A business plan is a document outlining a company’s operations, strategies, goals, and objectives. It’s crucial to guide you through each stage of starting and growing your business.
Below, you can find free business plan templates for specific business types. You can also find more in-depth information on writing a plan for your business, whether it’s a food truck, restaurant, real estate business, or another entity:
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document detailing how a business, whether it’s a new or existing company, will achieve its goals and objectives. It guides you through every step of starting and running a company.
A business plan can be the foundation of your business, serving as a written roadmap that covers all aspects of how to structure, run, and grow your business. You can also refer back to it as your business progresses to track its growth and success.
In addition to being a helpful document internally, a business plan is also vital for a company to communicate its success to external parties that may influence its future success.
Why Is a Business Plan Essential?
Consider some of the main reasons why large and small business owners alike use business plans:
1. Use As a Roadmap
A business plan sets specific, measurable, and time-bound goals. Having these goals helps you track progress, evaluate performance, and adjust as necessary.
By laying out goals, you have a clear and attainable plan of action with the ability to see and monitor your progress.
2. Plan Strategies For Potential Challenges
A business plan can help you think objectively about your business’s key elements and inform your decision-making as you move forward.
A detailed plan can provide a semblance of control over a potentially cumbersome process. Formulating a plan can improve your ability to make choices and decisions for yourself and the business. This approach is much better than suddenly making a critical decision without time to evaluate or haphazardly letting others decide for you.
3. Get Funding or Bring on New Business Partners
An accurate business plan is essential whether or not you need to secure a business loan. Investors and lenders often require a business plan before they commit capital. A solid plan demonstrates your commitment, viability, and potential return on investment.
Create a business plan that grabs the attention of potential investors and provides them with enough structure and confidence that they will move forward and grant funding and support to your business.
You can use your business plan to highlight how the proposed business will be successful and profitable.
4. Discover Any Weaknesses
A business plan includes a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis that helps identify potential risks and challenges. It is essential to allocate resources and demonstrate monthly profit or loss. By recognizing these elements early, you can develop strategies to mitigate or address them.
5. Analyze the Market and Competition
Market research within the plan helps you better understand your target audience, competition, and industry trends. This knowledge is crucial for making informed business decisions.
By learning about your competition, you can help make your goods or services stand out and help validate your business idea.
You should update a business plan as you go, altering your goals as necessary and being mindful of any changes of direction in your business.
Components of a Business Plan
A typical business plan includes the following sections:
- Executive Summary
- Management Team
- Products and Services
- Customers and Marketing
- SWOT Analysis
Our business plan template includes all of the above, so you won’t have to worry about missing out on essential sections.
How to Write a Business Plan
Step 1 – Create an Executive Summary
An executive summary is the first section of a traditional business plan, serving as the first impression of your business. Please give a brief overview of your company, including its mission, key goals, and a snapshot of your financial projections.
You can skip this step if you’re writing a lean business plan for a startup. Instead, replace it with a few sentences outlining the problem your startup aims to solve and the solution you will provide.
Executive Summary Example:
Market research indicates there are a growing number of dog owners in Tallahassee who want to train their animals. Consumer surveys indicate that most consumers don’t have the time or resources to train their animals themselves.
Consumers have also expressed a desire for combined dog walking and training services to help discipline their animals.
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks provides a convenient service for customers with furry friends and disposable incomes.
Tips for Writing an Executive Summary
- Define a problem in your market and state how your business will solve it.
- Limit your executive summary to one page.
- Use a tone appropriate for your audience.
Step 2 – Describe Your Company’s Team
A professional business plan will include a statement about your company’s team and management.
Describe your startup’s legal structure. After that, you can insert a chart to show the hierarchical structure of your company. Show and name your C-suite executives, management team, and key employees. Include short biographies and links to their resumes and LinkedIn profiles to give the reader a complete picture of your staff’s qualifications.
If you have a smaller staff, you can highlight the founder and CEO and your staff members who perform the services or create your business’s products.
Example for Company’s Team Statement:
Jamie Clayton, Founder and CEO
- Board-certified veterinarian.
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks’s dog walkers and trainers
- 14 full-time staff members.
- 26 part-time staff members.
- All staff members have the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) credential from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Tips for Writing about Your Company Management and Team
- Include any roles you’d like to hire to grow your company, if applicable.
- Highlight expertise and awards one to show your staff’s capabilities.
Step 3 – Summarize Market Analysis and Potential
Your business plan must also thoroughly analyze your target market and customer base. The goal here is to show that you understand your market and target audience and that there is a viable market for your business.
Market Analysis Example:
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks’s ideal customer is a dog owner between the ages of 25 and 65 with a high disposable income. They’re ideally a working professional or have recently retired from the workplace. They love their dog (or dogs) and want them to be well-behaved and have an outlet for all their energy.
Market research shows that Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks has ample opportunities in the Tallahassee area:
- The total revenue for dog walking services in the U.S. increased from $900 million in 2019 to $1.1 billion in 2023.
- Dog ownership has increased by 20% over the last five years.
- Online search volume for “dog walkers in Tallahassee” is up by 10% since last year.
- 19% of Tallahassee’s residents have a household income of $125,000 or more (compared to the average of 5% across the U.S.).
Tips for Writing a Market Analysis
- Use reliable sources for acquiring data.
- Conduct consumer surveys to hear from people in your target area.
- Focus on the demand in your area and the growth potential.
- Include revenue and expense projections based on market data.
Step 4 – Describe Your Product or Service
Describe the products and services you offer. Pinpoint the value they provide to current and future customers and share your plans for research and development.
The main goal of this section is to convince the reader and yourself that your business is viable and that you have enough resources, time, and energy to achieve your goals.
Product Description Example:
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks isn’t an ordinary dog walking service. When a customer signs up for our monthly subscription plan, we have one of our certified dog walkers go to their house 12 times a month on a schedule that works for them.
Our dog walker takes their dog on a 30-minute walk and corrects their behavior. Their dog learns how to walk on a leash calmly and be around cars and people. Not only does the dog get some exercise and fresh air, but they also learn discipline, meaning the customer doesn’t have to worry about training their dog in this sense.
Tips for Writing a Product/Service Description
- Highlight cross-sell and upsell opportunities, if applicable.
- Emphasize what distinguishes you from other companies providing similar services/products.
- Include details for updating your offerings in the future.
Step 5 – Plan Your Marketing Strategy
Discuss the brand vision you want to cultivate, the metrics you’ll track, and the channels you’ll use to reach your target audience. Outlining how you plan to collect and retain customers will help you experience growth in the long term.
Marketing Strategy Example:
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks will focus on social media and direct mail marketing as its two main forms of advertising. We’ll track customer referrals to determine how many current customers are satisfied with our services.
On our social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, we’ll track our audience growth rate, bounce rate, and click-through rate.
Tips for Writing a Marketing Strategy
- Add the budget/resources you have, if applicable.
- Create strategies for marketing to different segments within your main target audience.
Step 6 – Conduct SWOT Analysis
Organizations use SWOT analyses to determine how closely a business will adhere to its growth trajectories. This analysis involves looking at a company’s SWOTs, which are:
- Strengths: Strengths are things your company does well. Examples include having a unique selling proposition, standout brandings, or human resources, like your employees and C-class executives.
- Weaknesses: These barriers prevent your project or company from reaching certain milestones. Examples include financial limitations, a shortage of skilled professionals, and unclear selling propositions.
- Opportunities: These positive external factors could give you a competitive edge. For instance, if you’re a manufacturer and the federal government cuts tariffs, you can export your products into a new market to boost market share and sales.
- Threats: These are events, competitors, and situations that pose a risk to your company and the goals you’ve set for it. Typical threats include negative media coverage, changing customer demands, emerging competitors, and new rules and regulations.
SWOT Analysis Example:
- Appeals to people who don’t have the time or resources to train their pets.
- Low startup costs.
- Finding enough certified employees to meet the anticipated demand.
- Dealing with aggressive animals may be challenging for newer employees.
- Offering multiple subscription packages for customers who want more frequent training sessions for their pets.
- BehaviorBuddies is a dog walking service in Bradfordville that may take away customers.
Tips for Writing a SWOT Analysis
- Be honest with your business’s weaknesses and threats.
- Capitalize on opportunities you find through market analysis.
Step 7 – Develop a Strategy for Operations
Your business plan needs to include a thorough operations plan. This section reveals your manufacturing, fulfillment, managing, staffing, hiring strategies, and all the other processes you go through when running your business daily.
Operations Strategy Example:
Jamie Clayton will oversee the hiring of all employees, and the team lead will train all employees for at least one month to ensure they have the knowledge necessary to deal with animals of all temperaments.
The team lead will also organize the dog walking schedule to ensure all team members have enough time to arrive at customers’ houses and complete the dog walking/training sessions thoroughly.
Tips for Writing a Business Strategy
- Consider what your business needs to thrive on a daily basis.
- Account for inventory and supplies, even if your business is service-based.
Step 8 – Compile Your Business Financials
Create financial projections, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the first few years of operation. If you need funding, specify the amount and how you plan to use it.
Financial Statement Example:
Income Statement for the Year Ended December 31, 2023
- Revenue: $150,000
- Cost of Goods Sold: $30,000
- Gross Profit: $120,000
- Operating Expenses: $80,000
- Net Operating Income: $40,000
- Other Income/Expenses: -$2,000
- Net Income: $38,000
Tips for Writing a Financial Section
- Double-check the accuracy of financial information.
- Demonstrate how the proposed funding aligns with your company’s goals.
- Forecast future financial performance.
Step 9 – Explain Your Funding Request
If you’re seeking funding or investment for your business, explain the amount you need and how you intend to use it. Be transparent about the terms you’re offering to investors or lenders.
Funding Request Example:
Pawsitive Strides Canine Coaching & Walks has already hired a team to serve our existing customers. Once we scale to $500,000 in annual revenue over the next two years and at a 10% profit margin, our primary ongoing annual expenses (not including taxes) will total $350,000.
While already profitable, we are requesting $200,000 in the form of a business loan to buy two additional company vehicles. These vehicles will improve our employees’ ability to get to customers’ homes, and the remaining money will go toward maintaining current company vehicles.
Tips for Writing a Funding Request
- Add a timeline so investors know your goals and how you plan to use the money.
- If you seek funding in the form of an exchange for equity, an investor may expect to gain decision-making powers in your company. Plan for this situation accordingly.
Step 10 – Compile an Appendix for Official Documents
Include relevant documents, such as resumes of key team members, legal agreements, market research data, product design mock-ups, and your business’s legal structure documents.
Remember that each business plan is unique, so tailor your content to your venture and audience. Your business plan should effectively communicate your vision, strategy, and financial viability to potential investors, partners, and stakeholders.
Combine the appendix with a table of contents and footnotes section so you can reference it throughout your document.
Business Plan Sample
You can download a free business plan template below in PDF or Word format: