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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
- There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.
Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."
Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.
There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.
Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.
While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.
While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.
Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.
The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.
These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:
- Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
- Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
- Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.
2 Types of Business Plans
Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.
- Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
- Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.
How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.
Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.
A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.
Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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- Which Type of Organization Is Best For Your Business? 5 of 46
- What Are the Major Types of Businesses in the Private Sector? 6 of 46
- Corporate Culture Definition, Characteristics, and Importance 7 of 46
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- Seed Capital: What It Is, How It Works, Example 14 of 46
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- Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 16 of 46
- Capital Funding: Definition, How It Works, and 2 Primary Methods 17 of 46
- Series Funding: A, B, and C 18 of 46
- Small Business Administration (SBA): Definition and What It Does 19 of 46
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What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
Published: June 07, 2023
In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.
Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?
In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.
The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.
What is a business plan used for?
The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.
Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]
Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.
Purposes of a Business Plan
Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Securing financing from investors.
Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.
All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.
Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.
2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.
A business plan should leave no stone unturned.
Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.
To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.
These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.
Free Business Plan Template
The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.
- Outline your idea.
- Pitch to investors.
- Secure funding.
- Get to work!
You're all set!
Click this link to access this resource at any time.
Free Business Plan [Template]
Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..
Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.
A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.
As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.
It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.
4. Getting an A in your business class.
Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.
If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?
What does a business plan need to include?
- Business Plan Subtitle
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- The Business Opportunity
- Competitive Analysis
- Target Market
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Summary
- Funding Requirements
1. Business Plan Subtitle
Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.
2. Executive Summary
Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.
3. Company Description
This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.
4. The Business Opportunity
The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.
5. Competitive Analysis
Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.
6. Target Market
Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.
7. Marketing Plan
Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.
Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.
8. Financial Summary
Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.
So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.
10. Funding Requirements
Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.
Types of Business Plans
- Startup Business Plan
- Feasibility Business Plan
- Internal Business Plan
- Strategic Business Plan
- Business Acquisition Plan
- Business Repositioning Plan
- Expansion or Growth Business Plan
There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.
For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .
1. Startup Business Plan
As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.
The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.
Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.
For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.
2. Feasibility Business Plan
This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:
- A detailed product description
- Market analysis
- Technology needs
- Production needs
- Financial sources
- Production operations
According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.
Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.
3. Internal Business Plan
Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.
Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:
- Department-specific budgets
- Target demographic analysis
- Market size and share of voice analysis
- Action plans
- Sustainability plans
Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.
4. Strategic Business Plan
Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.
These types of business plans may include:
- Relevant data and analysis
- Assessments of company resources
- Vision and mission statements
It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.
5. Business Acquisition Plan
Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.
A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.
A business plan for an existing company will explain:
- How an acquisition will change its operating model
- What will stay the same under new ownership
- Why things will change or stay the same
- Acquisition planning documentation
- Timelines for acquisition
Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.
For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:
- What the new owner will do to turn the business around
- Historic business metrics
- Sales projections after the acquisition
- Justification for those projections
6. Business Repositioning Plan
When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.
This plan will:
- Acknowledge the current state of the company.
- State a vision for the future of the company.
- Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
- Outline a process for how the company will adjust.
Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.
For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.
7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan
When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.
For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.
This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:
- SWOT analysis
- Growth opportunity studies
- Financial goals and plans
- Marketing plans
- Capability planning
These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.
Getting Started With Your Business Plan
At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.
When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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Do you REALLY need a business plan?
The top three questions that I get asked most frequently as a professional business plan writer will probably not surprise you:
- What is the purpose of a business plan – why is it really required?
- How is it going to benefit my business if I write a business plan?
- Is a business plan really that important – how can I actually use it?
Keep reading to get my take on what the most essential advantages of preparing a business plan are—and why you may (not) need to prepare one.
The importance, purpose and benefit of a business plan is in that it enables you to validate a business idea, secure funding, set strategic goals – and then take organized action on those goals by making decisions, managing resources, risk and change, while effectively communicating with stakeholders.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of the important business planning benefits can catapult your business forward:
1. Validate Your Business Idea
The process of writing your business plan will force you to ask the difficult questions about the major components of your business, including:
- External: industry, target market of prospective customers, competitive landscape
- Internal: business model, unique selling proposition, operations, marketing, finance
Business planning connects the dots to draw a big picture of the entire business.
And imagine how much time and money you would save if working through a business plan revealed that your business idea is untenable. You would be surprised how often that happens – an idea that once sounded so very promising may easily fall apart after you actually write down all the facts, details and numbers.
While you may be tempted to jump directly into start-up mode, writing a business plan is an essential first step to check the feasibility of a business before investing too much time and money into it. Business plans help to confirm that the idea you are so passionate and convinced about is solid from business point of view.
Take the time to do the necessary research and work through a proper business plan. The more you know, the higher the likelihood that your business will succeed.
2. Set and Track Goals
Successful businesses are dynamic and continuously evolve. And so are good business plans that allow you to:
- Priorities: Regularly set goals, targets (e.g., sales revenues reached), milestones (e.g. number of employees hired), performance indicators and metrics for short, mid and long term
- Accountability: Track your progress toward goals and benchmarks
- Course-correction: make changes to your business as you learn more about your market and what works and what does not
- Mission: Refer to a clear set of values to help steer your business through any times of trouble
Essentially, business plan is a blueprint and an important strategic tool that keeps you focused, motivated and accountable to keep your business on track. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help you measure and manage what you are working so hard to create – your long-term vision.
As humans, we work better when we have clear goals we can work towards. The everyday business hustle makes it challenging to keep an eye on the strategic priorities. The business planning process serves as a useful reminder.
3. Take Action
A business plan is also a plan of action . At its core, your plan identifies where you are now, where you want your business to go, and how you will get there.
Planning out exactly how you are going to turn your vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between an idea and reality. Success comes not only from having a vision but working towards that vision in a systematic and organized way.
A good business plan clearly outlines specific steps necessary to turn the business objectives into reality. Think of it as a roadmap to success. The strategy and tactics need to be in alignment to make sure that your day-to-day activities lead to the achievement of your business goals.
4. Manage Resources
A business plan also provides insight on how resources required for achieving your business goals will be structured and allocated according to their strategic priority. For example:
Large Spending Decisions
- Assets: When and in what amount will the business commit resources to buy/lease new assets, such as computers or vehicles.
- Human Resources: Objectives for hiring new employees, including not only their pay but how they will help the business grow and flourish.
- Business Space: Information on costs of renting/buying space for offices, retail, manufacturing or other operations, for example when expanding to a new location.
Cash Flow It is essential that a business carefully plans and manages cash flows to ensure that there are optimal levels of cash in the bank at all times and avoid situations where the business could run out of cash and could not afford to pay its bills.
Revenues v. Expenses In addition, your business plan will compare your revenue forecasts to the budgeted costs to make sure that your financials are healthy and the business is set up for success.
5. Make Decisions
Whether you are starting a small business or expanding an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions:
Sound decisions Gathering information for the business plan boosts your knowledge across many important areas of the business:
- Industry, market, customers and competitors
- Financial projections (e.g., revenue, expenses, assets, cash flow)
- Operations, technology and logistics
- Human resources (management and staff)
- Creating value for your customer through products and services
Decision-making skills The business planning process involves thorough research and critical thinking about many intertwined and complex business issues. As a result, it solidifies the decision-making skills of the business owner and builds a solid foundation for strategic planning , prioritization and sound decision making in your business. The more you understand, the better your decisions will be.
Planning Thorough planning allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time , prepare for anticipate problems before they arise, and ensure that any tactical solutions are in line with the overall strategy and goals.
If you do not take time to plan, you risk becoming overwhelmed by countless options and conflicting directions because you are not unclear about the mission , vision and strategy for your business.
6. Manage Risk
Some level of uncertainty is inherent in every business, but there is a lot you can do to reduce and manage the risk, starting with a business plan to uncover your weak spots.
You will need to take a realistic and pragmatic look at the hard facts and identify:
- Major risks , challenges and obstacles that you can expect on the way – so you can prepare to deal with them.
- Weaknesses in your business idea, business model and strategy – so you can fix them.
- Critical mistakes before they arise – so you can avoid them.
Essentially, the business plan is your safety net . Naturally, business plan cannot entirely eliminate risk, but it can significantly reduce it and prepare you for any challenges you may encounter.
7. Communicate Internally
Attract talent For a business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is of vital importance.
A business plan can be used as a communication tool to attract the right talent at all levels, from skilled staff to executive management, to work for your business by explaining the direction and growth potential of the business in a presentable format.
Align performance Sharing your business plan with all team members helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the long-term vision and strategy.
You need their buy-in from the beginning, because aligning your team with your priorities will increase the efficiency of your business as everyone is working towards a common goal .
If everyone on your team understands that their piece of work matters and how it fits into the big picture, they are more invested in achieving the objectives of the business.
It also makes it easier to track and communicate on your progress.
Share and explain business objectives with your management team, employees and new hires. Make selected portions of your business plan part of your new employee training.
8. Communicate Externally
Alliances If you are interested in partnerships or joint ventures, you may share selected sections of your plan with the potential business partners in order to develop new alliances.
Suppliers A business plan can play a part in attracting reliable suppliers and getting approved for business credit from suppliers. Suppliers who feel confident that your business will succeed (e.g., sales projections) will be much more likely to extend credit.
In addition, suppliers may want to ensure their products are being represented in the right way .
Professional Services Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, including attorneys, accountants, and other professional consultants as needed, to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Advisors Share the plan with experts and professionals who are in a position to give you valuable advice.
Landlord Some landlords and property managers require businesses to submit a business plan to be considered for a lease to prove that your business will have sufficient cash flows to pay the rent.
Customers The business plan may also function as a prospectus for potential customers, especially when it comes to large corporate accounts and exclusive customer relationships.
9. Secure Funding
If you intend to seek outside financing for your business, you are likely going to need a business plan.
Whether you are seeking debt financing (e.g. loan or credit line) from a lender (e.g., bank or financial institution) or equity capital financing from investors (e.g., venture or angel capital), a business plan can make the difference between whether or not – and how much – someone decides to invest.
Investors and financiers are always looking at the risk of default and the earning potential based on facts and figures. Understandably, anyone who is interested in supporting your business will want to check that you know what you are doing, that their money is in good hands, and that the venture is viable in the long run.
Business plans tend to be the most effective ways of proving that. A presentation may pique their interest , but they will most probably request a well-written document they can study in detail before they will be prepared to make any financial commitment.
That is why a business plan can often be the single most important document you can present to potential investors/financiers that will provide the structure and confidence that they need to make decisions about funding and supporting your company.
Be prepared to have your business plan scrutinized . Investors and financiers will conduct extensive checks and analyses to be certain that what is written in your business plan faithful representation of the truth.
10. Grow and Change
It is a very common misconception that a business plan is a static document that a new business prepares once in the start-up phase and then happily forgets about.
But businesses are not static. And neither are business plans. The business plan for any business will change over time as the company evolves and expands .
In the growth phase, an updated business plan is particularly useful for:
Raising additional capital for expansion
- Seeking financing for new assets , such as equipment or property
- Securing financing to support steady cash flows (e.g., seasonality, market downturns, timing of sale/purchase invoices)
- Forecasting to allocate resources according to strategic priority and operational needs
- Valuation (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, tax issues, transactions related to divorce, inheritance, estate planning)
Keeping the business plan updated gives established businesses better chance of getting the money they need to grow or even keep operating.
Business plan is also an excellent tool for planning an exit as it would include the strategy and timelines for a transfer to new ownership or dissolution of the company.
Also, if you ever make the decision to sell your business or position yourself for a merger or an acquisition , a strong business plan in hand is going to help you to maximize the business valuation.
Valuation is the process of establishing the worth of a business by a valuation expert who will draw on professional experience as well as a business plan that will outline what you have, what it’s worth now and how much will it likely produce in the future.
Your business is likely to be worth more to a buyer if they clearly understand your business model, your market, your assets and your overall potential to grow and scale .
Business plan purpose: what is the purpose of a business plan.
The purpose of a business plan is to articulate a strategy for starting a new business or growing an existing one by identifying where the business is going and how it will get there to test the viability of a business idea and maximize the chances of securing funding and achieving business goals and success.
Business Plan Benefits: What are the benefits of a business plan?
A business plan benefits businesses by serving as a strategic tool outlining the steps and resources required to achieve goals and make business ideas succeed, as well as a communication tool allowing businesses to articulate their strategy to stakeholders that support the business.
Business Plan Importance: Why is business plan important?
The importance of a business plan lies in it being a roadmap that guides the decisions of a business on the road to success, providing clarity on all aspects of its operations. This blueprint outlines the goals of the business and what exactly is needed to achieve them through effective management.
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What is a business plan?
Reasons for writing a business plan, what research shows about business plans, when should you write a business plan, how often should you update your business plan, how long should your business plan be, what information is included in a business plan, different types of business plans, business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan, business plan vs. business model, moving from idea to business plan.
What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources
Tim Berry | Nov 23, 2023
If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.
The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.
But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.
A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.
Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .
The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve.
It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .
If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact:
Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.
Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage.
If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.
But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks.
It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.
Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan
Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:
- 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
- Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
- Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
- Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.
The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.
Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters
No two business plans are alike.
Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.
A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business.
But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.
Ideal times to write a business plan include:
- When you have an idea for a business
- When you’re starting a business
- When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
- When you’re trying to get funding
- When business conditions change
- When you’re growing or scaling your business
Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan
As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.
A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals.
But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.
For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .
And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise.
It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change.
The planning process is what uncovers those insights.
Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan.
Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.
But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:
- Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
- Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.
A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience.
If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.
The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in.
For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.
Read More: How long should your business plan be?
The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in.
After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market.
But there are some common elements that most business plans include:
- Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
- Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
- Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
- Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
- Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
- Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
- Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
- Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
- Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
- Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.
Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan
A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs.
Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:
- One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
- Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
- Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.
- What questions are you trying to answer?
- Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
- Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals?
Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.
While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.
An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.
Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.
Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations
If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money.
The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important.
Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.
Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan
Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan .
If you’re stuck, start with a one-page business plan and check out our collection of over 550 business plan examples for inspiration. They’re broken out over dozens of industries—you can even copy and paste sections into your plan and rewrite them with information specific to your business.
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The importance of a business plan
Business plans are like road maps: it’s possible to travel without one, but that will only increase the odds of getting lost along the way.
Owners with a business plan see growth 30% faster than those without one, and 71% of the fast-growing companies have business plans . Before we get into the thick of it, let’s define and go over what a business plan actually is.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a 15-20 page document that outlines how you will achieve your business objectives and includes information about your product, marketing strategies, and finances. You should create one when you’re starting a new business and keep updating it as your business grows.
Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may have to stop and ask for directions or even circle back and start over, small business owners often use business plans to help guide them. That’s because they help them see the bigger picture, plan ahead, make important decisions, and improve the overall likelihood of success.
Why is a business plan important?
A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as their employees, the ability to lay out their goals and track their progress as their business begins to grow. Business planning should be the first thing done when starting a new business. Business plans are also important for attracting investors so they can determine if your business is on the right path and worth putting money into.
Business plans typically include detailed information that can help improve your business’s chances of success, like:
- A market analysis : gathering information about factors and conditions that affect your industry
- Competitive analysis : evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
- Customer segmentation : divide your customers into different groups based on specific characteristics to improve your marketing
- Marketing: using your research to advertise your business
- Logistics and operations plans : planning and executing the most efficient production process
- Cash flow projection : being prepared for how much money is going into and out of your business
- An overall path to long-term growth
10 reasons why you need a business plan
I know what you’re thinking: “Do I really need a business plan? It sounds like a lot of work, plus I heard they’re outdated and I like figuring things out as I go...”.
The answer is: yes, you really do need a business plan! As entrepreneur Kevin J. Donaldson said, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support—you’ll eventually get lost and starve! Though it may sound tedious and time-consuming, business plans are critical to starting your business and setting yourself up for success.
To outline the importance of business plans and make the process sound less daunting, here are 10 reasons why you need one for your small business.
1. To help you with critical decisions
The primary importance of a business plan is that they help you make better decisions. Entrepreneurship is often an endless exercise in decision making and crisis management. Sitting down and considering all the ramifications of any given decision is a luxury that small businesses can’t always afford. That’s where a business plan comes in.
Building a business plan allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time.
Creating a robust business plan is a forcing function—you have to sit down and think about major components of your business before you get started, like your marketing strategy and what products you’ll sell. You answer many tough questions before they arise. And thinking deeply about your core strategies can also help you understand how those decisions will impact your broader strategy.
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2. To iron out the kinks
Putting together a business plan requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves a lot of hard questions and take the time to come up with well-researched and insightful answers. Even if the document itself were to disappear as soon as it’s completed, the practice of writing it helps to articulate your vision in realistic terms and better determine if there are any gaps in your strategy.
3. To avoid the big mistakes
Only about half of small businesses are still around to celebrate their fifth birthday . While there are many reasons why small businesses fail, many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans.
According to data from CB Insights , some of the most common reasons businesses fail include:
- No market need : No one wants what you’re selling.
- Lack of capital : Cash flow issues or businesses simply run out of money.
- Inadequate team : This underscores the importance of hiring the right people to help you run your business.
- Stiff competition : It’s tough to generate a steady profit when you have a lot of competitors in your space.
- Pricing : Some entrepreneurs price their products or services too high or too low—both scenarios can be a recipe for disaster.
The exercise of creating a business plan can help you avoid these major mistakes. Whether it’s cash flow forecasts or a product-market fit analysis , every piece of a business plan can help spot some of those potentially critical mistakes before they arise. For example, don’t be afraid to scrap an idea you really loved if it turns out there’s no market need. Be honest with yourself!
Get a jumpstart on your business plan by creating your own cash flow projection .
4. To prove the viability of the business
Many businesses are created out of passion, and while passion can be a great motivator, it’s not a great proof point.
Planning out exactly how you’re going to turn that vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between concept and reality. Business plans can help you confirm that your grand idea makes sound business sense.
A critical component of your business plan is the market research section. Market research can offer deep insight into your customers, your competitors, and your chosen industry. Not only can it enlighten entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business, but it can also better inform existing businesses on activities like marketing, advertising, and releasing new products or services.
Want to prove there’s a market gap? Here’s how you can get started with market research.
5. To set better objectives and benchmarks
Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, without much rhyme or reason behind them. Having a business plan can help make those benchmarks more intentional and consequential. They can also help keep you accountable to your long-term vision and strategy, and gain insights into how your strategy is (or isn’t) coming together over time.
6. To communicate objectives and benchmarks
Whether you’re managing a team of 100 or a team of two, you can’t always be there to make every decision yourself. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions any time there’s an absence. Let your staff know that when in doubt, they can always consult the business plan to understand the next steps in the event that they can’t get an answer from you directly.
Sharing your business plan with team members also helps ensure that all members are aligned with what you’re doing, why, and share the same understanding of long-term objectives.
7. To provide a guide for service providers
Small businesses typically employ contractors , freelancers, and other professionals to help them with tasks like accounting , marketing, legal assistance, and as consultants. Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
8. To secure financing
Did you know you’re 2.5x more likely to get funded if you have a business plan?If you’re planning on pitching to venture capitalists, borrowing from a bank, or are considering selling your company in the future, you’re likely going to need a business plan. After all, anyone that’s interested in putting money into your company is going to want to know it’s in good hands and that it’s viable in the long run. Business plans are the most effective ways of proving that and are typically a requirement for anyone seeking outside financing.
Learn what you need to get a small business loan.
9. To better understand the broader landscape
No business is an island, and while you might have a strong handle on everything happening under your own roof, it’s equally important to understand the market terrain as well. Writing a business plan can go a long way in helping you better understand your competition and the market you’re operating in more broadly, illuminate consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions and other insights that aren’t always plainly visible.
10. To reduce risk
Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but that risk becomes significantly more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce the risk factor from an inherently precarious way to make a living. Having a business plan allows you to leave less up to chance, make better decisions, and enjoy the clearest possible view of the future of your company.
Understanding the importance of a business plan
Now that you have a solid grasp on the “why” behind business plans, you can confidently move forward with creating your own.
Remember that a business plan will grow and evolve along with your business, so it’s an important part of your whole journey—not just the beginning.
Now that you’ve read up on the purpose of a business plan, check out our guide to help you get started.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
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The importance of business plan: 5 key reasons.
A key part of any business is its business plan. They can help define the goals of your business and help it reach success. A good business plan can also help you develop an adequate marketing strategy. There are a number of reasons all business owners need business plans, keep reading to learn more!
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
What Is a Business Plan?
5 reasons you need a well-written business plan, how do i make a business plan, key takeaways.
A business plan contains detailed information that can help determine its success. Some of this information can include the following:
- Market analysis
- Cash flow projection
- Competitive analysis
- Financial statements and financial projections
- An operating plan
A solid business plan is a good way to attract potential investors. It can also help you display to business partners that you have a successful business growing. In a competitive landscape, a formal business plan is your key to success.
Check out all of the biggest reasons you need a good business plan below.
1. To Secure Funding
Whether you’re seeking funding from a venture capitalist or a bank, you’ll need a business plan. Business plans are the foundation of a business. They tell the parties that you’re seeking funding from whether or not you’re worth investing in. If you need any sort of outside financing, you’ll need a good business plan to secure it.
2. Set and Communicate Goals
A business plan gives you a tangible way of reviewing your business goals. Business plans revolve around the present and the future. When you establish your goals and put them in writing, you’re more likely to reach them. A strong business plan includes these goals, and allows you to communicate them to investors and employees alike.
3. Prove Viability in the Market
While many businesses are born from passion, not many will last without an effective business plan. While a business concept may seem sound, things may change once the specifics are written down. Often, people who attempt to start a business without a plan will fail. This is because they don’t take into account all of the planning and funds needed to get a business off of the ground.
Market research is a large part of the business planning process. It lets you review your potential customers, as well as the competition, in your field. By understanding both you can set price points for products or services. Sometimes, it may not make sense to start a business based on the existing competition. Other times, market research can guide you to effective marketing strategies that others lack. To have a successful business, it has to be viable. A business plan will help you determine that.
4. They Help Owners Avoid Failure
Far too often, small businesses fail. Many times, this is due to the lack of a strong business plan. There are many reasons that small businesses fail, most of which can be avoided by developing a business plan. Some of them are listed below, which can be avoided by having a business plan:
- The market doesn’t need the business’s product or service
- The business didn’t take into account the amount of capital needed
- The market is oversaturated
- The prices set by the business are too high, pushing potential customers away
Any good business plan includes information to help business owners avoid these issues.
5. Business Plans Reduce Risk
Related to the last reason, business plans help reduce risk. A well-thought-out business plan helps reduce risky decisions. They help business owners make informed decisions based on the research they conduct. Any business owner can tell you that the most important part of their job is making critical decisions. A business plan that factors in all possible situations helps make those decisions.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help you create a business plan. A simple search can lead you to helpful tools, like a business plan template . These are helpful, as they let you fill in the information as you go. Many of them provide basic instructions on how to create the business plan, as well.
If you plan on starting a business, you’ll need a business plan. They’re good for a vast number of things. Business plans help owners make informed decisions, as well as set goals and secure funding. Don’t put off putting together your business plan!
If you’re in the planning stages of your business, be sure to check out our resource hub . We have plenty of valuable resources and articles for you when you’re just getting started. Check it out today!
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What is a Business Plan and Why is it Important?
What is a business plan.
Whether you’re starting a small business or exploring ways to expand an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions. Think of it as a roadmap to success, providing greater clarity on all aspects of your business, from marketing and finance to operations and product/service details.
While some owners may be tempted to jump directly into startup mode, writing a business plan is a crucial first step for budding entrepreneurs to check the viability of a business before investing too much time or money. The purpose of a business plan is to help articulate a strategy for starting your business. It also provides insight on steps to be taken, resources required for achieving your business goals and a timeline of anticipated results.
In fact, businesses that plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. 1
For existing small businesses, a business plan should be updated annually as a way to guide growth and navigate the expansion into new markets.
Studies show that nearly 71% of the fastest-growing businesses have business plans, indicating that even existing businesses can benefit from updating their plans. 2
Your plan should include explicit objectives for hiring new employees , market analysis, financial projections, and potential investors. The objectives should indicate how they’ll help your business prosper and grow.
Building an asset management business plan
Committing resources to capital improvements and new assets such as computers, software or cars/trucks is never an easy decision for budget-conscious small business owners. But a business plan can bring clarity to the process of whether to buy or lease and help determine the optimal amount allocated to those assets. A good business plan can also help you decide if it’s feasible to take on additional office, retail or work space.
Creating a marketing strategy
Marketing and market potential are important aspects of a plan for aspiring small businesses.
Getting your business in front of customers on a consistent basis is one of the keys to ensuring your business not only stays afloat but also thrives.
Marketing strategies can be simple, but before you decide on how you will get the word out, getting clear on your target audience and why your business solves their problem can make sticking to your marketing plan easier.
Knowing your unique market positioning can help you determine your messaging. Your marketing strategy should include who your target audience is, the platforms or methods you will connect with them on, and a measurement framework to determine if your efforts are working.
Take entrepreneur Scott Sultzer, who opened Sandwich Joint restaurant in downtown Los Angeles in 2009. “I included the potential marketing demographic of all those who lived in a certain area of the city,” he said of his marketing strategy. “My goal was to capture a certain percentage of all those people who lived and worked nearby.” 4
Created primarily as a marketing tool, Sulzer’s 10-page plan included such topics as target market breakdown, marketing strategy and market penetration. “My business plan was mostly about market projections,” he said. “How are we going to get those people that lead to an increase in our daily sales? And how are we going to reach them to let them know we’re here?” 4
Depending on your business, it’s important to have both brick-and-mortar marketing strategies as well as a plan for marketing your business online .
Seeking investment for your business
In addition to providing a roadmap for progress and a marketing plan , your business plan could also be important in securing funding .
Whether you’re seeking a credit line from a bank or an influx of capital from investors, a business plan that answers questions about profitability and revenue generation can make the difference between whether someone decides to invest – or how much they might choose to invest.
In fact, a study showed that businesses with a plan were more likely to receive formal financial support, such as funding, than businesses without one. 3
Hiring the right talent
A business plan may also be needed to retain other professional services as well, such as attorneys, landlords, consultants or accountants. Sulzer used his business plan to secure a lease.
“I had to have a viable document that they could trust,” said Sulzer, who leased from one of the largest landowners in downtown Los Angeles. 4
“With a corporate landlord, they wouldn’t deal with me unless I had a business plan. I had to submit all my information and a plan that presented what I wanted to do, with financial breakdowns and percentages, demographics, and how I was going to get customers.” 4
For a small business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is of vital importance. A part of a business plan for hiring employees is to help bring in the right talent, from the executive level to skilled staff, by showing them the direction and growth potential of the business. It can also help secure vendor accounts, especially with exclusive suppliers.
Setting business plan objectives for management
Finally, a business plan can be important in providing structure and management objectives to a small business. It can become a reference tool to keep management on track with sales targets and operational milestones. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help you measure and manage what you’re working so hard to create.
Ready to take the next step? Learn how to write a business plan .
Don’t forget to consider insurance coverage in your business plan. When the unexpected happens, you want to make sure your small business is covered. Customized insurance solutions are crucial to protecting and keeping your operation going.
Find out how small business insurance from Nationwide can help you build and protect your business whether you are just starting up or already established.
1 https://www.effectuation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-Multiple-Effects-of-Business-Planning-onNew-Venture-Performance-1.pdf , Accessed October 2021. 2 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0447-2778.00006 , Accessed October 2021. 3 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504851.2014.967377 , Accessed October 2021. 4 Nationwide Interview with Scott Sultzer, 2016.
Disclaimer: The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and the Nationwide N and Eagle are services marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.
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What Is the Importance & Purpose of a Business Plan?
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What Is an Appendix in a Business Plan?
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Small-business owners have been known to describe business plans in the most colorful terms. Since a business plan requires a huge time commitment, it's understandable why you may have heard it described as “detailed,” “expansive” and even “exhausting.” Business plans can be all of these things, but there probably isn't a small-business owner alive who wouldn't add another word to the list once the exercise is complete: “ Necessary.”
The main purpose of a business plan is to answer two key questions. What does this business hope to accomplish? How are we going to accomplish it?
Start from the Bottom Up
This is no lead-in to a pep talk, but if it serves as one, it would be OK with the U.S. Small Business Administration. It has long touted a business plan as the foundation of a business – and you know what would happen to a house if it were built on a shaky, unreliable foundation.
Small-business advocates like to say that a business plan is a must-have document for both potential business partners and investors. But after contemplating the purpose, importance and actual contents of a business plan, you might agree that it's most valuable to the small-business owner who writes it.
Grasp the Purpose of the Plan
Writers would say that they are guided by purpose; they have to know why they are writing and what they hope to achieve. Although it may ultimately consist of dozens of pages, a business plan must answer two fundamental questions:
- What do I hope to accomplish?* How am I going to accomplish it?
These questions serve as a backdrop as the business plan probes:
- The business model of a new venture
- The opportunities and risks it faces
- Current market trends, including customer demand, competition, business volume and prices
- The business' objectives
- Financial projections
All told, the business plan functions as a “road map for how to structure, run and grow” a business, the SBA says.
Grasp the Importance of the Plan
Anytime you assign your thoughts to paper, you hopefully achieve clarity of purpose; good writing demands it. For the small-business owner who is understandably a bit “fuzzy” on some of the details of launching a business and all that it involves, a business plan can crystallize concepts and ideas.
In this way, a business plan becomes a compass, supplying direction and focus as an entrepreneur's business vision takes shape.
Many small-business owners liken the launch of their business as a journey. It's an apt analogy – and one worth extending. If you wouldn't embark on a trip across town, much less across the country, without figuring out how you're going to get there, it defies logic how anybody could consider embarking on the journey of a lifetime without a business plan. It should take the front-row seat before the journey even begins.
The Plan Should be Written Without Delay
That distinction is important for two other reasons, besides navigational value:
- Many researchers, including those at Harvard Business Review, find that the most successful entrepreneurs don't procrastinate writing their business plan. They get to work on it between six and 12 months after deciding to start a business.
- Once you make the commitment to launch a business, you will have time for little else. It will become the focus of your time and energies.
Open the Table of Contents
Like that demanding college professor with high expectations, reviewing a template of a business plan has a way of dispelling any notion that a business plan can be written in one night, or even two. It takes time to do it right and complete the sections in a thoughtful manner. The sections include:
- The executive summary
- Company description
- Product or service offering
- Management and organization
- Market analysis
- Marketing and sales management
As you go about implementing the countless details involved in starting a business, you probably will refer to your business plan repeatedly. It may become your most valuable resource, so don't even think about filing it away – unless you file it under “N,” for “necessary.”
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Write your business plan
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Mary Wroblewski earned a master's degree with high honors in communications and has worked as a reporter and editor in two Chicago newsrooms. Then she launched her own small business, which specialized in assisting small business owners with “all things marketing” – from drafting a marketing plan and writing website copy to crafting media plans and developing email campaigns. Mary writes extensively about small business issues and especially “all things marketing.”
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- 1 What Are the Functions of a Business Plan?
- 2 How to Write a Preface for a Business Plan
- 3 Definition of Business Objectives & Goals
- 4 Can an Organization Have a Successful Strategic Plan Without Effective Mission & Vision Statements?
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Table of Contents
Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.
Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.
Several other statistics expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.
This isn’t surprising at all.
Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%) don't have a formal business plan in place.
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It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.
But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.
Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.
What Is a Business Plan?
No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.
More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.
A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained.
However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes.
Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.
The Advantages of Having a Business Plan
Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.
- Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals.
- Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
- Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
- Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
- Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
- Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest.
Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.
The Types of Business Plans
Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.
Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans.
- Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
- Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments.
- Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
- Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
- Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.
The Key Elements of a Business Plan
There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them.
Here are the key elements of a good business plan:
- Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.
- Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
- Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
- Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time.
- Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.
Best Business Plan Software
The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:
- Business Sorter
Common Challenges of Writing a Business Plan
The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:
- Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
- Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
- Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
- You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.
Become an Expert Business Planner
Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success.
Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.
While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.
Simpliearn’s Post Graduate Program in Business Analysis will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive training program combined with the latest tools and methods can pave the way for you and equip you with the skills and the know-how to tackle any real-world challenges that may arise. Completing this industry-recognized course also earns you a valued certification as tangible proof of your talent.
What Is Meant by Business Planning?
Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.
What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?
The following are the four types of business plans:
This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.
Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.
Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.
What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?
The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:
If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.
Have a Goal
The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.
Create a Company Profile
Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.
Describe the Company in Detail
Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.
Create a marketing plan ahead of time.
A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.
Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience
Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.
Incorporate Your Motivation
Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.
What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?
These are the basic steps in business planning:
Summary and Objectives
Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.
Services and Products
Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.
Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.
Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.
How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.
Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.
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For startups, a well-written business planning document is important to source capital from banks and venture capitalists. A business plan also provides a clear direction for Business growth. But how else does planning affect businesses? What does a good business plan contain? Let's look at the answers.Simply put, business planning…
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- Financial Statements
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- Profitability Ratio
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- Model Business Corporation Act
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- Preparation of Financial Statements
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- Reacquired Stock
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- Retail Inventory Method
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- What is included in Inventory
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- Business Enterprise
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- Classification of Businesses
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- Properties Of Indifference Curve
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- Sources Of Monopoly Power
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- Strategic Thinking
- Supply Function
- Survey Methods
- Sweezy Oligopoly
- Technology Supply and Demand
- The Five Forces Framework
- The Theory Of Individual Behavior
- The Time Value Of Money
- Total Product, Average Product, And Marginal Product
- Total Utility Vs Marginal Utility
- Types Of Monopolies
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- Vertical Vs Horizontal Integration
- What Is Dumping
- Behavioral Theory in Organizational Management
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- Conflict Process
- Contingency Theory
- Decision Making
- Decision Making Model
- Ethical Decision
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- Impression Management
- Individual Differences
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- Leadership Theories
- Office Politics
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- Positive Leadership
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- Transactional Leaders
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- Types of Conflict
- Business Aims and Objectives
- External Environment
- Forms of Business
- Key Business Terms
- Limited Liability
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- Evaluating Total Quality Management
- Importance of Quality
- Improving the Supply Chain
- Measuring Quality
- Operational Data
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- Quality Management
- Total Quality Management
- Affective Events Theory
- Attitude in the Workplace
- Behavioral Science
- Big Five Personality Traits
- Biographical Characteristics
- Bureaucratic Structure
- Causes of Stress at Work
- Challenges and Opportunities for OB
- Challenges of Management
- Choosing the Right Communication Channel
- Classification of Groups
- Conflict Results
- Contingent Selection
- Creative Behavior
- Cultural Values
- Decision Making Biases
- Direction of Communication
- Discrimination in the Workplace
- Diversity Management
- Diversity in the Workplace
- Effective Management
- Effective Negotiation
- Effective Teamwork
- Effects of Work Stress
- Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional Labor
- Emotional Regulation
- Employee Involvement
- Employee Selection Methods
- Evidence Based Management
- Factors Influencing Perception
- Functions of Emotions
- Functions of Organizational Culture
- GLOBE Framework
- Group Cohesiveness
- Group Decision Making
- Group Development Stages
- Group Norms
- Group Roles
- Group Status
- Group vs Team
- History of Motivation Theory
- Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions
- How to Measure Job Satisfaction
- Impact of Power
- Importance of Leadership in Human Resource Management
- Influences on Organizational Culture
- Initial Selection Process
- Innovative Organizational Culture
- Integrating Theories of Motivation
- Interpersonal Skills
- Job Attitude
- Job Dissatisfaction
- Job Satisfaction Causes
- Job Satisfaction Outcomes
- Leadership Trust
- Maintaining Organizational Culture
- Mechanistic vs Organic Structure
- Models of Organizational Behavior
- Modern Motivational Theory
- Negotiation Process
- Organizational Behavior Management
- Organizational Constraints
- Organizational Culture Problems
- Organizational Decision Making
- Organizational Structure Management
- Organizational Values
- Paradox Theory
- Perception in Decision Making
- Personal Stress Management
- Personality Models
- Personality and Values
- Personality at Work
- Planned Change in an Organization
- Positive Company Culture
- Power Tactics
- Power in Work
- Responsible Leaders
- Simple Structure
- Situation Strength Theory
- Social Loafing
- Stereotype Threat
- Stress Management in Organization
- Stress in the Workplace
- Substantive Selection
- Team Challenge
- Team Composition
- Team Player
- Team Process
- The Study of Organizational Behavior
- Third Party Negotiation
- Training Effectiveness
- Trait Activation Theory
- Types of Diversity
- Types of Emotions
- Types of Moods
- Types of Power in the Workplace
- Types of Teams
- Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture
- Unequal Power
- Virtual Organizational Structure
- Work Emotions
- Working as a Team
- Workplace Behavior
- Workplace Spirituality
- Communication Barriers
- Communication Channels
- Communication Process
- Cultural Barriers
- Oral Communication
- Persuasive Strategies
- Types of Communication
- Written Communication
- Assessing Business Performance
- Business Considerations from Globalisation
- Competitive Environment
- Core Competencies
- Corporate Mission and Objectives
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Economic Change
- Economic Environment
- Financial Ratios
- Interest Rates in the UK
- Investment Appraisal
- Lifestyle and Technological Environment
- Non-Financial Data
- Porters Five Forces
- SWOT Analysis
- Social and Technological Environment
- Areas of Competition
- Bowmans Strategic Clock
- Strategic Positioning
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For startups, a well-written business planning document is important to source capital from banks and venture capitalists. A business plan also provides a clear direction for Business growth . But how else does planning affect businesses? What does a good business plan contain? Let's look at the answers.
Business planning definition
Simply put, business planning is the process of developing a roadmap aimed at achieving a business goal. It involves key stakeholders coming together to brainstorm ideas and strategies and collating them into a formal, written document known as a business plan.
A business plan is an official document that outlines a business's core activities, objectives, and roadmap to achieving its goals. For example, if you are starting a new bakery, a business plan would include information about your products, marketing strategies, and financial situation. .
A good business plan helps a business focus on its short-term and long-term goals, and outlines the specific steps needed to achieve them. In summary, business planning is a key process that businesses undertake to achieve their goals and success.
Importance of a business plan
A good business plan is critical for any business, providing a roadmap for achieving success and ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned and working towards the same goals. It helps businesses make more informed decisions, secure funding, and track their progress over time. Here are some points summarising the importance of a business plan:
- A business plan helps a company track its growth and stay in line with its stated business objectives. If something is going off track, the Managers can review the business plan and steer things back in the right direction.
- A good business plan notifies investors how the business is operated and if it is worth investing in. It attracts investors and sells them the idea of your business.
- A business plan provides a unified working structure among employees and business owners. It keeps employees and business owners on the same page about strategic actions needed to be taken.
- A well-crafted business plan can help startups attract investment or get loans without a proven financial record. It provides investors and lenders with an understanding of the company's goals, strategies, and financial projections.
Elements of a good business plan
A business plan should include key elements that help to provide a complete overview of the business and its plans for success. Here are some important elements that should be included in a typical business plan:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Market Analysis
- Products and Services
- Marketing and Sales Strategy
- Management and Organization
- Financial Projections
- Funding Requirements
1. Executive summary
This business planning element provides a brief description of the business. It gives information on the business Leadership , its employees, operations, and location. It also provides the business mission statement, goals, and vision.
2. Company description
This section provides a detailed description of the business, including its mission, vision, and goals. It should also include information about the industry and target market.
3. Market analysis
Good business planning requires a well-written market analysis showing demand and supply. A SWOT analysis provides detailed information on business strengths and weaknesses along with details on the business competitor and market opportunities available.
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used by business owners to identify a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the market. Conducting a SWOT analysis will guide you on what you do well, identify your weak points, maximize your opportunities, and avoid threats.
An example of a good business plan market analysis is presented in a SWOT analysis carried out by a local shirt production company called 69 Shirts (a fictional company).
Table 1. SWOT analysis example
4. Products and services offered
This element provides a description of the products and services offered by a business. It includes production information, information on patents (if available), research and development, product or services pricing, and consumer benefits.
Blooming Boutique is a retail female clothing brand located in Delaware, US. 1 By following different generations' fashion trends, and monitoring target customers' fashion preferences, the brand intends to produce female fashion wear that is appealing to customers. They also use styles, colours, and different fashion fits to draw attention to the consumer while satisfying their sartorial needs.
5. Marketing and sales strategy
This element provides information on how the business intends to distribute its products and services, for example, what marketing strategies and channels they will use. Fundamentally, it shows how a business intends to build and keep its audience.
Again, let's take the example of 69 Shirts. Here's a possible marketing strategy:
- Using social media marketing and influencer marketing - the business aims to reach the audience by telling the story behind the products and how they can help the customers. The company also focuses on price, product distinction, product promotion, and customers’ feelings.
- Running a guerrilla marketing campaign in train stations and on public transport - this is done with the aim of letting people know as much as possible about the products and how beneficial and memorable it will be for them to own the product.
6. Management and organisation
This section should describe the Management team and the organization's structure, including the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
7. Financial plans
Here, the business projections and estimates are included for startups, and for an established business, balance sheets, Financial Statements , and important financial information should be added. It should also include a Break-Even Analysis , which shows the level of sales needed to cover all expenses. Well-prepared financial calculations can attract investors, banks, and venture capitalists.
If the business needs funding, this section should outline the funding requirements, including how much funding is needed, what the funds will be used for, and how the business plans to repay the funding.
This section should include any additional information that is relevant to the business plan, such as Market Research reports, product specifications, and legal documents.
Plan length varies, as does the type of plan, but a document usually ranges from 15 to 20 pages.
Business planning process
A business plan is just one step of the business planning process. The steps of the business planning process below will help you understand it:
- Define the business goals: The first step in business planning is to define the goals that the business wants to achieve. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Conduct Market Research : The next step is to conduct market research to understand the target market, competition, and industry trends. This research can help the business identify opportunities and threats, and refine its strategy accordingly.
- Identify resources: The third step is to identify the resources that the business needs to achieve its goals. These resources could include finances, personnel, equipment, and facilities.
- Develop strategies: Based on market research and resource assessment, the business can develop strategies to achieve its goals. These strategies should be aligned with the business's strengths and opportunities, and address any weaknesses or threats.
- Create a business plan: The strategies can then be translated into a formal business plan, which outlines the business's core activities, objectives, and roadmap to achieving its goals. The business plan should include detailed information about the products or services, market analysis, marketing and sales strategy, as well as financial projections.
- Implement the plan: Once the business plan is complete, the next step is to implement it. This involves executing the strategies and tactics outlined in the plan, and monitoring progress towards the business goals.
- Evaluate and adjust: The final step is to evaluate the progress towards the business goals and adjust the plan as needed. This ensures that the business remains on track to achieve its goals and adapts to changes in the market or business environment.
Advantages and disadvantages of a business plan
While creating a business plan is a critical step in launching and running a successful business, it's important for Managers and business owners to remember that there can be drawbacks. Advantages and disadvantages of a business plan are as follows:
Business planning - Key takeaways
Business planning is a process of developing a roadmap aimed at achieving a business goal.
A business plan is written documen t showing a business's core activities, objectives, and business roadmap to achieving its objectives.
The importance of a business plan can be seen in the organized growth of a business. It allows business owners to track Business growth and stay in line with the business objectives.
Some crucial elements needed in business planning are executive summary, business description, market analysis, products and services, marketing and sales strategy, management and organization, financial projections, funding requirements.
Business planning process usually involves the following steps: define business goals, conduct market research, identify resources, develop strategies, create a business plan, implement the plan, evaluate and adjust.
- Blooming boutique, bloomingboutique.com, 2022.
- Jared Lindzon, The importance of a business plan, waveapps.com, 2022.
- Susan Ward, What is business planning, thebalancesmb.com, 2020.
- Staff, Business plan basic elements, bizally.com.au, 2022.
- Rich Longo, Why you need a business plan, sbdc.duq.edu, 2019.
- Staff, Effective business plan, lancasters.uk.net, 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions about Business Planning
--> what is a business plan.
A business plan is an official documen t showing a business's core activities, objectives, and business roadmap to achieving its objectives.
--> How to make a good business plan?
To make a good business plan, it's important to research the market and industry trends, set specific and measurable goals, develop a clear strategy, and create a well-organized and detailed plan that includes financial projections, marketing strategies, and plans for potential challenges. It's also crucial to review and adjust the plan regularly to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
--> How is a business plan structured?
A business plan usually has the following structure:
--> Why is a business plan important?
A business plan is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it enables companies to secure funding from investors by providing a clear roadmap of the business's goals and strategies. Secondly, it provides a framework for companies to work towards their objectives, monitor progress, and adjust course as needed. Lastly, it helps companies anticipate and address potential challenges that may arise in the course of business operations.
--> What are the three main purposes of a business plan?
The three main purposes of a business plan are:
- To serve as a roadmap for achieving the business's goals,
- To attract funding and investment from investors or financial institutions, and
- To provide a framework for managing and monitoring the business's performance over time.
Final Business Planning Quiz
Business planning quiz - teste dein wissen.
What is business planning?
Business planning is a process of developing a roadmap aimed towards achieving a business goal.
The document used by stakeholders to collate ideas into a formally written document that summarizes the business current state, the state of the business market, and steps to improve the business performance is called ……
A business plan
What is a business plan?
A business plan is an officially written document showing a business core activities, objectives, and the business roadmap to achieving its established objectives.
Give two importance of a good business plan
A. The importance of a good business plan can be seen in the organised growth of a business. It allows business owners to track business growth and stay in line with the business objectives.
B. A business plan also gives investors an idea of how the business is operated and if it is worth investing in. A good business plan attracts investors and sells them the idea of your business.
What is the first element of a business plan?
What information does the executive summary provide?
This executive summary provides a brief description of the business. It gives information on the business leadership, its employees, operations and location. It also provides the business mission statement, goals and business vision.
A business budget usually includes ….,.
A business budget includes cost from paying staff, production processes, marketing, expanding, logistics, development, researching and all other business related expenses.
What does a SWOT analysis show about a business ?
A SWOT analysis shows a business strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business.
A good business plan helps a business focus on its short term and long term goals, and it also helps business owners focus on the specified steps put in place to help the business succeed. True or False?
A business plan is the same for all types of business.
Financial plans are not a part of business plan.
SWOT analysis is a way to carry out a market analysis.
Market analysis and marketing strategy can be used interchangeably.
A good business plan can help startups attract investment or get loans without a proven financial record.
What is the difference between market analysis and marketing strategy?
Market strategy provides information on how a business plans to distribute its products or services while market analysis gives details on business strengths, weaknesses along with market threats and opportunities.
Business planning is a process of ________ aimed towards achieving a business goal.
developing a roadmap
A business plan is an ________ showing a business core activities, objectives, and the business roadmap to achieving its established objectives
officially written document
A good business plan only helps the business focus on its short term goals.
A good business plan can help a company to:
Stay in line with the business objectives
Executive Summary is the description of the products and services offered by a business.
Good business planning requires a well written market analysis showing demand and supply.
SWOT analysis stands for ________ .
strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the market
________ includes cost from paying staff, production processes, marketing, expanding, logistics, development, researching and all other business related expenses.
A business budget
A company generating a revenue of £150,000 from a business with a total cost of £80,000 per year. How much profit does it earn?
£150,000 - £80,000 = £70,000.
Variable cost = Output x Variable cost per unit output
What is not a business variable cost?
production materials expenses
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17 Reasons Why do you Need a Business Plan?
Free Business Planning E-Book
- Vinay Kevadia
11 Min Read
No doubt, launching and operating a business requires a lot of effort. However, those efforts reward you incredibly. A crucial tool in this journey is a business plan that guides you in directing your efforts in the right place so you don’t have to be clueless about your next step.
Any organization, regardless of size or age, needs a business plan as a fundamental document. A business plan assists you in reaching significant milestones and leading your company in the proper direction, from luring in possible investors to keeping it on course.
Convinced? If not, here is an article with all the reasons to have a business plan.
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a thorough document, detailing how to achieve the business goals, what products & services your business will provide, how will you work daily, how much finance will be needed, and all other information about your business.
It is a necessary document for every business especially if you need funding. Also, it is a living document, so you can alter it whenever you want according to the market situation.
In short, a business plan provides a comprehensive view, encourages visionary planning, helps in decision-making, and enhances the chances of overall success.
Benefits of having a business plan
A meticulously crafted business plan holds significant value, providing entrepreneurs, existing businesses, and their teams with a means to communicate goals and monitor progress as their business expands. Some other benefits are:
- Guides your business with a clear path to achieve goals
- Evaluate the feasibility of your business idea
- Identifies potential challenges and risks
- Outlines plans to reach and retain customers
- Essential for attracting potential investors and securing funding
- Defines business structure and operational processes
- A living document that adapts to changes in the business environment
17 Reasons why you need a business plan
1. to test the viability of your business idea.
Think about this: you have many business ideas, but how do you know which is better to start with and which one to shut permanently? Well, with a plan, it is easier to understand each aspect of the business.
A business plan forces you to think of everything about your business as:
- What is the market demand?
- Which market segment will you cater to?
- What is the profitability status of the particular business idea in the local market?
- Who are the competitors?
- What entry barriers do you have to go through?
- How much capital will you require to start a particular business?
- What is the financial forecasting of the business?
This way you will get a chance to question everything that takes to start a successful business, which will ultimately help you decide the viability of your business idea.
2. To Reduce Potential Risks
Every business contains risks, and a solid plan is like taking some of that risk out of the business.
It not only helps you to know the viability of your business but also other aspects like:
- Are your operational costs manageable?
- Will your proposed model generate sales, or do you need to switch to another?
- What will be the break-even point, and when will your business achieve it according to the financial projections?
- What if the demand for the product or service you provide decreases?
- What will be your exit strategy?
These are all risk-related questions you will get answers to while creating a business plan.
For those who already have a business and are working on expanding it, a business plan will help you understand the ongoing risks & costs and how to manage them.
Hence, knowing potential risks beforehand will help you solve them smoothly without a big fuss.
3. To Determine Your Financing Needs
Can you go to investors, banks, or anyone else for funding without knowing your financing needs, no, right?
A business plan will help you know the financing needs of your business. It will help you think about the financial projections practically by comparing the market situation with the competitor’s revenue.
Also, when you go for funding, there should be evidence of how much you need, your budget for each aspect of business, and where you will spend all the funding money.
Investors also need to see the break-even point and when the company will start turning profitable. This all is possible with a sound business plan.
4. To Outline a Perfect Marketing Strategy
A marketing plan is about how to reach new customers and retain them. With the help of a business plan, you can make a chart of SWOT analysis & competitor analysis to understand the USPs of your business.
All this will make your brand positioning clear for investors & readers to make their decisions. A business plan will help to define the target audience of your business.
You can also get an idea of the marketing budget and on which marketing strategies you should spend.
5. To Better Understand Your Competition
There is a competitor analysis section in a business plan. Here you have to describe who are your competitors, what is their price point, what is their USP, what is their market positioning, and what products or services they provide.
This stage helps you know the competitors, their working style, their target customers, and everything about them. It forces you to do 360° research about your competitors to know the exact brand positioning of your business.
6. It Helps You Grow 30% Faster
Creating a plan goes beyond trying to foresee the future of your company. The significance lies in the process itself. The business plan is a living document; you can revisit your plan and alter it according to the market situation to reach your goals and ensure success.
Studies confirm that companies engaging in regular planning experience a 30% faster growth rate.
Moreover, research indicates that planning contributes to overall better performance. Businesses that plan are less prone to becoming unfortunate failure statistics or facing cash flow crises that could jeopardize their existence.
7. To Get Funding
Finally! getting funding is a relief, right? But you can’t just go to them with an elevator pitch, you will need a solid business plan and everything else in one place to show them about your business.
All readers will want to know your business plan and review it for their benefit. Although investors will mainly focus on the financial aspects of the plan, they will also understand your industry and market before making any decision.
Without enough funding, your business will collapse. So, first, write a business plan, make necessary financial assumptions, and then go to investors for funding. In short, having a business plan will increase your chances of having funding.
8. To Attract Investors
A business plan is the basis for investors’ decisions. The business plan answers a lot of questions of investors like:
- Is there any market demand for your products and services?
- What are the financial forecasts?
- When will the company turn profitable?
- What is the company’s exit strategy?
They will review your plan thoroughly and make their investing decision accordingly. Thus, make sure you have the perfect length business plan and not just a long essay.
9. To set goals for everyone
Setting goals and deadlines for everyone from the management team to other employees will make everyone’s task clear. This way everyone can make their mini-plan and organize things according to the priority.
Business planning makes everything clear in your head before you communicate it with your team and makes sure that you all are on the same page.
10. To make sound decisions
After mentioning everything in detail about your business in the business plan, you will be confident enough to know the market scenarios and make decisions.
It serves as a roadmap for your business and a reference point for any kind of decision-making. Think of it as your business guide, which will eventually bring everything into place.
11. Catch Critical Cash-Flow Problems Early
Smooth cash flow is one of the main bricks of any business. It is one of the key three financial statements your investors will review.
Reviewing your cash flow statement regularly will help you see potential cash flow disturbances and challenges at the earliest. It will also support you in avoiding any cash-related crisis where you can’t pay your bills timely.
12. To Position Your Brand In The Market
Luckily, there is one section of competitive analysis that will give you all the information about your competitors. According to that, you can place your brand in the market. It points out certain questions like:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors?
- What are your USPs?
- How can you make your business stand out?
- What is your target market, and what are your competitors’ customers?
Answering these questions will help you to know your strengths and market position in the industry.
13. Future-Proof Your Business
Whether it is a new business or an existing one: everyone is interested in what will be there in the future. To understand the financial position of the future, you need to write a business plan thoroughly with practical assumptions.
This proves to be risk-saving and future-oriented for your business by saving time on predicted problems.
14. Tracks Your Progress
One of the main overlooked sides of a business plan is the success metric it provides. An integral part of creating a plan involves mentioning all your goals and predictions.
By regularly reviewing that, you will be able to know which business milestones you have reached and what is the next one. Furthermore, you can even know about the setbacks of your business and then re-edit your business plan according to the market analysis and situation.
15. Your Business Plan Is An Asset When Considering Selling Your Business
Out of the woods down the road, if you ever decide to merge your business with someone else or want to sell it. A business plan will be an asset that will support you in selling your business.
It will help to showcase the brand position and finances of your business to any third party. Also, how many milestones have you achieved, and what is the experience of your business; one can get everything from your business plan.
16. To Allot Resources
As a business owner, you know there are many investments and expenses you need to make before & after starting a business. Thus, allocating those resources to different segments of the business is necessary.
Here there are different activities like purchasing raw materials, marketing costs, or some other production costs.
A business plan provides an exact idea of your investments and resources needed in each segment of the business.
17. To Make An Exit Plan
Beyond guiding day-to-day operations, your business plan is a valuable tool for planning your exit strategy. While many entrepreneurs focus extensively on launching their businesses, not as many plan for the eventual need to liquidate or transfer ownership.
Your chosen exit strategy could be driven by various factors, such as achieving your business goals and shifting focus or selling to an acquirer. Therefore, even for partnership or dissolvation, an exit strategy is necessary.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of a business plan.
There are three main purposes of a business plan:
- Secure funding
- Guiding operations
- Evaluating the progress of your business
How long should a business plan be?
Generally, the length of a business plan depends on the niche of the business and the purpose of the business plan. Ideally, a business plan should be 15-35 pages.
What resources are available to help write a business plan?
To secure funding and impress potential investors, an engaging business plan is necessary. Here are some resources from where you can find business plans:
- Business plan software
- Government website
- AI business plan generators
- Consultants and advisors
- Business plan writers
Should you write a business plan even if you don't need funding?
A business plan will help you detect the problems beforehand. It also helps you in creating marketing & operational strategy. A business plan also guides you as a roadmap. Thus, even if you don’t need funding for your small business, a business plan is necessary.
When should you write a business plan—before or after starting a business?
If you need funding, you have to write a business plan before you start any business. But if you are expanding an existing business or writing a business plan as a guide for your new business, then anytime is okay. Note: Sooner is always better in this case.
About the Author
Vinay Kevadiya is the founder and CEO of Upmetrics, the #1 business planning software. His ultimate goal with Upmetrics is to revolutionize how entrepreneurs create, manage, and execute their business plans. He enjoys sharing his insights on business planning and other relevant topics through his articles and blog posts. Read more
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- Introduction, Meaning, Importance, Features and Limitations of Planning
Just like management is a never-ending activity, so is planning. In fact business planning, it is one of the primary functions of management . It sets up the stage for all further functions of management like organizing, directing etc. Let us understand the concept of planning.
We already know what planning is, it is the deciding of what is to be done in advance. It is the groundwork for all future plans of the organization . Planning bridges the gap between where the organization currently find itself and where it wishes to be.
So in essence business planning comprises of setting objectives for the organization and developing a plan of action to achieve these objectives. Once the objectives are set, the managers and workers can have a clear vision of what to work towards.
Managers are a very important part of the function of business planning. Planning requires innovation, creativity and multi-tasking from the managers. And planning is a function that managers of all levels must perform, i.e upper, middle and lower management .
Browse more Topics under Planning
- Planning Process
- Types of Plan
Importance of Business Planning
Planning is an important function of management, it tells the manager where the organization should be headed. It also helps the organization reduce uncertainty. Let us take a look at some important functions of planning.
1] Planning provides a sense of Direction
Planning means coming up with a predetermined action plan for the organization. It actually states in advance what and how the work is to be done. This helps provide the workers and the managers with a sense of direction , a guidance in a way. Without planning their actions would be uncoordinated and unorganized.
2] Planning reduces Uncertainty
Planning not only sets objectives but also anticipates any future changes in the industry or the organization. So it allows the managers to prepare for these changes, and allow them to deal with the uncertainties. Planning takes into consideration past events and trends and prepares the managers to deal with any uncertain events.
3] Planning reduces Wastefulness
The detailed plans made keep in mind the needs of all the departments. This ensures that all the departments are on the same page about the plan and that all their activities are coordinated. There is clarity in thought which leads to clarity in action. All work is carried out without interruptions or waste of time or resources ,
4] Planning invokes Innovation
Planning actually involves a lot of innovation on the part of the managers . Being the first function of management it is a very difficult activity. It encourages the manager to broaden their horizons and forces them to think differently. So the managers have to be creative, perceptive and innovative.
5] Makes Decision=Making Easier
In business planning the goals of the organization have been set, an action plan developed and even predictions have been made for future events. This makes it easier for all managers across all levels to make decisions with some ease. The decision-making process also becomes faster.
6] Establishes Standards
Once the business planning is done, the managers now have set goals and standards. This provides the manager’s standards against which they can measure actual performances. This will help the organization measure if the goals have been met or not. So planning is a prerequisite to controlling.
Limitations of Planning
While business planning is important and a requisite for every organization, it does have some limitations. Let us take a look at some limitations of business planning.
Once the planning function is complete and the action plan is set, then the manager tends to only follow the plan. The manager may not be in a position to change the plan according to circumstances. Or the manager may be unwilling to change the plan. This sort of rigidity is not ideal for an organization.
2] Not ideal in Dynamic Conditions
In an economic environment rarely anything is stagnant or static. Economic, political, environmental, legal conditions keep changing. In such a dynamic environment it becomes challenging to predict future changes. And if a manager cannot forecast accurately, the plan may fail.
3] Planning can also reduce creativity
While making a plan takes creativity after that managers blindly follow the plan. They do not change the plan according to the dynamic nature of the business. Sometimes they do not even make the appropriate suggestions to upper management. The work becomes routine.
4] Planning is Expensive
Planning is a cost-consuming process. Since it is an intellectual and creative process, specialized professionals must be hired for the job. Also, it involves a lot of research and facts collection and number crunching. At certain times the cost of the planning process can outweigh its benefits.
5] Not Completely Accurate
When planning we have to forecast the future and predict certain upcoming events in the organization and the industry. So, of course, there cannot be hundred per cent certainty in such cases. So it can be said that business planning lacks accuracy
Solved Question for You
Q: Which of the following can be referred to planning?
- Government policy
- All of the above
Ans: The correct option is C. Planning is forecasting as it is deciding what to do in advance. Planning is futuristic as it never relates to the past. So planning bridges the gap between where the company is and where it wishes to go.
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Business Plan| Meaning, Importance, Format and Tips for Writing
What is a business plan.
Business Plan can be described as a document that defines a company’s goals, operations, marketing objectives, financial projections, etc. It is like a roadmap for the company or organisation to achieve its goals and objectives. A business plan is a crucial document for both internal and external people of a company or organisation. All businesses should have a business plan, regardless of their size or industry.
Table of Content
Importance of business plans, format of a business plan, tips for writing a business plan.
Business plans are especially important for startups and businesses that are seeking funding. However, even established businesses can benefit from having a business plan, as it can help them to stay focused on their goals and objectives and to make sound decisions about the future of their business.
I. Importance of Business Plans for Entrepreneurs
Starting a business is very risky, but at the same time, it can be rewarding. A business may need to manage financial projections, set employee goals, obtain funding from investors, and even sell a business one day. That is why it is a must for entrepreneurs to set goals and objectives to run a particular business. With the help of a business plan entrepreneurs can take ideal steps and actions according to the situation to achieve the objectives of a business. There are several reasons why a business plan is a must for entrepreneurs:
1. Act as a Pillar For Starting a Business: A business plan acts as a pillar for starting a business because it provides a foundation for all of the decisions that an individual will make as an entrepreneur. It forces the entrepreneur to think critically about his/her business model, target market, and competitive landscape. It also helps the entrepreneur to develop a financial plan that is realistic and achievable. It will help the entrepreneur to clarify their vision and goals, identify the target market, develop a marketing strategy, and communicate their vision to investors, partners, and employees.
2. Helps in Decision Making: Decision-making is a very important task for an entrepreneur. Some decisions like deciding whether to launch a new product or service, whether to expand into a new market, how to set prices, how to allocate resources, hire new employees or not, etc., should be made after properly analysing the situation of a business. This can help the entrepreneur to identify potential opportunities and threats and to develop strategies for addressing them.
3. Attracting Investors to Business: If an entrepreneur wants to expand or start a business, there is a huge possibility that they will need to take a loan from a bank or attract investment from investors. A business plan shows how serious an entrepreneur is about their business. It will help investors understand plans, see potential in the business to get a return on their investment, etc. So, a well-written business plan is an essential tool for any entrepreneur to build trust and credibility.
4. Estimating the Valuation of a Business: It provides a framework for assessing the business’s assets and liabilities. A business plan should include a detailed balance sheet, which lists all of the business’s assets and liabilities. This information can be used to calculate the business’s net asset value (NAV), which is a basic measure of the business’s worth. It should also include financial projections for the next three to five years. These projections can be used to estimate the business’s future cash flow, which is a key factor in determining valuation. It should also describe the business’s products or services, target market, and competitive landscape. This information can be used to assess the business’s competitive advantages and to estimate its future growth potential.
5. Conducting Research: While writing a business plan, an entrepreneur has to consider all aspects of their business, from the target market to the competitive landscape to financial projections. This can help the entrepreneur identify the areas where the entrepreneur needs more research. A business plan is typically divided into sections, such as market analysis, competitive analysis, and financial projections. This can help the entrepreneur to organise research and ensure the coverage of all of the important topics.
II. Importance Of Business Plan For Investors
A business plan is an important document for investors because it provides them with a comprehensive overview of the business, including its products or services, target market, competitive landscape, and financial projections. This information is essential for investors to make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in the business. There are several reasons why a business plan is a must for investors. They are:
1. Seriousness Of Entrepreneur Towards Business: A well-written business plan demonstrates that an investor has taken the time to think through all aspects of the business and has a viable plan for success. The market analysis, competitive analysis, financial projections, etc., in a business plan show how well an investor has knowledge of a particular business and how well the investor has researched it.
2. Potential Return on Investment: A business plan should show and estimate investors how they will make money by investing in the business. This includes demonstrating that the business has a large and growing market, that it has a unique value proposition, and that it has a strong management team.
3. Build Trust: A well-written business plan shows investors that the entrepreneur has a good understanding of the business and that they have a plan for success. This can help to build trust and credibility with investors.
1. Executive Summary: This is a one-page overview of the entire business plan, including the company’s mission statement, products or services, target market, and financial projections.
2. Company Description: This section provides more detail about the company, including its history, ownership structure, and management team.
3. Products or Services: This section describes the products or services that the company offers, as well as its competitive advantage.
4. Market Analysis: This section describes the company’s target market, including its size, demographics, and needs. It also analyzes the company’s competition and identifies any opportunities or threats that may impact the business.
5. Marketing Plan: This section outlines the company’s strategy for reaching and selling to its target market. It includes the company’s pricing strategy, advertising and promotion plans, and sales strategy.
6. Operations Plan: This section describes how the company will produce and deliver its products or services. It includes the company’s manufacturing process, inventory management system, and customer service plan.
7. Management Team: This section introduces the members of the company’s management team and highlights their experience and qualifications.
8. Financial Projections: This section includes the company’s projected income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the next three to five years.
1. Be Clear and Concise: The business plan should be easy to read and understand. Avoid using jargon and technical language.
2. Be Realistic: The financial projections should be based on realistic assumptions. Do not overstate revenue potential or underestimate costs.
3. Be Flexible: The business plan should be a living document that an individual can update as the business grows and changes.
4. Be Specific: The business plan should be specific about goals, objectives, and strategies. How will the concerned person achieve their goals? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs)?
5. Tailor the Business Plan to Concerned Audience: If someone is pitching to a particular type of investor, such as angel investors or venture capitalists, they must be sure to research their interests and investment criteria.
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