How To Do Business For Beginners – Regardless of size or industry, it is the cornerstone of any successful business. This step-by-step guide provides information on how to write a business plan for organizations at all stages, with free templates and expert advice.
On this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to help you decide what type of business plan to write. Plus, find information on how a business plan can help your business grow and expert advice on how to write one.
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Is a document that outlines the company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, funding, and methods needed to achieve them. In addition, it may include a mission statement and details about specific products or services offered.
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A business plan can represent different periods depending on the stage of your business and its goals. That said, a typical business plan includes the following criteria:
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses create business plans to use as a guide as they move forward with their new venture. Larger organizations can also create (and update) a business plan to track high-level, financial, and timeline goals.
While you should definitely have a formal plan for your company’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine the company’s viability, profitability (including when it first turns a profit), and how much money do you need . investors In turn, a business plan also has a functional value: defining goals not only helps to report on time, but can also attract investors and thus act as an effective growth strategy.
To learn more, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates. This page focuses on nonprofit business plans, but you can read our article on nonprofit business plan templates.
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The details of your business plan will vary based on your business needs and goals, but a typical plan will include the following customized elements:
If your outline is particularly long or complex, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for information. For a detailed description of each step mentioned above, read How to write a business plan step by step below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone who has an interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers and vendors.
The stage of your business and intended audience will determine the level of detail your plan needs. Companies require a full business plan – up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan that focuses on finances and strategy.
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To determine what type of business plan you need, ask, “What do we want to plan?” Define function first and form will follow.
There is no set order for a business plan, except for the executive summary, which should always come first. Other than that, just make sure you structure the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
A traditional business plan follows a standard structure: because these plans encourage detail, they usually require more work and can run for dozens of pages. A tight business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing the important points for each section. These plans require less work and are usually one page.
In general, you should use the traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that doesn’t fit Lean (or another Agile method). Use Lean if you expect the business to change quickly or if you already use a Lean strategy with other business operations. Also, a Lean business plan may be sufficient if the document is for internal use only. For investors, stick with the traditional version as they may be sensitive to sudden changes or the high degree of flexibility built into the plan.
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Writing a solid business plan for each section requires research and attention to detail. Below is a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element of the plan.
The executive summary will always be the first part of your business plan. The aim is to answer the following questions:
See Executive Summary Examples and Templates for examples. Read our executive summary guide for more information on how to write it.
The purpose of this section is to define your company’s industry, scope and purpose. To do this, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
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In this section, provide evidence that you have researched and understood the current market and that your product or service fits the market niche. To do this, answer these questions:
In many cases, the business plan is not a new company (or even a market disruptor), but a more competitive version—whether through features, pricing, integration, etc.—than what’s out there today. . Answer the following questions in this section to demonstrate that your product or service is ahead of the competition:
In this section, describe the team members and other key personnel who are critical to success. List roles and responsibilities and, if applicable, describe the hierarchy or team structure.
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 will largely determine the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take the time to test and improve your product before you start marketing, selling or financing the details.
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Define your marketing strategy for your product or service in this section. It should not be developed as a complete marketing plan, but should answer basic questions such as the following:
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including priorities for each cycle, steps to achieve those goals, and indicators of success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not have to be a comprehensive in-depth sales plan, but can only outline the high-level goals and strategies for your sales efforts.
This section is one of the most important parts of your business plan, especially if you’re sharing it with investors. You do not need to submit a complete financial plan, but you must answer the following questions:
In addition to fundraising analysis, investors like to see financial projections for the future. As discussed above, depending on the scale and stage of your business, this can take between one and five years.
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While these predictions won’t be exact and should be somewhat flexible, you should keep the following in mind:
This basic business plan template includes all the traditional elements: executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, and more. sales forecast, financial reports, etc.
For templates tailored to specific needs, check out this roundup of business plan templates or download a blank business plan template to make things easier.
If you’re looking for a specific template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to business plan templates for Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, and Adobe PDF.
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, which communicates high-level information for immediate review (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps to create a simple overall business plan, which is reflected in the template below.
Use this simple business plan template to outline all aspects of your organization, including funding information and opportunities to seek more funding. This template is fully customizable to fit the needs of any business, be it a startup or a large enterprise.
Read our article on simple business plan templates or 30-60-90 day business plan templates for more suitable options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates.
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A more agile approach to the traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects) than on specific deliverables and deadlines.
Although there is some overlap between a traditional business plan and a lean business plan, you can write a lean plan by following these steps:
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to convey the most important information from a traditional plan. You will find all the sections listed above, including areas for industry and product overview, cost structure and revenue sources, key indicators and tables. The template is fully customizable, so you can edit it to fit your Lean startup goals.
, includes many of the same aspects as a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents such as a credit history, loan application and loan repayment plan.
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In addition, you will be asked to provide personal and business financial statements, collateral forms and stock investment information.
In addition to including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to document to increase your chances of receiving funding and other resources. Follow these expert tips:
Beyond these practical tips, the language you use is important