Service Business Plan Template
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their service businesses. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a service business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here
Before we get into how to write a service business plan, here are links to several service business plan templates:
- Beauty Salon Business Plan
- Car Detailing Business Plan
- Car Wash Business Plan
- Catering Business Plan
- Cell Phone Repair Business Plan
- Child Care Business Plan
- Cleaning Services Business Plan
- Computer Repair Business Plan Template
- Construction Business Plan
- Consulting Business Plan
- Day Care Business Plan
- Dog Daycare Business Plan
- Dog Grooming Business Plan
- Financial Advisor Business Plan
- Hair Salon Business Plan
- Indoor Playground Business Plan
- Insurance Business Plan
- Janitorial Business Plan
- Landscaping Business Plan
- Massage Therapy Business Plan
- Nail Salon Business Plan
- Photography Business Plan
- Plumbing Business Plan
- Salon Business Plan
- Spa Business Plan
- Staffing Agency Business Plan
- Tutor Business Plan
What Is a Service Business Plan?
A service business plan provides a snapshot of your service company as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your goals and your business strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your company plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start a service business or grow your existing business you need a good business plan. A business plan helps you attract investors to satisfy your funding requirements, and plan out the growth of your entire business in order to improve your chances of success. Your service business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.
How to Secure Funding for a Services Business
With regards to funding, the main source of funding for a services business are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans, and angel investors.
With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your service business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable, but they will want to see a professionally written plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding or, like a bank, they will give you a loan.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Service Business
The traditional service business plan format includes these 10 key elements:
Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan in 1 – 2 pages, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal of your executive summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of services business you are operating and the status. For example, are you a startup, do you have a services business that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of services businesses?
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the service industry trends. Discuss the type of service business you are operating. Detail your direct competitors and your competitive advantage. Give an overview of your ideal customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team, and offer an overview of your financial plan.
In your company description, you will detail the type of service business you are operating.
In addition to explaining the type of service business you operate, the company analysis section of your service business plan needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to questions such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, new store openings, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the service business.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching your specific niche of the service market educates you. It helps you gain insights and understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards more eco-friendly services, your company might want to emphasize its environmentally friendly initiatives.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your service business plan:
- How big is the service business (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market? What is your market share?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your service business. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section of your service business plan must detail the target market you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments in the service industry:
- Businesses in need of a specific service, such as computer repair or consulting
- People who have a need for a service that is not currently being met
- People who are price conscious and are looking for the best deal on a service
- People who want to support businesses with social responsibility values
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will greatly depend on the type of service business you operate. Some of your clients may want different pricing and product options and would respond to different marketing promotions compared to other target customer segments.
Try to break out your target market in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the ages, genders, locations, and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. Because most service businesses primarily serve customers living in the same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your existing clients.
Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other businesses that provide similar services.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes businesses that provide an alternative solution to the services that you provide, but not the exact service. Think do-it-yourself and public options for similar services. You need to mention such competition to show you understand that not everyone who needs the specific services will engage your service business.
With regards to direct competition, you want to detail the other service businesses with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be service businesses located very close to your location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of customers do they serve?
- What products and services do they offer?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to stand outside your competitors’ locations and ask customers as they leave what they like most and least about them.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your competitive advantages. For example:
- Will you provide superior services?
- Will you provide services that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you make it easier or faster for customers to book your services?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a service business plan, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product : in the product section, you should reiterate the type of service business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific services you will be offering. For example, in addition to a lawn care business, you may offer to trim trees, bushes, and hedges.
Price : Document your business’s pricing strategy including the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the services you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your service business. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers.
Promotions : the final part of your service business marketing strategy is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive new customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods and marketing materials you might consider:
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Social media advertising
- Local radio advertising
- Pay per click advertising
- Banner ads at local venues
Your service business plan should discuss not just how you will find clients, but how you’ll hold on to them and discourage them from switching to one of your competitors. After all, it should be much less expensive to keep a client than to market and sell services to a new one. Some methods of retaining customers involve creating the perception of switching costs; that is, that they will lose money and time when switching to a new service company. Others involve fine-tuning your customer service skills into a system designed around retention.
Creating a loyalty program is a positive way to retain customers. This could involve a punch card system where customers receive a free service after a certain number of visits, or it could involve a points system where customers accumulate points that can be redeemed for discounts or free services. Other loyalty programs offer exclusive deals and privileges to members, such as special access to new services before they are made available to the general public.
Premium Customer Levels
Another related retention strategy is to reward the frequency and/or the amount of money that customers spend with your service business. This is often done by creating different customer levels and providing perks to customers who reach a certain level. The higher the customer level, the more exclusive the perks. Common perks include discounts on services, express service, access to unique services or products, and early notice of promotional deals.
A referral program is a great way to keep customers happy and encourage them to refer their friends and family members. This could involve rewarding customers with a discount or free service for every new customer they refer, or it could involve giving customers a set amount of credit for each referral. Either way, the referral program should be designed to be as simple as possible for customers to participate in.
Finally, customer testimonials can be a powerful retention tool. As potential customers research your service business, they will likely come across your website and online profiles. Seeing positive customer testimonials on your website and across the internet will help convince them that you provide outstanding customer service. You can create a separate page on your website that is dedicated to client testimonials, or you could set up a separate social media profile that features client testimonials and allows customers to provide feedback through a special email address.
Simply tracking the numbers and percentages involved in your customer retention can yield valuable information about what you’re doing right or wrong and how successful new initiatives are over time. Statistics to track may include client complaints, the average speed of complaint resolution, the percentage of customers in a given month who were using your services last month, 3 months ago, 6 months ago, a year ago, etc, and so on. When your staff is aware of these statistics and is given targets to work towards, the message that customer service and retention is a priority is heard loud and clear.
While the earlier sections of your service business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your service business such as serving customers, procuring supplies, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 100th client, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch in a new city.
To demonstrate your service business’s ability to succeed as a business, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally, you and/or your team members have direct experience in the service business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise, but also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act as mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in a service business and/or successfully running small businesses.
Your plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statements.
Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 20 customers per week or 50? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets : While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your service business, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $50.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt. For example, let’s say a company approached you with a massive $100,000 damage restoration contract that would cost you $50,000 to fulfill. Well, in most cases, you would have to pay that $50,000 now for supplies, equipment rentals, employee salaries, etc. But let’s say the company didn’t pay you for 180 days. During that 180 day period, you could run out of money.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a service business:
- Cost of equipment to perform the service
- Cost of maintaining an adequate amount of supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include any insurance company affiliations or remediation licenses.
Service Business Plan Summary
Writing a business plan for your service business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the service business, your competition, and your potential customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful cleaning services business.
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Service Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my service business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Service Business Plan.
What is the Goal of a Business Plan's Executive Summary?
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of service you are providing and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a service that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of service locations?
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How to Write a Business Plan for a Service Business
10 min. read
Updated March 8, 2023
If you’re starting a business that sells a service, writing a business plan is one of the first steps you need to take. Whether you are starting a consulting business, a car repair shop, or a construction firm, a business plan will help you figure out your strategy, develop your marketing plan and figure out the all-important financial forecasts so that you can be successful.
Writing a business plan can seem complicated at first. There are multiple topics you have to cover and you want to impress your readers with a complete plan. Whether it’s a loan officer reading your business plan or a potential business partner, you need to make sure you get your plan right.
That’s why we put this guide together. Business planning doesn’t have to be intimidating and we’ll guide you through the process of pulling everything together for your new service business.
On this page
What is a service business?
Why you should write a business plan for a service business, how is a business plan for a service business different from a product business plan, what you should include in your business plan, free business plan examples & templates.
A service business typically focuses on selling services to customers instead of products. For example, a consultant or lawyer typically sells their time and expertise to customers. A repair business typically is selling the service of fixing broken equipment and appliances. Event planners are selling the service of planning and managing events such as weddings and corporate retreats.
Service businesses don’t just have to sell services. Many service businesses sell a mix of products and services. Take a car repair shop, for example. They’ll sell the service of repairing your car in addition to the parts required to get your car serviced. Even though the repair shop sells parts, it’s different from an auto parts store that only sells parts and doesn’t sell any repair services.
It’s tempting to just dive right in and start building your business. A business plan can seem like a waste of time and it’s certainly more fun to start working on things like logos, business cards, and finding office space. But, it’s important to remember that a business plan is a vital step in the process that will prevent you from wasting precious time and money as you get your business up and running.
Taking a little time to plan now can save you from making critical mistakes and prevent you from wasting thousands of dollars. Even though it may not be as “fun”, it’s worth every minute. Here’s why you’ll want to plan:
1. Clearly define your offering
Although you may have a good idea in your head for the services you’ll be offering, it’s important to write down exactly what you plan to offer to your customers and what you plan to charge. Especially for service businesses where you may be selling your time, it can be tempting to take on any job. That can lead to distractions and lead you away from your core business. You also want to ensure that business partners are on the same page as you and that you agree on the services you are providing, what you’re going to charge, and how you are going to deliver those services.
2. Create a marketing plan
A clear marketing plan is crucial for getting your service business up and running. You’ll need to know not only how you plan on landing your first customers, but also your hundredth customer. Taking the time to describe your ideal customer and craft a marketing plan to reach them in a smart and cost-effective way is the key to a business that can grow efficiently over time.
3. Know your numbers
Before you start any business, understanding what it’s going to take to make money is a crucial first step. As you create a sales forecast and expense budget, you’ll be able to see what it will take to become profitable. Understanding how much it’s going to cost to start your business is also a critical number to know. For some service businesses, startup costs can be high. Looking back at our car repair service business example, startup costs may be significant. This business will need to purchase a workspace, tools, and other equipment before it can offer any services. In contrast, a consulting business may not have many startup costs. You may be able to simply work from home and offer your services online , avoiding the need for any physical overhead costs. Regardless of whether your startup costs are low or high, understanding what level of sales you’ll need to make money is something a business plan will tell you.
4. Build your business strategy
A business plan helps you outline your business strategy . Knowing your strategy before you start helps you focus on building your business the right way from the beginning. Figuring out your strategy while you’re trying to build your business is somewhat like building an airplane while you’re headed down the runway. It’s potentially possible but very difficult to do.
Your business plan will force you to think through and answer the questions you need to answer to have a successful business.
Although business plans for service businesses are fairly similar to plans for product businesses, there are a few key differences.
Often, service businesses have fairly low cost of goods sold . This is how much it costs you in parts, products, or other tangible items to make a sale. Most service businesses have low costs to deliver the service and therefore have fairly high-profit margins. Software-as-a-service businesses are a perfect example of this because the incremental cost of a new customer is so low.
Service businesses often have little or no inventory as they are focused on selling their service, not a product. That said, this isn’t always the case. Any kind of repair service usually has to have replacement parts on hand. But, lawyers and accountants almost never have any kind of physical inventory.
For some service businesses, overhead expenses can also be very low. Many service businesses don’t need storefronts, warehouses, or other expensive real estate.
A good business plan includes six key chapters. Following this business plan outline will ensure that you have a complete and effective business plan.
1. Executive Summary
Every business plan should have a short executive summary . Your executive summary is an overview of your entire business and a preview of the rest of your plan. Ideally, your executive summary can be used as a stand-alone document that you can use to introduce your business to investors who don’t have the time to read a complete business plan. Your executive summary should describe the services that you are offering, who your target market is, and provide a snapshot of your sales goals and profit projections for the coming year. If you’re raising money to launch your business, be sure to include how much money you need to get the business launched. Write your executive summary last, after you’ve written the rest of your plan. Because it’s just a brief summary – two or three pages at most – writing it last will ensure that you cover all the key points in the rest of your plan.
2. Problem and Solution
The first major chapter of your business plan will cover the problem that you solve for your clients and describe the services that you provide. If you’re starting a landscaping service, the problem you’re solving is your customers’ desire for a well maintained, beautiful lawn and garden when they don’t have the time to do it themselves. A headhunting firm helps businesses find and recruit new employees without having to have a large HR department. When you describe the services you provide, make sure to describe your pricing and how you stack up against the competition. What makes your services better than other businesses that provide similar services? What sets you apart?
3. Target Market
The target market chapter of your business plan focuses on the customers that you are selling to. A good business plan describes your business’s ideal customer very specifically. No business sells to “everyone”. Instead, good businesses know the type of customer that they are after and where to find them. For example, a financial planning service business might target millennials that work in technology companies who like to communicate mostly online. When you describe your target market, make sure to indicate how large the market is . You’ll want to make sure that there are enough potential customers for your services out there so that you can grow your business.
4. Marketing and Sales
Once you’ve defined the problem you are solving for people, how you solve that problem for them and described exactly who your customer is, you’ll have a great platform for creating a marketing and sales plan . With your target market information, you should know where and how to reach your ideal customer so that you can come up with a marketing plan to reach them. If your business is local, focusing on local advertising and social media groups might be a good idea. If your services are expensive, you’ll also want to describe your sales plan since customers most likely won’t just sign up for your services immediately after hearing about you. You’ll most likely need to deliver information about your services, create bids, and have a follow-up strategy for closing deals. Use this chapter of your business plan to create your marketing and sales roadmap so that you can start executing on your marketing plan when your business is up and running and have sales processes in place so you make sure that you maximize your marketing efforts.
5. Company & Team
Your idea is surprisingly not the most important part of your business. It’s actually the people that build the business and run it that are the most important. Even the best idea that’s poorly executed is likely to fail, so it’s critical that you assemble the right people to make your business a success. In this chapter of your business plan, describe who is behind the business and why this team is the right team to build it. Investors often focus more on the team than the idea because they assume that a smart and motivated team will adjust and refine an idea to make it successful, even if the first iteration isn’t perfect.
6. Financial Plan
Finally, your business plan needs a financial plan . This plan should include:
- Sales forecast
- Profit and Loss
- Cash Flow Forecast
- Balance Sheet
If you’re starting a subscription service, include a forecast for subscriptions, renewals, and cancellations — otherwise known as “churn”. Your Profit and Loss statement will show your sales and expenses so that you can calculate your predicted profits. The Cash Flow Forecast will predict how cash moves in and out of your business and will help you identify potential cash flow problems that may occur in the future. The Balance Sheet will detail the assets and liabilities that your business is predicted to have over time.
It might be helpful to explore how other service-based businesses have written their business plans. Check out our free library of sample plans and templates for service businesses . You can download any of these documents in Word form and get some structure for your own plan.
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan.
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Every successful business took a lot of planning to get there, and these templates will be cornerstones of your future success. Whether you're looking to attract new business, pitch your services or reimagine your company, with these simple, customizable templates at your fingertips you can turn complexity into something tangible. These templates can become marketing assets or simply remain internal touchpoints for your team. And as your dreams change, you'll always have this template to refer to – it's easy to change what exists on paper. If you're a small business, focusing on your niche can help you dominate in your field, and you can forge a plan to figure out exactly what that niche might be and how to target your ideal customer . When it's time to share your vision with stakeholders, craft a presentation that outlines your plan succinctly and with style. Let these templates from Microsoft Designer be your partner in business strategy for years to come.
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan
By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021
A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice.
Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.
A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:
- Product goals and deadlines for each month
- Monthly financials for the first two years
- Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
- Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .
Business Plan Steps
The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:
- Executive summary
- Description of business
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Description of organizational management
- Description of product or services
- Marketing plan
- Sales strategy
- Funding details (or request for funding)
- Financial projections
If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.
How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business
In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.
Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:
Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?
There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans
A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.
In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.
Step 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
See our roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.
Step 2: Description of Business
The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
- What business are we in?
- What does our business do?
Step 3: Market Analysis
In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What does that customer value?
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:
- Who is the competition?
- What do they do best?
- What is our unique value proposition?
Step 5: Description of Organizational Management
In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.
Step 6: Description of Products or Services
In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.
Questions to answer in this section are as follows:
- What is the product or service?
- How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?
Step 7: Marketing Plan
In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:
- Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
- What channels will you use to reach your target market?
- What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
- If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
- How will you measure success?
Step 8: Sales Plan
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts.
Start by answering the following questions:
- What is the sales strategy?
- What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
- What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
- What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
- What are the metrics of success?
Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)
This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
- How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
- What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?
Step 10: Financial Projections
Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years.
While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:
- How and when will the company first generate a profit?
- How will the company maintain profit thereafter?
Business Plan Template
Download Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet
This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.
For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy.
If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.
How to Write a Simple Business Plan
A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .
- Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company.
- Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision.
- Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
- Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
- Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
- Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
- Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
- Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
- Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting.
- Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.
Simple Business Plan Template
Download Simple Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Smartsheet
Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.
Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates .
How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup
A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.
While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:
- Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
- List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
- Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
- Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
- Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.).
- Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
- Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
- Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.
Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.
See our wide variety of startup business plan templates for more options.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.
In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.
Download free financial templates to support your business plan.
Tips for Writing a Business Plan
Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.
- Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
- Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
- Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
- Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
- Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”
Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.
Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.
“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”
Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”
Resources for Writing a Business Plan
While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.
Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.
How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business
A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships.
Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.
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