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Why internal business plans are essential to have

Steven Johnson

Internal business plans are essential for the success of any business. An internal business plan is similar to an external business plan in its overall structure. However, external business plans are designed to secure funding for a business and are presented to banks, investors, and other lending institutions. They contain high levels of detail about financial projections, customer demographics, growth strategies, and much more.

Internal Business Plan Must-Haves

Final thoughts.

Internal business plans touch on many of the same points, but all the number crunching isn’t totally necessary. Your company’s internal business plan should be structured more as a reference document for employees. It’s different from an employee handbook because it’s not a procedural manual on work expectations.

An internal business plan is more of a guide on how the company will work together to achieve its goals. Your internal business plan should be an iterative document, meaning it changes and evolves as your company grows. It’s crucial to revisit these types of business plans frequently to ensure that it’s living up to its design. If not, changes must either be made to the internal business plan itself or the goals it’s trying to help achieve must be adjusted to become more attainable.

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Internal Business plans can have dozens of sections covering whatever topics you feel are vital for your company. However, here are some areas that are commonly covered in almost every internal business plan.

Mission and Vision Statements

Mission and vision statements are found in both external and internal business plans and many other company documents. The vision statement is the ultimate reason you have a business, and the mission statement is the actionable strategy it takes to be successful.

Specific and Attainable Goals

Business productivity can be measured by evaluating the goals outlined in your internal business plan. These goals should be clear, measurable, and broken down into different business segments. For example, what are your long-term marketing goals, and what are the short-term benchmarks your company must reach to achieve them? This is a prime example of why you must revisit internal business plans regularly. Each set of goals for every business segment should execute your mission and vision statements.

The strategies portion of your internal business plan lists out a specific method to achieve the goals mentioned above and benchmarks. You should formulate customized strategies for every business segment. Although some goals may be the same, no two segment’s methods should be the same. For instance, your company’s sales strategy will not be the same as your customer service department. However, they may share goals like “a streamlined and overall enjoyable customer experience.”

Systems and Processes

The systems and processes section of your internal business plan supports both the business goals and the strategy. Suppose you have hard-lined expectations of your leadership or other employees. It should be specified here. You could, for example, clarify that employee reviews by management will take place bi-annually.

This section can also list every role at the company and its scope of work. Internal operating systems and how departments should interact should also be made clear in this section. Much of this information would also be found in an employee handbook, but you can explain why a system or process exists in the internal business plan.

You can create many different business plans for your business, but an internal business plan is a cornerstone for how your company operates. Your internal business plan is a living document and should be reviewed regularly to ensure your company stays true to its original purpose. It’s essential to ensuring that things within the business stay consistent.

Suppose you find that your business isn’t living up to its goals in the internal plan. In that case, it’s better to examine why it’s not performing and try to fix that instead of drastically altering the original plan. It should be a barometer of success, and if you constantly change the plan, you have no standards to go by.

Factors such as changes in ownership, external market factors, and other business mergers or partnerships can be reasons for altering an internal business plan. However, the most successful companies always try to keep their initial vision and mission statements intact.

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Steven Johnson

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Well-stocked essentials, combined with smart kitchen prep, can make each day go smoothly and ensure that the quality of your food is consistent and up to standard. 

When starting a beauty salon, having the right tools is important. Before you open, making sure that your beauty salon is well-stocked will set you up for success. More importantly, it’s vital to invest in high-quality tools that take manicures, pedicures, and beauty treatments to the next level. Combined with great skills, tools elevate a client’s experience and make it likelier for them to return. Give your salon the tools it deserves and start your business on the right foot. It can be easy, effortless, and simple. 

From nail clippers to nail files, take the time to look for high-quality tools that take manicures, pedicures, and beauty treatments to the next level. Your clients will feel the difference, and you’ll enjoy using quality tools when you’re on the job.

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How to Create an Internal Business Plan for a New Company Initiative

It is important to put together a complete, comprehensive internal business plan for a few reasons.

the internal business plan

Business plans for start-up companies have become mainstays in the business world. But more and more company initiatives and projects have begun to require business plans as a way of validating prudent investments and company spend as maturing businesses look for innovation within to drive future revenue growth. A time may come in a business or a division when you have a new idea or product you believe will equal big revenue for the company, but how do you convey your message to the larger organization? As the world turns towards innovation and technology to drive growth in this mature economy, creating an internal business plan is becoming more and more commonplace, if not a necessity.

If you have a good working relationship with your executive team, business ideas should not be popping up out of the blue. Instead, you should have a platform for discussion in either staff meetings or one-on-one sessions with the executives. However, it is important to put together a complete, comprehensive internal business plan for a few reasons:

  • It shows that you have your stuff together and can be organized and methodical about your plan.
  • You will need to evangelize your new plan quickly and succinctly throughout the organization, and a detailed business plan is the most effective way to disseminate information.
Here are a few suggestions for inclusion in your business to improve the probability of gaining approval:

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary may be the most important part of the internal business plan as it cements the audience’s first impression of the project. This may be the only page many executives have time to read and discuss, so make sure it tells the story in a summarized manner. Style, visualization, and financial accuracy are all important aspect of this page.

Questions to ask and answer include:

  • What is the idea?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How much to you believe its worth?
  • What is the duration of investment?
  • What is the financial impact?
  • What is the mechanism we need to enact and unlock this new revenue stream?
  • How does this project tie into and/or complement the overall strategy for the business and any other growth initiatives? (It is important to see how this product or service will become an integral part of the organization for years to come and not a one-off fad or an ill-conceived idea.)

It is very important to lay out your marketing strategy, as this will be the main focus point for management in understanding how realistic it will be to achieve your results. First, you need to identify your target market, whether it be a specific demographic or fanbase or creating a new segment. You will need to be very specific about your methods of attracting your target customers and the message you are going to represent to the overall market. If you are tapping into a new market, how will you get your message out there? If you are stealing share or competing against another rival, what will be your differentiation to gain share?

Without the right combination of message and means of delivering the message, even truly superior new products may have trouble gaining traction in the marketplace. If you can show that you already have customers lined up ready to purchase your products or services, this makes your case more convincing.

Management Team

Executives want to support new projects and new ideas, but they need to be confident in the people you put in charge. If you, as the author of the internal business plan, will not be directly operating the new product or service, but someone else on your team will be the main contact, you want to make sure they are a good fit for the project.

The team structure has to go beyond just your normal, everyday team configuration. It must show how each team member’s background and accomplishments contribute essential elements needed to succeed with this new venture. The project may involve more than one department, so you will want to show that you put time and effort into determining the team and define the responsibilities of each member. Make sure that you have a diverse group of people that have the availability to dedicate time to the project with a good mix of senior and junior employees.

Financial Projections

As the executive team decides whether they are going to approve of the investment in this new product or service, they have to consider whether they are going to get a sufficient return on their investment. Not only do they have to consider ROI, but in many companies where resources are limited and staffing up can be a political nightmare, business units also have to consider opportunity costs or tradeoffs related to moving individuals and not having them concentrate on already productive and proven products and services.

The financial projections provide clues about how well thought out the new products and services are as well as their financial viability. The executive team will look for whether the team has presented a reasonable forecast for revenue and profit growth that is both aggressive, but realistic for the business unit. When they see projections that seem unattainable, the project immediately loses credibility. Executive teams also want to see whether the management team backed up the projections with sound assumptions based on hard data obtained from industry sources – or were the projections simply guesswork. Financial projections in a business plan do not need to be voluminous or excessively complex. However, they do need to be clear and reasonable while being exciting from a ROI standpoint.

Getting Support for Your Internal Business Plan

While you may include additional information in your business plan, it is important to keep it short and succinct. It is also important that you dedicate the correct resources to develop, publish, and present this business plan. Our team at 8020 Consulting has experience putting together business plans for project and initiatives. You can contact us to learn more .

If you’d like to learn more about internal momentum toward business goals, we invite you to download our operational review program guide . It offers insights into how to organize meetings and set roles to encourage organizational traction:

operational review program

About the Author

Lester has over 15 years of professional finance experience in strategic planning, forecasting and budgeting, financial analysis, and business evaluation. Prior to joining 8020 Consulting, Lester was the Director of Business Planning and Analysis at Warner Bros. and had previously worked as a Senior Manager of Retail Analysis and Manager of Finance for The Walt Disney Company. Additionally, Lester has held positions at Thomson Reuters and Public Financial Management. In his career, Lester also operated as the Chief Financial Officer for a consumer goods start-up company, where he oversaw the Accounting, Finance, Operations and HR functions. Lester’s expertise centers around FP&A, budgeting and forecasting, financial modeling, cause of change analysis, consolidation, industry analysis, and project management. Lester holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Stanford University, and an MBA in Corporate Strategy and Finance from The University of Michigan, Ross School of Business.

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How to write an internal business plan?

internal business plan

A business plan is an argumentative document that outlines the structure, functions, products/services, and strategic and financial goals of a company or a business idea. 

Business plans can be used in several decision-making processes in businesses. They are an important part of creating strategic, feasibility, operational, and expansion plans. 

External business plans are often aimed at convincing the reader to invest or lend money to a company, while internal business plans are made for the board members or the staff.

In this guide, we’ll focus on what an internal business plan is and what it’s not. We’ll dig deep into why a business might need an internal business plan. This guide will also help you determine what tools you can use to create an effective internal business plan for your business.

So, let’s get started!

In this guide:

What is an internal business plan?

Why write an internal business plan, how does an internal business plan differ from a traditional (external) business plan, what tools can you use to write an internal business plan, how to use your internal business plan effectively, the bottom line.

Unlike the traditional business plan that is aimed at the company's external audiences, the internal business plan is made to be used within the company. 

Its main aim is to keep the team or the board in sync with the goals and strategy of the business. This ensures everyone is on the same page so that decisions can be taken in line with the company’s strategy.

Just like a traditional business plan, an internal business plan also: explains how a project is being moved forward, details the risk and rewards associated with the action plan, and includes a financial forecast. 

A good internal business plan leans into uncovering weaknesses and competitive advantages for your business. Ensuring that employees are in sync with the goals of the business also encourages employee engagement.

What is the difference between an internal business plan and a business case?

While internal business plans and business cases might sound similar, they actually are not the same at all. 

A business case analyzes the merits of a single project or potential initiative, the business plan, on the other hand, covers the plan of action for your entire business over several years. 

Considering that the details mentioned in a business plan are based on a series of hypotheses and forecasts, they need to be reviewed periodically. For that, the business plan preparation should be an ongoing task in your business. 

On the other hand, the business case is usually a single one-off analysis aimed at making a go or no-go decision based on an estimated return on investment.

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By now, you’ve probably determined that an internal business plan can be thought of as a summary that aims to connect the employees with the vision and goals of the company. It includes valuable financial and strategic details about the business.

This means the document can be used to gain a quick and clear understanding of business operations, funding, and expected profitability. 

If the creation and communication of an internal business plan are carried out effectively, it can do wonders. Let’s see some of the advantages of this document.

Get buy-in from the board and decision-makers

The internal business plan can be used to convince the board (and other decision makers) and get their buy-in on the next strategic move for the business. 

This may include an expansion plan, a restructuring, a refinancing, etc. The internal business plan can be considered an argumentative document since it is a powerful tool for convincing the board members to approve a plan of action. It does so by providing a clear and compelling vision for the organization's future.

In a well-crafted internal business plan, the need for action can be demonstrated. You can highlight the challenges facing the organization and how these problems can be addressed. The financial benefits of taking action can also be demonstrated by outlining the expected return on investment (ROI) of proposed initiatives. 

Finally, an internal business plan can help to build consensus and support for taking action by demonstrating how proposed initiatives align with the organization's overall mission and values.

Facilitate decision making

Business decisions are effective only when they align with the company’s goals and objectives. Therefore, it is imperative that your heads of departments and delegates are well aware of the company strategy.

Considering that an internal business plan contains details about the short and long-term goals of the company, it can act as a framework for evaluating options and making informed choices. 

It also helps the leaders and decision-makers stay focused on what's most important for the business by outlining specific goals and the strategies needed to achieve them.

Align staff members on vision and direction of travel 

Internal communication is one of the most important aspects of modern-day businesses. Businesses need to be connected to employees at all times to ensure engagement and collaboration.

Internal business plans explain where the business is headed making sure everyone has a concrete idea about what is going on in the business.

The traditional (external) business plan is mainly aimed at securing financing from investors or lenders. It may also be used to convince business partners or suppliers to do business with the company. 

On the other hand, the internal business plan aims to align the staff and board members with the goals and vision of the company.

As a result, internal business plans differ from traditional business plans in the following ways:

  • Less description: the employees of a business already have some level of familiarity with the business operations. Therefore, the description of company structure, products and services, operations, and market mentioned in an internal business plan can afford to be less detailed than in an external one.
  • Less financial information: internal business plans made accessible to the broader staff might contain less financial information than external plans, as the owners or board members might not be comfortable sharing confidential financial information with everyone. 
  • More strategic information: non-disclosure agreements are rare with investors, whereas staff and board members have an obligation in that regard. Therefore, the level of strategic disclosure might be much higher in an internal business plan than in an external one.
  • Different tone: while external business plan tend to be formal documents, the tone of internal ones might be less formal if they are meant to be shared only with the staff. 

There are two possible formats for writing an internal business plan based on the intended audience and level of disclosure: 

  • For a simple internal business plan aimed at your staff, the recommended format is an executive summary (also called one-page business plan).
  • For a more detailed document aimed at getting buy-in from board members and decision-makers, the traditional business plan structure is recommended.

Steps involved in writing an internal business plan

The first step in writing an internal business plan is to identify the key goals and objectives that your company wants to achieve. These could include expanding into new markets, launching new products or services, or improving operational efficiency.

Secondly, conduct a thorough analysis of your target market and the competition to identify any trends, opportunities, or challenges that your company may face. Your internal business plan should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with your company's goals and objectives.

The standard template for the traditional business plan

  • Business Overview -  A description of the business model, products/services offered, and the industry you operate in.
  • Market Overview - A quick overview of your industry, market trends, and potential opportunities for growth.
  • Financial Highlights - A summary of the company's main financial metrics (revenue, profit, and cash flow) and expected performance over the next 3 years.
  • Our Ask - The specific request being made in the plan (for board members / when seeking approval only).
  • Structure & Ownership - Details about the organizational structure, including ownership and management team.
  • History - A brief summary of the company's past performance and key milestones.
  • Location - A description of the physical location of the business, including any relevant details about the surrounding area.
  • Management Team - An overview of the management team, including their experience and qualifications.
  • Products and Services - A detailed description of the products and/or services offered by the company.

how internal business planning might look for an organisation

  • Demographics and Segmentation - Information about the potential customer segments.
  • Target Market - A description of the specific segments the company is targeting.
  • Competition - An analysis of the competitors in the market and how the company differentiates itself.
  • Barriers to Entry - An explanation of what prevents new competitors from entering the market.
  • Regulation - Any laws or regulations that may impact the company's operations or products.
  • Competitive Edge - The unique advantage the company has over its competitors.
  • Pricing - The company's pricing strategy for its products or services.
  • Marketing Plan - A detailed plan outlining how the company will reach its target market and promote its products/services.
  • Milestones - Key events or goals the company plans to achieve in the short- or long-term.
  • Risks and Mitigations -  An analysis of the potential risks to the business and how they will be managed.
  • Personnel Plan - Details about the staffing needs of the business, including job roles and responsibilities.
  • Key Assets and IP - A description of the company's key assets and intellectual property.
  • Suppliers - A list of the company's suppliers and their role in the business.
  • Financial Plan - A detailed analysis of the company's financial projections, including a forecasted Profit & Loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow forecast.
  • Appendix -  Additional information that supports the business plan, such as market research, legal documents, or product specifications.

Usually, internal business plans are prepared in-house using either specialized software or spreadsheets and word processors. Let’s look at both options.

Writing internal business plans with Word and Excel

Internal business plans can be prepared using "free" softwares like Word and Excel - though this is probably not the best approach. 

The first issue is that in order to create a financial forecast on Excel without making mistakes, the person preparing the forecast will need to be well versed in accounting and finance. This can work if you are a larger business with a dedicated CFO or FP&A team, but it’s usually not a viable option for small businesses.

The second issue is that preparing an internal business plan requires intense collaboration with your team. For instance, the head of sales might be working on the sales forecast, while your head of HR has to ensure you have enough staff to serve customers. 

In this context, juggling between Excel and a word processor while coordinating multiple staff members can quickly become counterproductive. 

The third issue when you use Excel is that forecasts are hard to build, and there are no built-in scenarios analysis capabilities which makes it harder than it needs to be to come up with a concrete plan of action - as your team will have to iterate to agree on a plan (should we hire or outsource? What if sales are 5% higher? Etc.). 

Finally, Excel has no actual vs. forecast analysis capabilities, which make it hard to track if the plan is being delivered as expected and maintain the forecast up to date as time goes by.

That’s why using Excel and Word to create business plans is fastly going out of fashion in favor of using specialized software.

Creating an internal business plan with an online tool

Creating an internal business plan is much more simple and effective when using an online software such as the one we offer at The Business Plan Shop. 

The biggest benefit is that you get professional guidance at every step of the plan preparation and:

  • Round-the-clock availability of online software.
  • Easy-to-use financial forecasting.
  • Ready-made business plan templates.
  • Easy financial analysis and KPI tracking.
  • Integration with major accounting software solutions.
  • Friendly support team.
  • No installation required.

Another major benefit is that, when you use software, you can easily convert your internal business plan into a business plan for a bank or investor. 

If you're interested in using this type of solution, you can try our software for free by signing up here . 

Don't start from scratch!

With dozens of business plan templates available, get a clear idea of what a complete business plan looks like

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Once your perfect internal business plan is ready, the next step is to figure out how you can use it effectively and make the most out of it. 

Here are a few pointers:

  • Make sure to select the best communication channel and ensure that everyone from the target audience gets the internal business plan.
  • Monitor and measure business performance to evaluate the impact of delivering the business plan.
  • Make sure to translate key actions into actionable milestones. For instance, if you own a manufacturing company, you can mention how you will secure distribution agreements.
  • Make sure that the phasing of milestones is done after agreement with team leaders/staff.
  • Track actuals vs. forecasted financials, and perform regular reviews to track implementation progress. Regularly review financial performance and adjust accordingly.

An internal business plan can be a powerful tool for improving staff engagement. It can act as a tool to define the direction of the company and align the staff with the strategic and tactical goals of the company. 

It can also be used to convince the board to take action by providing a clear and compelling vision for the organization's future. 

We hope this guide helped you get a clearer picture of what an internal business plan is and how to create one for your organization. Don’t hesitate to contact-us if you have any follow-up questions.

Also on The Business Plan Shop

  • Practical example of a business plan outline
  • Do I need a business plan? Your questions answered?

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Writing an internal business plan

Beyond external, there are many internal reasons to write a business plan to support business success.

A team coming up with and debating an internal business plan

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While all of the reasons for writing a business plan are usually described as external, such as landing investors or recruiting quality talent – there are plenty of reasons to make an internal business plan as well. Generally, such a plan is there to act as a roadmap for the company’s success; something to remind everyone of the joint vision they are working towards.

Business plan writing tips & advice for the avid entrepreneur

Why is a business plan important and who is it for, can a business plan improve your organisational performance, why make an internal business plan.

Generally, many large businesses utilise internal business plans to make sure that the overall company vision is not compromised and easily communicated to everyone. That sort of strategic direction is not easy to achieve solely by meetings and memos, especially if sprawling corporate structures are involved. Plus, the information laid out in such ways is always prone to change; which is why business plans are there to provide a more long-term, future-oriented set of values and motives.

Apart from that, as you will see in detail below; internal business plans are less focused on the financial aspect of running a business, at least when everything is functioning correctly in that regard. Instead, such plans are more often used to establish a set of metrics that the staff can use to see how hard they are working. Additionally, they are there to enable better performance management by upper management; ensuring that everyone realised what they need to do for their job performance not to suffer, and precisely what is expected of them in the workplace.

Overall, internal business plans allow for a higher degree of control and coordination among different levels of management and employees. Not only is communication vastly improved by the elimination of superfluous dilemmas; but the staff is also better able to voice their pleasure or concerns about where the company is going in the commercial and cultural sense. Such a plan is as much suited for staff empowerment as it is for better management .

Mission statement

If vision is about imagining and looking forward; your mission is very much about the present, and doing. In other words – you want to focus your mission statement on the practical, everyday actions that company employees can undertake to itch closer to the future forecast of the vision statement. So, make sure to lay out what kind of behaviours and actions must be done for your business to get where you want it to go.

For customer-oriented companies, the mission statement can also contain a succinct description of what the most average target consumer is for the company; something all employees will keep in mind. And then, tackle the public image of your company; what it is currently, what you want it to become, and what everyone needs to do to attain that image. That will bring a unique definition to your business in the eyes of the public, and give everyone a sense of clarity about what kind of collective they’re in.

If you want to bring even more clarity to your business, the only thing you can do is provide more specific desired outcomes for the future of your business. With that in mind, make sure to use your internal business plan to lay out a clear set of objectives for everyone who has access to it. Once you manage that, you will have a perfect guiding light to keep everyone involved headed in the proper direction.

Unlike the broader mission statement, your objectives should be less long-term and much more detail-oriented and specific. For example, you may want to choose a realistic revenue target and a reasonable date for hitting it. Then, think of what all of your employees need to do to manage this. And give them a set of objectives all of them are capable of understanding and working towards. Naturally, these must be in perfect alignment with your mission and vision, for the business plan to give a meaningful structure to your company culture .

Strategies are more general activities that your management must employ to reach the desired objectives. You want to make sure these are spelt out clearly, but they can be pretty broad in terms of scope. Remember – these will act as a bridge between your objectives and the practical actions that must be taken.

If you’re looking for examples, think in terms of detailed quarterly or monthly reviews, and better measurements of certain metrics to reach specific objectives. For example, most of your employees may need to work on revamping the quality control process at all production stages.

Action plans

Action plans are a part of the internal business plan; usually there to tie in a particular activity from a strategy with your set of objectives. Let’s clear this up a bit. Actions could mean the creation of a new product or a more modern marketing plan. It could also be the process of developing or investing in new systems. That is something you want to plan out annually and with strict deadlines.


Before you round out your internal business plan, there’s one crucial question you need to ask yourself. Namely, is your company capable of doing everything that this plan sets out to do? After all, with so many different management plans that are a part of this overall plan, it may all seem a bit overly ambitious. And while it sometimes just seems a bit confusing until everyone gets more comfortable with it; in many situations, an internal business plan may be too lofty to be realistic.

There’s no shame in making amendments to your internal business plan after it’s been circulated the company. After all, some things may prove to be not feasible after a couple of months. Or, an idea which seemed great to you, in the beginning, is now looking pretty outdated.

On the other hand, you don’t want to throw things out of the plan whenever they prove difficult to do; that’s also a recipe for disaster. Finding that middle ground between following an intricate, but realistic plan, and changing one that’s just not viable – that is something only a truly great manager is capable of.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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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

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

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

Lean Business Plan Templates 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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the internal business plan

The Business Planning Process: 6 Steps To Creating a New Plan

The Business Planning Process 6 Steps to Create a New Plan

In this article, we will define and explain the basic business planning process to help your business move in the right direction.

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process whereby an organization’s leaders figure out the best roadmap for growth and document their plan for success.

The business planning process includes diagnosing the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, improving its efficiency, working out how it will compete against rival firms in the future, and setting milestones for progress so they can be measured.

The process includes writing a new business plan. What is a business plan? It is a written document that provides an outline and resources needed to achieve success. Whether you are writing your plan from scratch, from a simple business plan template , or working with an experienced business plan consultant or writer, business planning for startups, small businesses, and existing companies is the same.

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The Better Business Planning Process

The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:

  • Do Your Research
  • Calculate Your Financial Forecast
  • Draft Your Plan
  • Revise & Proofread
  • Nail the Business Plan Presentation

We’ve provided more detail for each of these key business plan steps below.

1. Do Your Research

Conduct detailed research into the industry, target market, existing customer base,  competitors, and costs of the business begins the process. Consider each new step a new project that requires project planning and execution. You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What is the current state of your business?
  • What are the current industry trends?
  • What is your competition doing?

There are a variety of resources needed, ranging from databases and articles to direct interviews with other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or industry experts. The information gathered during this process should be documented and organized carefully, including the source as there is a need to cite sources within your business plan.

You may also want to complete a SWOT Analysis for your own business to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks as this will help you develop your strategies to highlight your competitive advantage.

2. Strategize

Now, you will use the research to determine the best strategy for your business. You may choose to develop new strategies or refine existing strategies that have demonstrated success in the industry. Pulling the best practices of the industry provides a foundation, but then you should expand on the different activities that focus on your competitive advantage.

This step of the planning process may include formulating a vision for the company’s future, which can be done by conducting intensive customer interviews and understanding their motivations for purchasing goods and services of interest. Dig deeper into decisions on an appropriate marketing plan, operational processes to execute your plan, and human resources required for the first five years of the company’s life.

3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast

All of the activities you choose for your strategy come at some cost and, hopefully, lead to some revenues. Sketch out the financial situation by looking at whether you can expect revenues to cover all costs and leave room for profit in the long run.

Begin to insert your financial assumptions and startup costs into a financial model which can produce a first-year cash flow statement for you, giving you the best sense of the cash you will need on hand to fund your early operations.

A full set of financial statements provides the details about the company’s operations and performance, including its expenses and profits by accounting period (quarterly or year-to-date). Financial statements also provide a snapshot of the company’s current financial position, including its assets and liabilities.

This is one of the most valued aspects of any business plan as it provides a straightforward summary of what a company does with its money, or how it grows from initial investment to become profitable.

4. Draft Your Plan

With financials more or less settled and a strategy decided, it is time to draft through the narrative of each component of your business plan . With the background work you have completed, the drafting itself should be a relatively painless process.

If you have trouble writing convincing prose, this is a time to seek the help of an experienced business plan writer who can put together the plan from this point.

5. Revise & Proofread

Revisit the entire plan to look for any ideas or wording that may be confusing, redundant, or irrelevant to the points you are making within the plan. You may want to work with other management team members in your business who are familiar with the company’s operations or marketing plan in order to fine-tune the plan.

Finally, proofread thoroughly for spelling, grammar, and formatting, enlisting the help of others to act as additional sets of eyes. You may begin to experience burnout from working on the plan for so long and have a need to set it aside for a bit to look at it again with fresh eyes.

6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation

The presentation of the business plan should succinctly highlight the key points outlined above and include additional material that would be helpful to potential investors such as financial information, resumes of key employees, or samples of marketing materials. It can also be beneficial to provide a report on past sales or financial performance and what the business has done to bring it back into positive territory.

Business Planning Process Conclusion

Every entrepreneur dreams of the day their business becomes wildly successful.

But what does that really mean? How do you know whether your idea is worth pursuing?

And how do you stay motivated when things are not going as planned? The answers to these questions can be found in your business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls along the way. ​

Business plans are dynamic documents that can be revised and presented to different audiences throughout the course of a company’s life. For example, a business may have one plan for its initial investment proposal, another which focuses more on milestones and objectives for the first several years in existence, and yet one more which is used specifically when raising funds.

Business plans are a critical first step for any company looking to attract investors or receive grant money, as they allow a new organization to better convey its potential and business goals to those able to provide financial resources.

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Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Use This Simple Business Plan Template

Business Planning Guide

What is a business plan?

  • Types of business plans
  • How to write
  • Business planning tips
  • Industry business plans

How to write a business plan

Vector of a single page with folded corner and a pencil. Represents preparing to write a business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan

Noah Parsons | Oct 27, 2023

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The more you know about what goes into your plan, the easier it will be to write.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a strong business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors while helping you start, run, and grow a successful business.

Follow these steps to write a business plan

Follow these eleven simple steps and download one of our free business plan templates to make writing your business plan quick and easy.

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1. Start with a one-page plan

Outline all of your important business details with a simple highly focused document that's easy to complete and update.

A one-page business plan is a succinct, high-level overview of your business concept, key objectives, and strategy for success. It serves as a roadmap that outlines the essential details of your business and its operations in a clear and concise format.

Common components of writing a business plan include a problem and solution statement, an outline of your business model, target market, competitive advantage, a breakdown of your team, and a financial summary.

The one-page plan is where you will outline all of your important business details with a brief and focused document that’s incredibly easy to update and expand. Despite its brevity, a one-page business plan can be a powerful tool that provides a clear vision of what you aim to achieve and how you plan to do it. It’s not only a foundational document for your business operations, but also a persuasive tool when pitching to investors or potential partners.

You may even find that it’s all you need to run your business.

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2. Summarize with an executive summary

To make sure that people will actually read your business plan and understand your business—you'll need a brief but thorough introduction to that is both convincing and easy to digest.

The executive summary is the first, and possibly only, thing investors, employees and anyone else will read. It should provide an overview of your business operations, strategy, and goals within one or two pages. While it does come first in your plan it should be the last thing you complete—after you have written the other parts of your business plan.

Despite its brevity, you will still want to include several important pieces of information when writing your business plan executive summary . These include the unique product or service your business offers, the market it targets, and why it holds a competitive advantage. It establishes both high-level facts like the company’s vision and mission statement , as well as previewing technical details like an overview of financial projections or funding request.

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3. Describe your products and services

This is where you describe what you are selling and how it solves a problem for your target market. Any other information, like initial traction or patents, should further demonstrate how your product/service stands out.

Is there actually a need for what you plan to offer?

Whether you’re selling products, services or both, this section is where you will detail not only what you provide, but also how your offerings solve problems your customers are dealing with, the value you provide and how your solution sets you apart from competitors. It is also where you can show you have a solid grasp of logistical details like pricing and distribution.

To truly showcase the value of your products and services , you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customer’s life or work? This narrative will draw in your audience, whether they’re potential customers or investors.

Above all, it is the area when writing your business plan to really showcase the value of your products and/or services.

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4. Conduct a market analysis

When creating a business plan, spend time researching the market you’re entering to identify emerging trends and hone in on what is attainable– your ultimate goal is to be able to define your ideal target market.

This is likely to be one of the most time-intensive steps in writing your business plan. It requires developing a comprehensive assessment of the environment you plan to operate in. Especially if you’re writing a business plan to secure a loan or investment, you will need to show that you understand the dynamics and trends in the market.

Conducting a marketing analysis involves segmenting your market based on demographic and psychographic information. These are attributes like their age, income level, interests and habits. Your target market is the specific group of people who are most likely to become your customers.

The goal of this section is for you to paint a clear picture of who your ideal customers are , determine if the market is viable for your business, and back up your claims with supporting information. If you were to present this part of your plan to an investor, they would hopefully have no questions about who your business will be serving.

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5. Conduct a competitive analysis

Everyone has competition and you should show that you understand who they are and how you compare as part of your business plan.

Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don’t then you’re either in a very young industry or there’s a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.

To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are , how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you’re business will be positioned. Remember, this will likely be something you revisit and update in the future as the competitve landscape shifts and changes.

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6. Outline your marketing and sales plan

This section describes how you plan to reach and sell to your potential customers, what your pricing strategy will be, and what marketing activities you will use to make your small business successful.

The marketing and sales plan includes how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. This section should give a clear picture of what your growth trajectory looks like, the milestones you intend to achieve, and how you plan to measure success.

Your marketing strategy should align strategic goals with concrete marketing activities that aim to engage your target market and persuade them to purchase your product or service.

The sales plan should clearly estimate how much you aim to sell, and provide actionable steps to achieve those goals.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will not just connect with your target audience but how you will turn them into paying customers.

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7. Describe your business operations

How will your business run day-to-day? You'll want to have all the necessary details in this section to show that you have an understanding of how you'll produce and maintain your product or service.

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. This includes elements such as inventory, supply chains, equipment and technology, distribution, and manufacturing. In short, this section is where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Operations do not cover your business model and organizational structure. Instead, your operations and distribution are tied strictly to execution and help further fill out how you will achieve your goals and objectives.

For businesses without a physical product, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, who you will partner with , and any other factors that keep your services running.

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8. Track milestones and metrics

While not required to complete your business plan it can be incredibly useful to map out key business milestones and the metrics you’ll be tracking along the way.

A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You’ll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that’s attached. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. 

You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc. 

It’s perfectly fine to start small and grow the number of metrics you are tracking. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking over time.

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9. Describe your organization and management structure

This is the part of your business plan to detail the history of your company, list out roles and specific employee qualifications, as well as logistical information.

This is a fairly short, but important, section. Investors look for great teams in addition to great ideas—and this is your chance to prove that you have both.

Include brief bios that highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member. It’s important here to make the case for why the team is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before?

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure. The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide a review of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

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10. Make a financial plan

Creating a financial plan and budget prepares you with the necessary financial statements and forecasts to set goals and pursue business loans or investment.

Many business owners feel intimidated by the financial component of writing their business plan. But it doesn’t require a business degree or advanced math skills to create well-structured, accurate financial statements.

Creating a comprehensive financial plan starts with a sales forecast , where you estimate the sales expected over a given period. Just as important is an expense budget , where you project future costs such as personnel costs , equipment, marketing expenses, and taxes.

A strong business plan will include assumptions about the future and potential risks that could impact the financial plan . Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

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11. Add supporting information to an appendix

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports or just doesn’t fit into specific sections of your plan.

Including an appendix in your business plan can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Why do you need a business plan?

Even after reviewing these steps you may be wondering, “Why should I spend my time making a business plan?” Here are the top reasons why you should invest in planning:

Businesses that plan grow 30% faster.

A surprising amount of research has been done on business planning and has shown that companies that take the time to write a plan and review it regularly grow 30% faster than those businesses that don’t plan. Not only do these companies grow faster, but they perform better and are less likely to fail in the long run.

Lenders and investors need business plans

If you’re growing your business and plan on getting a business loan or raising money from investors, you’ll need a business plan. Most lenders and investors will ask for a plan , but even if they don’t want to see the actual document, they will ask you questions that only a solid business plan will be able to answer.

Business plans reduce risk

Starting and running a business is always risky. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, you can use a plan to forecast potential cash flow issues and get ahead of any potential roadblocks so you aren’t caught off guard. A business plan will help you reduce your risk and help you navigate the future.

Business planning helps you make smart spending decisions 

Before you make a big spending decision for your business, you need to know the potential impacts on your finances. With a business plan in place, you can easily explore different scenarios and see what impacts a new hire or an expansion to a second location will have on your business.

Need more reasons for why you need a business plan? Read our full list of reasons why having a business plan is important for small businesses.

Start writing your business plan

Whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, establishing steps to start a business, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan will help get you there. 

Business planning is a continuous process that can help you validate your idea, set goals, manage, and successfully pitch your business. One of the most helpful things you can do to build a successful business is to jump in and start planning.

For detailed guidance on writing specific sections of your business plan, check out the links above for additional resources.

For more on business planning, including tips for writing a great plan , what options are available , and even specific industry guides —check out our full  Business Planning Guide . 

Business Plan templates and tools

Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.

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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.

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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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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 ."

  • Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 1 of 46
  • Business Ethics: Definition, Principles, Why They're Important 2 of 46
  • Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 3 of 46
  • Organizational Structure for Companies With Examples and Benefits 4 of 46
  • 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
  • What Is an S Corp? 8 of 46
  • LLC vs. Incorporation: Which Should I Choose? 9 of 46
  • Private Company: What It Is, Types, and Pros and Cons 10 of 46
  • Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, Examples, Differences From an LLC 11 of 46
  • Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 46
  • Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 46
  • Seed Capital: What It Is, How It Works, Example 14 of 46
  • Venture Capital: What Is VC and How Does It Work? 15 of 46
  • 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
  • Upper Management: What it is, How it Works 20 of 46
  • What is the C Suite?: Meaning and Positions Defined 21 of 46
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO): What They Do vs. Other Chief Roles 22 of 46
  • Operations Management: Understanding and Using It 23 of 46
  • Human Resource Planning (HRP) Meaning, Process, and Examples 24 of 46
  • Brand: Types of Brands and How to Create a Successful Brand Identity 25 of 46
  • What Is Brand Personality? How It Works and Examples 26 of 46
  • What Is Brand Management? Requirements, How It Works, and Example 27 of 46
  • What Is Brand Awareness? Definition, How It Works, and Strategies 28 of 46
  • Brand Loyalty: What It Is, and How to Build It 29 of 46
  • Brand Extension: Definition, How It Works, Example, and Criticism 30 of 46
  • What Is Social Networking? 31 of 46
  • Affiliate Marketer: Definition, Examples, and How to Get Started 32 of 46
  • What Is Commercialization, Plus the Product Roll-Out Process 33 of 46
  • Digital Marketing Overview: Types, Challenges, and Required Skills 34 of 46
  • Direct Marketing: What It Is and How It Works 35 of 46
  • Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 36 of 46
  • What Are Marketing Campaigns? Definition, Types, and Examples 37 of 46
  • How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 38 of 46
  • Micromarketing Explained: Definition, Uses, and Examples 39 of 46
  • Network Marketing Meaning and How It Works 40 of 46
  • Product Differentiation: What It Is, How Businesses Do It, and the 3 Main Types 41 of 46
  • Target Market: Definition, Purpose, Examples, Market Segments 42 of 46
  • Outside Sales: What They are, How They Work 43 of 46
  • What Is a Sales Lead? How It Works and Factors Affecting Quality 44 of 46
  • Indirect Sales: What it is, How it Works 45 of 46
  • What Is Inside Sales? Definition, How It Works, and Advantages 46 of 46

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The 7 Best Business Plan Examples

So you want to start a business . Kudos! You’re doing big things.

One of the first steps to building a strong foundation for your new venture is to write a rock-solid business plan . When done right, your business plan can pave your path to success, all while helping you to smoothly cruise through any obstacles that may come up.

Plus, a good business plan can help you secure critical partnerships and funding that you might need in your early stages.

If you’re unsure how to write one, a great place to start is to learn from the pros. In this article, we’ll look at companies that built incredible business plans.

Take notes on the structure, format, and details. Hopefully you’ll leave with plenty of inspiration to write your own.

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7-part template for business plan examples

We’ll look at a business plan that is structured using a seven-part template. Here’s a quick review of those parts:

  • Executive summary: A quick overview of your business and the contents of your business plan.
  • Company description: More info about your company, its goals and mission, and why you started it in the first place.
  • Market analysis: Research about the market and industry your business will operate in, including a competitive analysis about the companies you’ll be up against.
  • Products and services: A detailed description of what you’ll be selling to your customers.
  • Marketing plan: A strategic outline of how you plan to market and promote your business before, during, and after your company launches into the market.
  • Logistics and operations plan: An explanation of the systems, processes, and tools that are needed to run your business in the background.
  • Financial plan: A map of your short-term (and even long-term) financial goals and the costs to run the business. If you’re looking for funding, here’s the place to discuss your request and needs.

7 business plan examples (section by section)

In this section, you’ll find hypothetical and real-world examples of each aspect of a business plan to show you how the whole thing comes together. 

  • Executive summary

Your executive summary offers a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. You’ll want to include a brief description of your company, market research, competitor analysis, and financial information.  

In ThoughtCo’s sample business plan for a fictional company called Acme Management Technology, the executive summary is three paragraphs and occupies nearly half the page:

business plan executive summary

  • Company description

You might go more in-depth with your company description and include the following sections:

  • Nature of the business. Mention the general category of business you fall under. Are you a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of your products?
  • Background information. Talk about your past experiences and skills, and how you’ve combined them to fill in the market. 
  • Business structure. This section outlines how you registered your company —as a corporation, sole proprietorship, LLC, or other business type.
  • Industry. Which business sector do you operate in? The answer might be technology, merchandising, or another industry.
  • Team. Whether you’re the sole full-time employee of your business or you have contractors to support your daily workflow, this is your chance to put them under the spotlight.

You can also repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your About page, Instagram page, or other properties that ask for a boilerplate description of your business. Hair extensions brand Luxy Hair has a blurb on its About page that could easily be repurposed as a company description for its business plan. 

company description business plan

  • Market analysis

Market analysis comprises research on product supply and demand, your target market, the competitive landscape, and industry trends. You might do a SWOT analysis to learn where you stand and identify market gaps that you could exploit to establish your footing. Here’s an example of a SWOT analysis we did for a hypothetical ecommerce business: 

marketing swot example

You’ll also want to run a competitive analysis as part of the market analysis component for your business plan. This will show you who you’re up against and give you ideas on how to gain an edge over the competition. 

  • Products and services

This part of your business plan describes your product or service, how it will be priced, and the ways it will compete against similar offerings in the market. Don’t go into too much detail here —a few lines are enough to introduce your item to the reader.

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  • Marketing plan

Potential investors will want to know how you’ll get the word out about your business. As such, it’s essential to build a marketing plan that highlights the promotion and customer acquisition strategies you’re planning to adopt. 

Most marketing plans focus on the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. However, it’s easier when you break it down by the different marketing channels . Mention how you intend to promote your business using blogs, email, social media, and word-of-mouth marketing. 

Here’s an example of a hypothetical marketing plan for a real estate website:

marketing section template for business plan

Logistics and operations

This section of your business plan provides information about your production, facilities, production, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, and inventory.

Financial plan

The financial plan (a.k.a. financial statement) offers a breakdown of your sales, revenue, expenses, profit, and other financial metrics. You’ll want to include all the numbers and concrete data to project your current and projected financial state. For example, the financial statement for ecommerce brand Nature’s Candy includes forecasted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.

financial plan example

It then goes deeper into the financials, citing:

  • Funding needs
  • Project cash-flow statement
  • Project profit-and-loss statement
  • Projected balance sheet

You can use Shopify’s financial plan template to create your own income statement, cash-flow statement, and balance sheet. 

Types of business plan (and what to write for each)

A one-page business plan is a pared down version of a standard business plan that’s easy for potential investors and partners to understand. You’ll want to include all of the sections, but make sure they’re abbreviated and summarized.

  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials 

A startup business plan is meant to secure outside funding for a new business. Typically, there’s a big focus on the financials, as well as other sections that help determine the viability of your business idea —market analysis, for example. Shopify has a great business plan template for startups that include all the below points.

  • Market research: in depth
  • Financials: in depth


Your internal business plan acts as the enforcer of your company’s vision. It reminds your team of the long-term objective and keeps them strategically aligned toward the same goal.

  • Market research


A feasibility business plan is essentially a feasibility study that helps you evaluate whether your product or idea is worthy of a full business plan. 

Mix and match to make a killer business plan

The good news is: there’s no single right way to write a business plan. If you’re feeling unsure about how to craft yours, pull bits and pieces that you like from other examples, and leave out the parts that don’t apply or make sense for you.

The important thing is to clearly communicate your reason for starting the company, what’s needed to operate it, and how you plan to make it work in the long run.

When you can convince others that you have a killer game plan, you’ve nailed it.

Want to learn more?

  • Question: Are You a Business Owner or an Entrepreneur?
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  • Entrepreneurial Mindset: 20 Ways to Think Like an Entrepreneur
  • 101+ Best Small Business Software Programs 

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24 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own

Clifford Chi

Published: August 17, 2023

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Reading sample business plans is essential when you’re writing your own. As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, you’ll learn how to write one that gets your business off on the right foot, convinces investors to provide funding, and confirms your venture is sustainable for the long term.

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But what does a business plan look like? And how do you write one that is viable and convincing? Let's review the ideal business plan formally, then take a look at business plan templates and samples you can use to inspire your own.

Business Plan Format

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. The same logic applies to business. If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. Referencing one will keep you on the path toward success. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, you might be wondering, "Where do I start? How should I format this?"

Typically, a business plan is a document that will detail how a company will achieve its goals.

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Most business plans include the following sections:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is arguably the most important section of the entire business plan. Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

Most executive summaries include:

  • Mission statement
  • Company history and leadership
  • Competitive advantage overview
  • Financial projections
  • Company goals

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, including only the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

And the executive summary below tells potential investors a short story that covers all the most important details this business plan will cover in a succinct and interesting way.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

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Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market. Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will your product fill that gap?

In this section, you might include:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry. You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

This example uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Speaking of market share, you'll need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are. After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another. Performing a competitive analysis can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

The competitive landscape section of the business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are. It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

This section will describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Ask yourself:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

It can be helpful to build a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

The example below uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. You might consider including information on:

  • The brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

It can help to already have a marketing plan built out to help you with this part of your business plan.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler. It offers a comprehensive picture of how it plans to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services. Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use . It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

The example below outlines products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. For this reason, you might outline:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

This business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

This section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more. According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details you'll want to include.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet example shows the level of detail you will need to include in the financials section of your business plan:

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

Business Plan Types

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. So, we’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business. You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. Internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Sample Business Plan Templates

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow. Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why We Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it. There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders. It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis. The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made. Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly. It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (We always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

We absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service. You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of our favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business. Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you. It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things we love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, we especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan. Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

Top Business Plan Examples

Here are some completed business plan samples to get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business. We’ve chosen different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue. We included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives. This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best. For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, has one of the most compelling mission statements we’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University . While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more. Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission. The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s also essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. You can also use this template as a guide while you're gathering important details. After looking at this sample, you'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do for your own business plan.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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Create a Strong Stakeholder Engagement Plan in 4 Steps

Learn how to create a powerful stakeholder engagement plan in 4 steps. Use it to improve communication and project outcomes for your business.

the internal business plan

Do you find your business struggling to engage with all the people involved? Does your team seem like they are in perpetual panic or uncertainty? How about your clients, do they even know that you exist?

Clear (consistent) communication helps to keep everyone who's part of your project either excited or informed. Without good communication, you're not setting clear expectations. Collaboration can become haphazard, and project outcomes unpredictable. It's a problem that eats away at productivity, profitability, and, at times, your peace of mind.

Speaking of communications, the Project Management Institute (PMI) contends that it is  one of the four most essential power skills  that help project professionals fulfill organizational objectives. In this article, we'll review the four steps to creating a valuable and impactful stakeholder engagement plan.

What are stakeholders?

Stakeholders are individuals and groups with a vested interest and influence in your projects or what your company does. Their interest typically lies in the company's objectives, and overall prosperity. Some examples are investors, creditors, managers, and the employees who keep the wheels turning.

The relationship that stakeholders have with your business is a two-way street. It's a dynamic relationship where their actions and your project or business shape the outcome together.

Internal stakeholders vs. external stakeholders

Stakeholders may fall into two categories.

Internal stakeholders  are your in-house people and include:

  • Project sponsors  provide the necessary support, resources, and guidance as they are typically the full or partial owner of the project.
  • Project managers  help to keep the project on track, on time, and within budget by managing the project scope and team. They also get their hands dirty when needed to help push work through. They do the detailed project planning and track the work while also managing resources, clients and any other technicalities.
  • Project team members  (or development team members) are the ones rolling up their sleeves and putting in the hard work to turn plans into reality.

‎On the flip side, external stakeholders are, well, external parties who have a stake in your project but aren't part of your project's “inner circle.” They include:

  • Government bodies  enforce government regulations and policies that can impact your project.
  • Contractors  from outside your organization, such as suppliers, contractors, or service providers.
  • Customers  hold a unique (and valuable) position as external key stakeholders. Their satisfaction and feedback can make or break the success of your project or business.
  • Competitors  are also external stakeholders, as they can help you learn about new trends.

Since stakeholders have the power to influence your business or projects, you'll need a plan for how to engage them.

What is a stakeholder engagement plan?

A stakeholder engagement plan (SEP) is like a communication playbook. It's a “living” document that contains the strategy for how you intend to communicate with your stakeholders.

The purpose of this document, alongside a  project plan , is to get financial and business support for a project or venture.

In practical terms, a stakeholder engagement plan is your communication compass.

While project teams usually create engagement plans before starting a project, they're not set in stone. Why? Because the level of engagement and interest can vary for each stakeholder, especially as the project progresses.

Since the SEP is a living document, you can adjust your communication approach to suit each stakeholder's unique needs and accommodate changes.

A SEP goes well with a stakeholder analysis.

The stakeholder analysis helps you identify project stakeholders and what makes them tick. The engagement plan guides your communication with them.

Key elements you need before writing a SEP

Because the SEP is usually created after the  project charter  (and other project artifacts), you can steal information from them to help with your SEP.

Here's a look at what you can use:

  • Scope  gives you a clear understanding of what is included in the project (in scope) and what isn't (out of scope). This delineation can help you identify who the relevant stakeholders are and what their interests might be.
  • Constraints are the limitations within which your project must operate. These constraints (such as  time  or cost) can affect your stakeholder’s expectations.
  • Milestones  are significant points in your project's timeline. They can help you identify when and how to engage with stakeholders.
  • Timelines  help you show stakeholders project progress vs. schedule and project plans.

4 steps to create an effective stakeholder engagement plan

Here are four easy steps to creating your own SEP. Note that these steps are similar to what you might do for stakeholder analysis and a  communication plan .

1. Identify your key stakeholders

Here's a Jedi mind trick—think of stakeholders as “customers”. And then group your customers into different categories. This will help you dive deeper into their expectations (and help you tailor your strategies accordingly).

Here are 4 buckets to group them by:

  • Leaders  are the heavyweights whose influence can carry the most impact. They often include internal stakeholders like the project sponsor or external players like legal bodies.
  • Contributors  are essential to the creation of your project or venture. They could be key suppliers, dedicated team members, or officials.
  • Influencers  are individuals or groups who may become engaged, either in support or opposition, as your project advances. Examples might be the media, community associations, or other organizations.
  • Paying Customers  are those who you serve (and pay for the product or service you produce).

2. Define the motives of your stakeholders

With each stakeholder now identified, you now need to define their motivations. It's important that you understand why and how they're involved in the project so you can plan how to engage them.

To do this, place yourself in their shoes and ask yourself these questions:

  • For leaders, paying customers, and contributors:  What outcome are they expecting from the project? Does it align with the outcome you are going to provide? Are they looking for financial gain, improved efficiency or service, or maybe other benefits?
  • For influencers:  What could prompt them to become involved? What would be their goal? To what extent would they be willing to support/oppose your project?

3. Rank them on an influence and interest grid

Next, prioritize your stakeholders on an influence/interest grid (which will help you see where to focus).

The grid is based on two factors:

  • The amount of power they hold over the project
  • The amount of interest they have in the project

‎With an influence/interest matrix, sort your stakeholders into one of these four categories:

  • High interest and high influence  are the stakeholders that play the most significant role in your project. This category includes stakeholders from your "leaders," "paying customers," or "contributors." They require regular communication and education about your product, so they'll need the most engagement.
  • High interest and low influence  may also come from your "leaders" or "contributors" categories, but they have less direct influence. While they may not drive decision-making, you should keep them informed and engaged.
  • High influence and low interest  hold a lot of power, but your project doesn't interest them. They only need engagement from time to time.
  • Low influence and low interest  are the passive stakeholders with the least power or interest. While you don't need to engage them often, it's good practice to send them occasional updates.

4. Create your engagement strategy

With your stakeholder analysis complete, you're ready to draft your engagement strategy.

Determine the most suitable channels to reach each stakeholder group. For instance:

  • For leaders:  schedule regular face-to-face meetings or video conferences.
  • For paying customers and contributors:  use a combination of email updates and team meetings.
  • For influencers:  use social media, press releases, or community events.

Then, define how often you'll communicate with each group. For example:

  • For high interest and high influence , use frequent updates, such as weekly or bi-weekly meetings.
  • For high-interest and low-influence , monthly or quarterly updates will work.
  • For high influence and low interest , use occasional updates like project milestones.
  • For low influence and low interest , you can also update them about milestones or once the project is complete.

‎Use Motion to engage your stakeholders

Motion is an AI project management tool with features that can help you engage your stakeholders.

You can use Motion as your central communication hub for all your project-related information and engagement activities, including:

  • Project status updates
  • Project check-ins
  • Internal stakeholder updates
  • Milestones updates
  • Deliverable updates

Motion's AI meeting assistant can lock in critical project team meetings. It integrates with most calendars (like Google Calendars) and finds the best time for all participants. If there is a change of plan, then it can reschedule the meetings automatically.

Sign up for your 7-day  free trial .

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Agency finalizing Direct File pilot scope, details as work continues this fall; EITC, Child Tax Credit among projected provisions covered

IR-2023-192, Oct. 17, 2023

WASHINGTON — As part of larger transformation efforts underway, the Internal Revenue Service announced today key details about the Direct File pilot for the 2024 filing season with several states planning to join the innovative effort.

The IRS will conduct a limited-scope pilot during the 2024 tax season to further assess customer support and technology needs. It will also provide a platform for the IRS to evaluate successful solutions for potential operational challenges identified in the report the IRS submitted to Congress PDF earlier this year.

Arizona, California, Massachusetts and New York have decided to work with the IRS to integrate their state taxes into the Direct File pilot for filing season 2024. Taxpayers in nine other states without an income tax – Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming -- may also be eligible to participate in the pilot. Washington has also chosen to join the integration effort for the state's application of the Working Families Tax Credit. All states were invited to join the pilot, but not all states were in a position to join the pilot at this time.

"This is a critical step forward for this innovative effort that will test the feasibility of providing taxpayers a new option to file their returns for free directly with the IRS," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. "In this limited pilot for 2024, we'll be working closely with the states that have agreed to participate in an important test run of the state integration. This will help us gather important information about the future direction of the Direct File program."

People in those 13 states may be eligible to participate in the 2024 Direct File pilot, a new service that will provide taxpayers with the choice to electronically file their federal tax return directly with the IRS for free.

Taxpayer eligibility to participate in the pilot will be limited by the state in which the taxpayer resides and will be limited to taxpayers with certain types of income, credits and deductions – taxpayers with relatively simple returns. The IRS today announced it anticipates specific income types, such as wages on a Form W-2, and important tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, will be covered by the Direct File pilot.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act provided the IRS with long-term funding for the agency to transform its operations and improve taxpayer service, enforcement and technology. It also directed the IRS to study the possibility of a free, direct e-file program, which the IRS submitted in a report to Congress in May 2023. Projects like Direct File represent a goal of the IRS Strategic Operating Plan , to give taxpayers choices in how they interact with the tax agency. This includes choices in how they prepare and file their taxes, whether it's through a tax professional, commercial tax software or free filing options. Direct File is one more potential option from which qualifying taxpayers will be able to choose to file a 2023 federal tax return during the 2024 filing season.

Since the delivery of the Direct File report in May – as directed by the Treasury Department – the IRS has been working to develop a pilot for the upcoming filing season, paying special attention to issues identified in the report related to customer support and state taxes. This limited-scale pilot will allow the IRS to evaluate the costs, benefits and operational challenges associated with providing a voluntary Direct File option to taxpayers.

"We have more work in front of us on this project," Werfel said. "The Direct File pilot is undergoing continuous testing with taxpayers to identify and resolve issues to ensure its user friendly and easy to understand. We continue to finalize the pilot details and anticipate more changes before we launch for the 2024 tax season. Direct File, if pursued further after the pilot, would be another option eligible taxpayers have to help them prepare their tax returns in addition to existing options such as the use of a tax professional, tax software, Free File or another option. It's consistent with the IRS mission to make sure taxpayers have available options that work the best for their personal situation."

Direct File pilot basics

Eligible taxpayers may choose to participate in the pilot next year to file their tax year 2023 federal tax return for free, directly with the IRS.

Direct File will be a mobile-friendly, interview-based service that will work as well on a mobile phone as it does on a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. The service will be available in English and Spanish for the pilot.

The Direct File pilot will be a limited, phased pilot. It will not be available to all eligible taxpayers when the IRS begins accepting tax returns. Because the IRS wants to make sure the program works effectively, Direct File will first be introduced to a small group of eligible taxpayers in filing season 2024. As the filing season progresses, more and more eligible taxpayers will be able to access the service to file their 2023 tax returns.

Direct File does not replace existing filing options like tax professionals, Free File, free return preparation sites, commercial software and authorized e-file providers. Taxpayers will continue to have choices, whether they want to use a tax professional, a software product, Free File, free tax preparation services like Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) as well as a paper tax return or Direct File.

Taxpayers participating in the pilot will have access to help by IRS employees staffing the Direct File customer support function. IRS customer service representatives will provide technical support and provide basic clarification of tax law related to the tax scope of Direct File. Questions related to issues other than Direct File will be routed to other IRS customer support, as appropriate.

Pilot eligibility is limited

Eligibility for the pilot is limited by the types of income, tax credits and deductions that the product can initially support. Taxpayers who fall outside the pilot's eligibility limits will be unable to participate in the pilot in 2024.

Direct File will cover only individual federal tax returns during the pilot. Also, Direct File will not prepare state returns. However, once a federal return is completed and filed, Direct File will guide taxpayers who want to file a state return to a state-supported tool that taxpayers can use to prepare and file a stand-alone state tax return. For the pilot in 2024, where taxpayers may have state or local tax obligations, the IRS will limit eligibility to states that are actively partnering with the IRS on the pilot.

Eligibility to participate in the pilot will be limited to taxpayers who reside in certain states where the pilot is available. Taxpayers in Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming may be eligible to participate in the pilot as their states do not levy a state income tax. Washington has also chosen to join the integration effort as a partner for the state's application of the Working Families Tax Credit. For states that do levy a state income tax, Arizona, California, Massachusetts and New York have chosen to partner with the IRS for the 2024 Direct File pilot. The IRS anticipates the pilot will be available in those states as well in 2024.

The IRS and the Departments of Revenue in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New York and Washington entered into separate Memorandums of Understanding in September for the purposes of collaboration on the IRS's Direct File pilot for filing season 2024.

This approach will test the IRS's ability to successfully integrate with a handful of states and the IRS will continue to work with all states to secure feedback and share what it learns through the course of its work on the pilot.

2024 Direct File pilot eligibility expected to cover key income, tax credits

Eligibility to participate in the 2024 pilot will be limited to reporting only certain types of income and claiming limited credits and adjustments. The tax scope for the pilot is still being finalized and is subject to change, but the IRS currently anticipates it will include:

Income reporting

  • W-2 wage income
  • Social Security and railroad retirement income 
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Interest of $1,500 or less
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Credit for Other Dependents
  • Standard deduction
  • Student loan interest
  • Educator expenses

Evaluating the Direct File Pilot

The purpose of the Direct File pilot is to test the system the IRS has developed and to learn from that test. This includes testing the technology, customer support, state integration, fraud detection and the overall taxpayer experience. The best way to test a new service offering such as Direct File is in a limited, controlled environment that will allow the IRS to identify issues and make changes prior to any potential large-scale launch in the future.

The 2024 filing season serves as a pilot for Direct File, and the purpose is to learn about the Direct File service itself and the needs of taxpayers who use it. By starting with a pilot, the IRS can efficiently learn about Direct File's effectiveness, identify areas of improvement for future iterations and ensure it meets the needs of taxpayers who want to use it.

The IRS will publicly share the results of the pilot when available.

More information will be available at IRS.gov/directfile .

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the internal business plan

Inside Google’s Plan to Stop Apple From Getting Serious About Search

Google has worried for years that Apple would one day expand its internet search technology, and has been working on ways to prevent that from happening.

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Nico Grant

By Nico Grant

Nico Grant reports on Google and its related companies from San Francisco.

  • Oct. 26, 2023

For years, Google watched with increasing concern as Apple improved its search technology, not knowing whether its longtime partner and sometimes competitor would eventually build its own search engine.

Those fears ratcheted up in 2021, when Google paid Apple around $18 billion to keep Google’s search engine the default selection on iPhones, according to two people with knowledge of the partnership, who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. The same year, Apple’s iPhone search tool, Spotlight, began showing users richer web results like those they could have found on Google.

Google quietly planned to put a lid on Apple’s search ambitions. The company looked for ways to undercut Spotlight by producing its own version for iPhones and to persuade more iPhone users to use Google’s Chrome web browser instead of Apple’s Safari browser, according to internal Google documents reviewed by The New York Times. At the same time, Google studied how to pry open Apple’s control of the iPhone by leveraging a new European law intended to help small companies compete with Big Tech.

Google’s anti-Apple plan illustrated the importance that its executives placed on maintaining dominance in the search business. It also provides insight into the company’s complex relationship with Apple, a competitor in consumer gadgets and software that has been an instrumental partner in Google’s mobile ads business for more than a decade.

The relationship has come under scrutiny in the landmark antitrust suit brought against Google by the Justice Department and dozens of states. Lawyers for the government have argued that Google rigged the market in its favor with default agreements signed with companies including Apple, Samsung and Mozilla. These pacts funnel traffic to Google’s search engine when users look up information in the top bar of a browser.

Google is expected to begin a three-week presentation of its defense in the lawsuit’s monthslong trial on Thursday. So far, the company has downplayed the role that its default agreements with phone makers and browser companies has had on its success. It argues that its search engine is popular because of its quality and innovation , and that users can easily choose another default in their device settings.

But the documents viewed by The Times showed that Google understood the power of defaults in channeling users to a product as it tried to change Apple’s selection of Safari as the iPhone’s default web browser.

“Competition in the tech industry is fierce, and we compete against Apple on many fronts,” said Peter Schottenfels, a Google spokesman. “There are more ways than ever to search for information today, which is why our engineers make thousands of improvements a year to Search to ensure we deliver the most helpful results.”

While Google bids on default settings because they matter, he added, users can and do change their defaults. Apple declined to comment.

Last fall, Google executives met to discuss how to reduce the company’s reliance on Apple’s Safari browser and how best to use a new law in Europe to undermine the iPhone maker, documents showed. While Google considered several options, including how much data it should have access to on the iPhone, it is unclear what the executives decided on.

At the time, the European Union was readying the Digital Markets Act, which was designed to help smaller companies crack Big Tech’s control of the industry. Google, already one of the world’s largest internet businesses, saw an opening.

Under the act, the European Union is forcing large tech companies designated as “gatekeepers” to open their platforms to competitors by March, giving users a choice of which service to use, and to stop favoring their own services on their platforms.

The law is expected to force Apple to allow customers in the European Union to download rival app stores. Users setting up a new Apple device in Europe could also be presented with an option to select a default browser other than Safari.

Google, which the law will force to allow more competition in search, explored ways to lobby E.U. regulators to crack open Apple’s tightly controlled software ecosystem so Google could siphon users from Safari and Spotlight, the documents showed. Executives debated how aggressive the company should be in advocating for access to Apple’s operating system.

Google executives figured that if users had to make a choice, the number of European iPhone users who selected Chrome could triple, according to documents reviewed by The Times. That would mean the company could keep more search ad revenue and pay less of it to Apple.

Regulations intended to help smaller companies enter the marketplace “very frequently can also be used by incumbents to gain advantage over their rivals,” Gus Hurwitz, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School who focuses on technology and competition, said in an interview.

Google and Apple have had a search engine partnership for Safari since 2002, half a decade before the iPhone’s debut. The relationship became more complicated when Google released the Android mobile operating system in 2008, a direct competitor to the iPhone.

Google was concerned about Apple’s Spotlight from the feature’s earliest days. In 2014, an internal presentation discussed the impact that Apple’s new operating system, iOS 8, could have on Google’s revenue. The second page of the slide deck was titled “Bottom Line: It’s bad,” according to a presentation introduced as evidence in the antitrust trial.

“We expect these suggestions to siphon queries away from Google in verticals where Spotlight is triggered,” the company wrote.

Apple poached a powerful Google search executive, John Giannandrea, in 2018, and expanded its teams of search employees as it built a more capable Spotlight system. The 2021 improvements to the tool, as part of iOS 15, sparked concerns at Google over Apple’s intentions in the search market, a person with knowledge of the discussions said.

In response, Google spun up an effort to build its own version of Spotlight, which was meant to work on iPhones, documents showed. It presented users with quick facts and information from files, messages and apps on the device.

In recent years, Apple has not used Spotlight to crib so-called commercial queries — which feature ads in their results — from Google, so the tool has not hurt Google’s search business.

Still, Google executives last year contemplated ways to convince the European Union to designate Spotlight as a search engine, according to the documents. Spotlight contained at least five different search features, offering web images; answers and “rich” results that provided extra information like photos; and universal search, which could scan devices, apps and the web. The European Union has not yet decided whether to open Spotlight to greater competition under the law.

That Google is leaning on laws intended to help small companies has frustrated some legal experts.

“I prefer companies to compete on the merits for consumers to want to use their products by offering higher-quality products,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “Not by paying lawyers to go to the European Union and get rules in place in order to obtain access to their competitors’ platforms.”

Adam Satariano contributed reporting from London.

Nico Grant is a technology reporter covering Google from San Francisco. Previously, he spent five years at Bloomberg News, where he focused on Google and cloud computing. More about Nico Grant



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