A business plan can be a key element to guide you through each stage of starting and growing your business. You can start creating your business plan by using a free business plan template to get you started or using our document builder to help guide you through the process. Below are sample business plans and useful information to help you start writing yours today.
Sample Business Plans
Below you can find sample business plans for specific business types. You can also find more in-depth information on writing a business plan for your business, whether it’s a food truck, coffee shop, or real estate business:
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that details how a business, both start-ups and existing companies, will achieve its goals and objectives.
Business plans can be the foundation of your business, acting as a written roadmap that covers all aspects of how to structure, run and grow your business and allows you to track your business’s success.
As well as being a useful document internally, they are also vital for businesses looking to secure investment and funding by showing potential investors how the proposed business will be successful or profitable.
Ideally, a business plan will be updated as you go, allowing you to alter your business goals depending on whether you’re meeting them or your business direction has changed.
Components of a Business Plan
When writing a business plan, several elements need to be covered. A typical business plan includes the following elements:
- 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 any important sections.
Who Needs a Business Plan?
You need a business plan if you have a business idea, intend to, or already have, committed to a serious business endeavor. A business plan can play a key part in your business’s success.
You won’t need a business plan if you’re looking at freelancing to supplement your income, but you will need one if you’re starting a business or have already started one.
If you need an investment, need to apply for an investment loan, or if you plan on working with partners, then you need a business plan.
You also need a business plan to successfully communicate with a management team, sell, or set a value on your business.
Why is a Business Plan Important?
There are many reasons why a business plan is important, such as to guide critical decisions and help secure investments or loans. Here are our top seven reasons why you need a business plan:
1. Help With Critical Business Decisions
A business plan can help you think objectively about your business’s key elements and inform your decision-making as you move forward.
Creating a detailed plan can provide a semblance of control over a potentially unwieldy process. Taking the time to formulate 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 make decisions for you.
In terms of critical decision-making, a business plan is an indispensable tool. A sound business plan presents the precise steps and actions needed. Because the plan expresses your aspirations for your business, it serves as a constant reminder. You can ask yourself if your decision, in a particular instance, aligns with your original plans and ultimate goals.
2. Secure an Investment or a Loan
An accurate business plan is essential whether or not you need to secure a business loan.
Your business plan must grab the attention of potential investors and provide them with enough structure and confidence that they will move forward and grant funding and support to your business. Investors want a return on their investment, and your plan must signal future success.
A comprehensive business plan can be the most significant factor in obtaining funding. Your business plan must persuade others that investing and working with you is an intelligent choice. With that in mind, your presentation must be bold, eye-catching, and extensive. Within the document itself, you can:
- Provide pictorial demonstrations for your product or service
- Use arresting images to grab the attention of readers
- Describe projected marketing and sales for your business.
- Reinforce your visual marketing materials with presentations
- Showcase customer testimonials or anticipation for your business
3. Create Milestones
In terms of creating milestones, a business plan can help you think objectively about your business’s key components and can help mark achievements or milestones.
Milestones help new business owners manage and keep track of the progress they have made. By achieving successive milestones, a business owner can better understand how the business is moving forward.
Being well-organized and developing effective plans allows you to reach your most important goals and objectives, whether business-related or personal. For example, a milestone can be a start date, a financial marker, the number of investors, hiring certain personnel, completing a remodeling, a visit from your relatives, or selling a certain amount of goods.
By laying out milestones, you suddenly have a clear and attainable plan of action with the ability to see and monitor your progress. You also can aim for short-, mid-, and long-term goals and can adjust accordingly to meet your objectives.
4. Minimize Risk
By striving to understand your competitors and your customers, you can minimize the risk to your business. A business plan is essential in allocating resources and in demonstrating monthly whether your business will be making a profit that month or losing money,
To minimize risk, a business plan typically includes detailed information that can improve the chances of success for any new business. Some specific items in a business plan that will serve to minimize risk include:
- Market analysis of the industry and your expected contribution
- Competitive analysis of what is working in the industry
- Customer loyalty toward your potential business
- Logistics in terms of physical location and efficiency
- Marketing of your products or services with cost projections
- Plan for immediate business operations
- Projection of cash flow for the foreseeable future
- Plans for long-term growth spanning 3 to 5 years
5. Understand Your Competitors and Your Customers
By striving to understand both your competitors and your customers, you can create a business plan that considers many variables. By learning about your competition, you can help make your goods or services stand out and help validate your business idea.
First, determine how you are different from the competitors in your industry and consider how you can attract customers for your products and services.
Next, evaluate pricing to find where customers will buy your services instead of a competitor‘s, and you can still make a profit.
How do competitors advertise? What do customers seem to appreciate the most? How can you perfectly position yourself to increase your customer base? A well-written business plan template will help you answer these questions.
6. Identify Weaknesses and Realize Potential Opportunities
Recognizing potential opportunities is just as important as identifying problems and challenges.
The importance of writing a business plan for any entrepreneur begins by encouraging them to be more realistic about their financial health. Hard facts revealed in a business plan will help business owners understand their real challenges and obstacles. These perceived weaknesses can be approached directly once in the open.
Your business plan may change as you discover unexpected weaknesses and the unpredictable variables of starting your own business. To be proactive, your business strategy should include a plan that accounts in advance for the 3 to 5 years after establishing your business.
7. Help Attract Staff and Service Providers
Presenting a business plan to potential staff in which you outline the exact duties, salaries, and expectations for your employees can help attract a higher caliber of employees.
A plan for hiring new staff may not necessarily make its way into your business plan, but it does serve as a potential milestone and also helps determine projected operational costs. Staff and service providers are crucial components in the cost of your new business.
How to Write a Business Plan?
The easiest way to create a business plan is to use our business plan template, which includes the sections below. Download our business plan template or use our document builder to write your plan. Follow this step-by-step to write a traditional business plan:
Step 1. Executive Summary
An executive summary is the first section of a traditional business plan but one of the most important as it’s the first impression of your business. Give a brief overview of your company:
- Mission statement
- Ownership structure
- Services or products
- Key C-class executives and employees
- Growth potential
- Viability and competitive advantage
- Funding requirements and financial information (if you’re planning to seek loans, business partners, or investments)
Remember to keep your executive summary short — it’s only an introduction, so it shouldn’t be more than one or two pages. Use it to highlight only the most important points and leave the details for later.
You can skip this step if you’re writing a lean startup business plan. Instead, replace it with a few sentences outlining the problem your startup aims to solve and the solution you will provide.
Step 2. Management Team
Next, tell the reader about your company’s management team.
Describe your startup’s legal structure: Is it a partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or sole proprietorship? 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 bios and links to their resumes and LinkedIn profiles to give the reader a full picture of your staff’s qualifications.
Step 3. Products and Services
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. You should also discuss:
- Your company’s intellectual property, such as patent and copyright filings
- How do your company’s services and products differ from what’s on the target market
- What competitive advantages do you have
- What competitive disadvantages do you have, and how can you overcome them, if possible
- How will you price your products, and what the expected profit margin will be
- How you will source your products (i.e., whether you manufacture the products or purchase them from wholesalers and suppliers)
- Whether there will be a steady supply of products available once your business starts getting more customers
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. Keep the following in mind as you write this section:
- Avoid being overly technical and use simple, layman-friendly terms
- In general, you should describe your services and products as detailed as possible, particularly if your business is service- or product-focused. However, if your selling point is competitive pricing, focus on your pricing model instead of the products and services.
Step 4. Customers and Marketing
Your business plan also needs to 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.
To do this, you need to evaluate and analyze customers:
- Demographic data, such as age, location, gender, and income
- Purchasing habits
- Buying cycles
- Willingness to buy new services and products
You should also answer the following questions:
- Which segment of the market do you plan to target? What age group, gender, or behaviors make up your key audience?
- What is the size of your target market? Is it expanding, stable, or declining?
- Will demand for your services and products change over the next few years? Will it fall or rise?
- Why are customers drawn to your services and products? What interests them the most about your offerings?
- What do customers generally expect to pay for the kinds of products and services you offer? Is your pricing fair?
- Will your market share increase over time? What will you do to achieve this?
Step 5. SWOT Analysis
Organizations use SWOT analyses to determine how closely a business will adhere to its growth trajectories. A SWOT analysis involves looking at a company’s SWOTs, which are:
- Strengths: These are the things your project or 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.
Step 6. Financials
This is where you’ll include your company’s financial projections and estimates. Pay particular attention to this part of the business plan if you want to secure a loan or investment. Your goal is to convince the lender or investor that your business is viable, stable, and will succeed.
Include the following reports and projections to give the reader a thorough picture of where your company’s headed:
- Balance Sheets: These indicate your business’s financial health. Be sure to list out your company’s liabilities, assets, shareholders, and earnings.
- Operating Budget: This is a breakdown of your startup’s expenses and income. Your operating budget will show the reader how your company will operate and how much money it will need to achieve certain goals and milestones.
- Income Statements: Also called profit-and-loss statements, income statements describe your company’s projected expenses and revenue and show whether your startup will earn a viable profit in the near future.
- Cash Flow Statements: These are projections of receipts and payments that show your business’s cash flow and will show the reader how payments (including salaries) are made.
- Asset List: List all of your company’s assets.
- Loan Collateral: List all of the collateral you have for loans. This will give lenders a more accurate understanding of the assets your company currently owns.
If your business is already established, you should include these documents for the last three to five years and projections for the next three to five years. However, if you haven’t established your business yet, you would only need to include projections covering three to five years.
Step 7. Operations
Your business plan needs to include a thorough Operations Plan. This section reveals your strategies for manufacturing, fulfillment, managing, staffing, hiring, and all of the other processes you go through when running your business daily.
Answer the following questions:
- What are your staffing needs? How do you source, hire, and onboard staff?
- What work models do you use? Do you use an in-person, hybrid, or remote work model?
- If you choose an in-person or hybrid work model, what type of building do you need? What kind of workstations will you provide?
- What conferencing software will you use if you choose a remote work model? What kind of computers or programs do you expect your employees to use?
- What is your organizational structure? What departments do you have?
- Does your company require a sustained research and development effort? If so, how will you sustain this aspect of your work?
- How will your startup establish business relationships with suppliers and vendors?
- How will your operations change as your startup expands and grows?
- What steps will you take if your company doesn’t perform according to expectations?
Step 8. Appendix
Attach supporting documentation and materials referenced in the other sections or requested by the reader. Most business plan templates provide the following:
- Product pictures or packaging samples
- Marketing materials
- Patents and Trademarks
- Building permits
- Resumes of founders, C-suite executives, and key staff members
- Letters of reference
- Legal documents
Why Use a Business Plan Template?
There are several reasons you should use a business plan template, including:
1. Write with confidence — you won’t forget any important information
Using our free business plan template can help you write your own plan without the hassle of figuring out how to order your chapters or feeling like you might be missing a section. We provide the entire bare-bones skeleton of a business plan template within a Microsoft Word .doc download. After you download the business plan template, it’s up to you to flesh out the details and ensure that each section is as well-researched and intelligently conceived as possible.
2. Step-by-step writing guide and writing samples included
Our free business plan template includes a complete how-to guide with examples from our professional business plan samples to help steer you through your writing.
3. Completely free – no hidden costs; download and start writing
Our business plan template is completely free. You may encounter other people or websites on the internet charging a price to download a business plan template. Do not purchase them – there is no benefit at all to purchasing a pre-fabricated business plan template. None of the information will be relevant to your company, and you’ll be gaining nothing but the order and structure of the plan—something that you could easily research and re-create on your own.
Alternatively, you can use our document builder to guide you through writing a business plan.
A business plan template alone may not be practical in all situations. Consider supplementing your template with the assistance of an appropriate professional if your business plan requires complicated calculations, requires visual graphs or charts, or you desire the ability to track your business’ progress.
Business Plan Template
You can download a free business plan template below, in Word format:
Business Plan FAQs
What is the purpose of a business plan?
The main purpose of a business plan is to help you achieve your business goals. Essentially, it’s a management tool that empowers you to put your business ideas into words, analyze key elements, make important decisions, and show how your business will operate and expand. If written well, a business plan will boost your chances of success if you’re considering creating a new startup.
Business plans also have other purposes. By showing what your business idea is all about and how it will grow over the next few years, business plans can help you attract business partners and investors to your company. A solid business plan can also attract skilled employees to help you achieve your business goals.
What are the five elements of a business plan?
A business plan is made up of many sections and components, but the five core elements of a business plan are:
- Executive Summary
- Business Overview
- Customers and marketing
- Operations and management
- Financial projections
You can find all these elements included in our free business plan template.
How do I write a simple business plan?
If you want to write a simple business plan, use a one-page template. A one-page business plan is a simple version of a traditional business plan. It condenses the information and presents it in an easy-to-read format. Use our one-page business plan template to get you started.