Think you have a great idea for a business? That best way to find out whether you do or not is to do your research and write a business plan to see if your idea is feasible. The simple business plan template presented here will get you started.
A standard business plan consists of a single document divided into several sections including a description of the organization, the market research, competitive analysis, sales strategies, capital and labor requirements, and financial data.
The resulting document can serve as the blueprint for your business and be supplied to financial institutions or investors if debt or equity financing is needed to get your business off the ground.
Pros of using a business plan template: A good business plan template can help you get your thoughts organized. It can provide a guideline so you’re not stuck looking at a blank page trying to figure out where to start. Plus, it shows you the general layout of a standard business plan so you know what goes where and that you’re not leaving out anything.
A great business plan template will also provide instructions for each step of your plan and show you what an investor-ready and SBA-approved business plan should look like.
Cons of using a business plan template: While there are benefits to using a business plan template, depending on your situation it may not be the best way to complete your plan.
There is still going to be a lot of work involved. For instance, not only do you have to complete the financial spreadsheets, but you have to do the math yourself.
You’ll also have to know enough about the process to be sure you’re getting the numbers in the right place. So, if you don’t already know what you’re doing with the numbers, the process of writing your business plan may not be that much easier with a template.
Finally, merging data from Excel spreadsheets into your Word document is harder than it looks. It’s not easy to keep everything completely up-to-date as you make changes to your numbers, and integrating the right charts and graphs into your business plan is harder than it looks.
Business Plan Templates Make Sense
However, if you’re new to business planning and just want to get a sense of what a plan looks like and want to get the process started quickly and cheaply, then downloading a free template is the best way to get started.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
A corporate business plan for a large organization can be hundreds of pages long. However, for a small business, it’s best to keep the plan short and concise, especially if you intend to submit it to bankers or investors. Capping your plan at 30 pages should be sufficient unless you need to include photos of products, equipment, logos, business premises or site plans, etc. Potential money lenders and investors want solid research and analysis, not long, wordy descriptions.
How to Use the Template
The business plan template below is broken into sections as described in the table of contents. Each section of the template can be copied into a Word, Excel or similar office document by selecting the text and using copy/paste.
If using Windows, outline the text to be selected with the mouse and hit CTRL+C to copy and CTRL+V to paste.
Once you complete your simple business plan be sure to format it attractively, print it and get it professionally bound. You want your business plan to convey the best possible physical impression; make it something people are going to want to pick up and look at.
Enter your business information including the legal name, address, etc. If you already have a business logo you can add it at the top or bottom of the title page.
- Business Plan for “Business Name”
- Business address
- If addressing to a company or individual include:
- Presented to: “Name”
- Company or Financial Institution
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary……………………………………….Page #
- Business/Industry Overview……………………………Page #
- Market Analysis and Competition……………………Page #
- Sales and Marketing Plan………………………………Page #
- Ownership and Management Plan…………………..Page #
- Operating Plan……………………………………………..Page #
- Financial Plan……………………………………………….Page #
- Appendices and Exhibits………………………………..Page #
Section 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary goes near the beginning of the plan but is written last. It provides a short, concise, and optimistic overview of your business that captures the reader’s attention and creates a need to learn more. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long, with brief summaries of other sections of the plan.
- Describe your mission – what is the need for your new business?
- Introduce your company and the management and ownership.
- Describe your main product and service offerings.
- Briefly describe the customer base you will be targeting and how your business will serve those customers.
- Summarize the competition and how you will get market share (i.e., what is your competitive advantage?)
- Briefly outline your financial projections for the first few years of operation.
- Describe your start-up financing requirements (if applicable).
An overview of the industry and how your business will compete in the sector. If you need guidance, a Business Plan Example of the Industry Overview will prove useful.
Section 2: Business/Industry Overview
- Describe the overall nature of the industry, including sales and other statistics. Include trends and demographics, and economic, cultural, and governmental influences.
- Describe your business and how it fits into the industry.
- Describe the existing competition.
- Describe what area(s) of the market you will target and what unique, improved or lower cost services you will offer.
Section 3: Market Analysis and Competition
In this section, you need to demonstrate that you have thoroughly analyzed the target market and that there is enough demand for your product or service to make your business viable. The competitive analysis includes an assessment of your competition and how your business will compete in the sector. You can turn to How to Write the Competitor Analysis Section of the Business Plan for help. The target market description and competitive analysis portions can be two separate sections in the plan or combined as shown:
- Define the target market(s) for your product or service in your geographic locale.
- Describe the need for your products or services.
- Estimate the overall size of the market and the units of your product or service the target market might buy, potential repeat purchase volume, and how the market might be affected by economic or demographic changes.
- Estimate the volume and value of your sales in comparison with any existing competitors. It helps to summarize the results in table form as in the following example which demonstrates that there is a gap in the high-quality sector of the market that your business intends to target.
- Describe any helpful barriers to entry that may protect your business from competition, such as access to capital, technology, regulations, employee skill sets, location, etc.
|Business||Competitor A||Competitor B||Your Business|
|Est. Annual Revenue||$1,000,000||$600,000||$500,000|
Section 4: Sales and Marketing Plan
A description of how you intend to entice customers to buy your product(s) or service(s), including advertising/promotion, pricing strategy, sales and distribution, and post-sales support if applicable.
Product or Service Offerings
Describe your product or service, how it benefits the customer, and what sets it apart from competitor offerings (i.e., what is your Unique Selling Proposition?).
Describe how you intend to price your product or service. Pricing has to be competitive to attract customers but high enough to cover costs and generate a profit. Pricing can be based on markup from cost, value to the buyer, or in comparison with similar products/services in the marketplace. Breakeven analysis can help determine sales and pricing for profitability. You’ll also want to take a look at Retail Pricing Strategies to Increase Profitability.
Sales and Distribution
Advertising and Promotion
- List the different media you will use to get your message to customers (e.g., business website, email, social media, traditional media like newspapers, etc.). Will you use sales promotional methods such as free samples, product demonstrations, etc.?
- What marketing materials you’ll use such as business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. What about product launches and tradeshows? Include an approximate budget for advertising and promotion.
Section 5: Ownership and Management Plan
This section describes the legal structure, ownership, and (if applicable) the management, and staffing requirements of your business.
Describe managers and their roles, key employee positions, and how each will be compensated. Include brief resumés.
External Resources and Services
Advisory Board (if required)
Section 6: Operating Plan
The operating plan outlines the physical requirements of your business, such as office, warehouse, retail space, equipment, inventory and supplies, labor, etc. For a one-person, home-based consulting business the operating plan will be short and simple, but for a business such as a restaurant or a manufacturer that requires custom facilities, supply chains, specialized equipment, and multiple employees, the operating plan needs to be very detailed.
Development (if applicable)
Explain what you have done to date in terms of identifying possible locations, sources of equipment, supply chains, etc. Describe your production workflow.
For manufacturing, explain how long it takes to produce a unit and when you’ll be able to start producing your product or service. Include factors that may affect the time frame of production and how you’ll deal with potential problems such as rush orders.
Describe the physical location of the business including location, land, and building requirements. Include square footage estimates with room for expansion if expected. Include the mortgage or leasing costs. Also include estimates of expected maintenance, utilities, and related overhead costs. Include zoning approvals and other permissions necessary to operate your business.
Outline expected staffing needs and the main duties of staff members, especially the key employees. Describe how the employees will be sourced and the employment relationship (i.e., contract, full-time, part-time, etc.). Detail any employee training needed and how it will be provided.
If your business is manufacturing, retail, food services, etc. include a description of the materials needed and how you will reliably source them. Give descriptions of major suppliers if needed. Describe how you will manage inventory.
Section 7: Financial Plan
The financial plan section is the most important section of the business plan, especially if you need debt financing or want to attract investors. The financial plan has to demonstrate that your business will grow and be profitable. To do this, you will need to create projected income statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets. For a new business, these are forecasts. A good rule of thumb is to underestimate revenues and overestimate expenses.
Cash Flow Projections
The cash flow projection shows your monthly anticipated cash revenues and disbursements for expenses. It is important for demonstrating that you can manage your cash flow and will be a good credit risk.
The balance sheet is a snapshot summary of the assets, liabilities, and equity of your business at a particular point in time. For a startup, this would be on the day the business opens. Note that a new business will have no accounts receivable entries on the balance sheet. Note also that the Balance Sheet is much simpler for unincorporated businesses without employees. Income tax, pensions, medical, etc. are only applicable to incorporated businesses, as are earnings/retained earnings.
Section 8: Appendices and Exhibits
The appendices and exhibits section contains any detailed information needed to support other sections of the plan.
Possible Appendix/Exhibit Items
- Credit histories for the business owners
- Detailed market research and analysis of competitors
- Resumés of the owners and key employees
- Information about your industry
- Information about your products/services
- Site/building/office plans
- Copies of mortgage documents, equipment leases, etc. (or quotes on these)
- Marketing brochures and other materials
- References from business colleagues
- Links to your business website
- Any other supporting material that may impress potential lenders or investors if you are looking for financing