- A business plan is a detailed document letting investors and lenders know key components of your new organization, including its structure, products/service offerings, marketing plans, company milestones, partnerships and more.
- Business plans are available in two main formats: a traditional plan and a startup plan. The startup format is intended to provide a summary of your organization. Traditional business plans provide extensive details about the past, present and future of your company. Startup plans explain elements like key partnerships, resources, customer relationships and revenue streams.
- Free business plan templates allow you to find a jumping-off point for your document. You can personalize a template to make it relevant to your organization.
Congratulations! You have a million-dollar idea. Now, it's time to turn it into a business.
What is a business plan?
Starting a business is a multifaceted process, and it all starts with a solid business plan. The business plan itself will not only be used to help you secure funding and share your vision with key stakeholders, but it will also help you identify processes and strategies that will be crucial to your success.
A smart business plan outlines the roadmap that you'll diligently follow (and undoubtedly evolve) for the first few years of your venture. From finance to marketing, it will be the single piece that you continuously refer back to.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business plan is a guideline on how to run your business. Business plans spell out what type of structure your new company will have and lists a set of goals for a successful launch.
Business plans should have realistic goals, but they also are designed to be helpful for lenders and investors. Lending institutions and investors will ask to see a detailed business plan before considering any type of funding. They will hold a stake in your company's success, and if you're not set up with a dynamic business plan, you're not going to be able to secure the funding you need.
Two main types of business plans are a traditional type and a startup version. With the traditional business plan, the document is very detailed. The business plan will have at least eight to 10 sections and go into detail under each heading. Most lenders and investors prefer a traditional type over the shorter startup version.
In the startup version, the business plan is abbreviated and only includes highlighted information. The shorter types are appropriate for first communications with investors or as a revised business plan. The goal of startup versions is to allow your audience to gain the basic facts about your prospective company without having to read a lengthy document.
What should I include in my business plan?
A traditional business plan includes a minimum of the following sections:
- Executive summary
- Company overview
- Product and services provided
- Marketing goals
- Company milestones
- Management structure
- Financial projections and requests
The startup plan is likely to have a similar format but may eliminate a few categories and instead focus on elements that are more important to a company launch. Examples of headings within a startup business plan are:
- Company overview
- Products and services provided
- Target customer
- Business channels
- Sources of revenue
Writing the business plan
So, what are the steps to writing a great business plan? Here are the steps that you'll want to follow when creating a business plan.
- Create an executive summary that defines your products and services, target audience, company goals, legal format and more.
- Define your products and services in detail, including technical specifications, pricing and more.
- Build a marketing plan that includes market research, competitors, target customer persona and strategy.
- Outline an operational plan that details production, legalities, personnel/employees, etc.
- List your management team and their roles and responsibilities.
- Put together a personal financial statement for each owner/stakeholder in order to determine the personal funding for financing.
- Determine startup expenses that will affect your business and its operations.
- Develop a financial plan, including 12-month profit and loss projections, cash flow projections, projected balance sheet and break-even calculations.
Free business plan templates
Free business plan templates are an easy way to create a business plan with the relevant information you need to launch your business and that lenders and investors are looking for.
Free business templates are fully customizable. The templates can provide you with some inspiration, too, if you find yourself stuck on what you should include in your business plan. Be sure to add your unique voice to your plan.
- Score.org: Download a free small business plan template for new companies. The template provides step-by-step guidance on how to write the document.
- Forms Builder: Forms Builder is a legal document website with hundreds of options for templates. You can quickly create and save a customizable business plan easily through the site.
Download these free templates to build your business plan today.