up on the wall. You can quickly compile assets like spreadsheets, images and even video to help make your plan incredibly detailed." – Nick PonteOffline Sharks

2. Business Model Canvas

"The Business Model Canvas is a straightforward and visual way of mapping out a business plan, without the need to write long paragraphs in a long-form traditional word document. It ensures you think of the core limitations, customers and value propositions of what you're looking to accomplish, which is the core benefit of business planning." – Keith ShieldsDesignli

3. An online business plan template

"Instead of starting from scratch, I prefer using a business plan template. Using a template helps you ensure your business plan has everything it needs, and it helps speed up the business plan creation process. You can find a ton of quality business plan templates online. Or, if you've created a business plan before, turn it into a template to save time." – Stephanie WellsFormidable Forms


"The website SCORE has a plethora of business plan templates you can take advantage of for free. They're geared toward startups and mature businesses. It works well, because additional resources are available, in addition to easy-to-understand templates, like financial planning and sales projections. Plus, you can schedule a meeting with a mentor, who can offer suggestions." – Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

5. Weekly meetings about the business plan

"We use weekly meetings as a way to improve communication and plan our business goals. Every person at our meeting is responsible for relaying their numbers, progress on goals and roadblocks. The information we gain from our meetings helps us make better judgments." – Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

6. Creating a measured approach at key intervals

"I like to look ahead five years into the future to determine what my business should look like. I then use a five-year, 90-day and 30-day measured approach, meaning I write out our five-year goals and then focus on the areas that will drive those goals in the next 30 to 90 days. Then, I measure every 30 days and set new objectives. This measured approach has grown my business over 35% every year." – Justin

7. Spreadsheet templates

"Finding a good spreadsheet template and using Excel or Sheets is the way to go. Look for ones with robust formulas that allow you to customize various inputs and outputs to align with your plan. Any specialized tool is going to be overkill." – Ryan D. MatznerFueled

8. Conducting research beforehand

"The most important part of developing a successful business plan is the research done beforehand. You must know your product, business and competition intimately. Read and research everything about your industry so you fully understand any pitfalls. After you know your business, defining your purpose, objectives and strategies in writing is much easier. Spend more time researching than writing." – Shaun ConradMy Accounting Course

9. Having a system of organization

"One way to achieve a perfectly written business plan is to be as organized as possible. This means you are also clear on what you want to achieve as early as next week. Having software that helps you manage tasks, schedules, each team member's goals, etc., guides you with larger, critical elements of your plan, such as setting goals, envisioning your plan for new products or services, and establishing your marketing strategies." – Kyle GoguenPawstruck

10. Asana plus Slack

"This helps us plan our projects in detail, making sure everyone knows about the updates through tags. Asana is very easy to learn and understand, and we can vote, comment, and attach files easily for each plan. I also love how we can chat using Slack, and have channels and groups depending on the project. It's so easy to have apps like this to keep my remote staff in sync all the time." – Daisy JingBanish

11. Creating a story

"All too often, I see extensive, in-depth business plans written that are almost never looked at or actually executed upon. The reason is simple: Most business plans are far too dry for everyone to read and get on board with. Even in the business world, you need to keep people engaged and interested. I use design tools to turn the plan into a story." – Frederik Busslerbitgrit Inc.

12. Google Docs

"There are many business plan software programs out there, and though I'm sure those are great, I would recommend starting in Google Docs. It's a free collaboration tool. Sketch out an outlined business plan, and add in key team members to the Google Doc to contribute ideas, comment and make changes. The more people can take ownership of a plan, the more likely they are to support and follow the plan!" – Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

13. Being flexible and adaptable

"The most important approach to crafting a business plan is flexibility. You should be comfortable changing just about every aspect of your current business plan; this way, you can adapt to unpredictable changes in the market. Additionally, allowing every aspect to change means that those parts of your plan that stay the same are time-tested for reliability." – Bryce WelkerThe Big 4 Accounting Firms

14. Quarterly planning

"I've found that quarterly planning gives our team the insight and flexibility we need to make our business work. At the halfway point of every quarter, we sit down and plan what we are going to do for the following quarter, and possibly establish goals beyond that time. This helps us figure out where we stand, how we can improve and how we should plan moving forward." – Blair WilliamsMemberPress

15. Creating a short and long list

"We create both a long and short list. The long list consists of things we want to accomplish over the next year. The short list consists of things we want to accomplish by the next planning session. This helps us stay organized and break our larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks." – David HenzelLTVPlus

16. Post-project and post-goal reviews

"Every time a project is completed or a goal is met, we have a retrospective meeting to talk about what worked and didn't. These meetings are open-ended and can cover topics like which of our procedures were an asset and which ones gave us trouble. The goal is to compare our results to what we hope our business plan will achieve." – Matt DoyleExcel Builders

17. Constant refinement

"A business plan shouldn't be a static document. The market and the world change constantly, and the business plan must evolve to keep up. It doesn't take long for a plan to become obsolete, and when it does, the goals and processes it describes become useless. Our business plan is a living document that is frequently updated based on changing conditions and feedback from my team." – Corey NorthcuttNorthcutt Enterprise SEO

18. Starting with the end in mind

"To build a business plan easily, start at the end. What I mean by that is write a couple of sentences about where you want your business to be in five years and work backward. After writing the end goal,  go back and determine the steps you'll need to take to get there. When you have the end goal in mind, it's easier to figure out what you need to do to make it happen." – John TurnerSeedProd LLC

Image Credit: Rawpixel/Getty Images
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber Member
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.