- Search Search Please fill out this field.
What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, elements of a business plan, special considerations.
- Business Plan FAQs
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.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
A business plan is a document that defines in detail a company's objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written road map for the firm from marketing , financial, and operational standpoints. Both startups and established companies use business plans.
A business plan is an important document aimed at a company's external and internal audiences. For instance, a business plan is used to attract investment before a company has established a proven track record. It can also help to secure lending from financial institutions.
Furthermore, a business plan can serve to keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and on target for meeting established goals.
Although they're especially useful for new businesses, every company should have a business plan. Ideally, the plan is reviewed and updated periodically to reflect goals that have been met or have changed. Sometimes, a new business plan is created for an established business that has decided to move in a new direction.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's core business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- A business plan can also be used as an internal guide to keep an executive team focused on and working toward short- and long-term objectives.
- Businesses may create a lengthier traditional business plan or a shorter lean startup business plan.
- Good business plans should include an executive summary and sections on products and services, marketing strategy and analysis, financial planning, and a budget.
Want Funding? You Need a Business Plan
A business plan is a fundamental document that any new business should have in place prior to beginning operations. Indeed, banks and venture capital firms often require a viable business plan before considering whether they'll provide capital to new businesses.
Operating without a business plan usually is not a good idea. In fact, very few companies are able to last very long without one. There are benefits to creating (and sticking to) a good business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and working through potential obstacles to success.
A good business plan should outline all the projected costs and possible pitfalls of each decision a company makes. Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they can have the same basic elements, such as an executive summary of the business and detailed descriptions of its operations, products and services, and financial projections. A plan also states how the business intends to achieve its goals.
While it's a good idea to give as much detail as possible, it's also important that a plan be concise to keep a reader's attention to the end.
A well-considered and well-written business plan can be of enormous value to a company. While there are templates that you can use to write a business plan, try to avoid producing a generic result. The plan should include an overview and, if possible, details of the industry of which the business will be a part. It should explain how the business will distinguish itself from its competitors.
Start with the essential structure: an executive summary, company description, market analysis, product or service description, marketing strategy, financial projections, and appendix (which include documents and data that support the main sections). These sections or elements of a business plan are outlined below.
When you write your business plan, you don’t have to strictly follow a particular business plan outline or template. Use only those sections that make the most sense for your particular business and its needs.
Traditional business plans use some combination of the sections below. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making. Regardless, try to keep the main body of your plan to around 15-25 pages.
The length of a business plan varies greatly from business to business. Consider fitting the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Then, other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and included as appendices.
As mentioned above, no two business plans are the same. Nonetheless, they tend to have the same elements. Below are some of the common and key parts of a business plan.
- Executive summary: This section outlines the company and includes the mission statement along with any information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and location.
- Products and services: Here, the company can outline the products and services it will offer, and may also include pricing, product lifespan, and benefits to the consumer. Other factors that may go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any 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 firm needs a good handle on its industry as well as its target market. This section of the plan will detail a company's competition and how the company fits in the industry, along with its relative strengths and weaknesses. It will also describe the expected consumer demand for a company's products or services and how easy or difficult it may be to grab market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section describes how the company will attract and keep its customer base and how it intends to reach the consumer. A clear distribution channel must be outlined. The section also spells out advertising and marketing campaign plans and the types of media those campaigns will use.
- Financial planning: This section should include a company's financial planning and projections. Financial statements, balance sheets, and other financial information may be included for established businesses. New businesses will include targets and estimates for the first few years plus a description of potential investors.
- Budget: Every company needs to have a budget in place. This section should include costs related to staffing, development, manufacturing, marketing, and any other expenses related to the business.
Unique Business Plans Help
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its singularity and potential for success.
Types of Business Plans
Business plans help companies identify their objectives and remain on track to meet goals. They can help companies start, manage themselves, and grow once up and running. They also act as a means to attract lenders and investors.
Although there is no right or wrong business plan, they can fall into two different categories—traditional or lean startup. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the most common. It contains a lot of detail in each section. These tend to be longer than the lean startup plan and require more work.
Lean startup business plans, on the other hand, use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans aren't as common in the business world because they're short—as short as one page—and lack detail. If a company uses this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or lender requests it.
A complete business plan must include a set of financial projections for the business. These forward-looking financial statements are often called pro-forma financial statements or simply the " pro-formas ." They include an overall budget, current and projected financing needs, a market analysis, and the company's marketing strategy.
Other Considerations for a Business Plan
A major reason for a business plan is to give owners a clear picture of objectives, goals, resources, potential costs, and drawbacks of certain business decisions. A business plan should help them modify their structures before implementing their ideas. It also allows owners to project the type of financing required to get their businesses up and running.
If there are any especially interesting aspects of the business, they should be highlighted and used to attract financing, if needed. For example, Tesla Motors' electric car business essentially began only as a business plan.
Importantly, a business plan shouldn't be a static document. As a business grows and changes, so too should the business plan. An annual review of the company and its plan allows an entrepreneur or group of owners to update the plan, based on successes, setbacks, and other new information. It provides an opportunity to size up the plan's ability to help the company grow.
Think of the business plan as a living document that evolves with your business.
A business plan is a document created by a company that describes the company's goals, operations, industry standing, marketing objectives, and financial projections. The information it contains can be a helpful guide in running the company. What's more, it can be a valuable tool to attract investors and obtain financing from financial institutions.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
Even if you have a good business plan, your company can still fail, especially if you do not stick to the plan! Having strong leadership with a focus on the plan is always a good strategy. Even when following the plan, if you had poor assumptions going into your projections, you can be caught with cash flow shortages and out-of-control budgets. Markets and the economy can also change. Without flexibility built into your business plan, you may be unable to pivot to a new course as needed.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers a quick explanation of its business. The company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide since it's just getting started.
Sections can include: a value proposition, a company's major activities and advantages, resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital, a list of partnerships, customer segments, and revenue sources.
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, 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
Trading Basic Education
How to Start a Business
Initial Coin Offerings
- Terms of Service
- Editorial Policy
- Your Privacy Choices
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
You’re our first priority. Every time.
We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free.
So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Here is a list of our partners .
How to Write a Company Overview for a Business Plan
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .
When you start a company, you ideally want it to grow. If you’re seeking business funding to scale your business or an initial investment to get your business off the ground, you’re going to need a business plan . Putting together a business plan can be an intimidating process that involves a lot of steps and writing — but breaking it down piece by piece can help you accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task.
One small piece of your business plan is the company overview, so let’s take a look at what that is, exactly, check out some company overview examples and go over how to make a company overview of your very own.
What is a company overview?
A company overview provides the reader of your business plan with basic background information about your company so they have an understanding of what you do, who the management team is and what customers your business serves.
The company description is the second piece of a business plan, falling right after the executive summary. Similar to the executive summary, your company overview will be short and succinct. Your reader needs to have a grasp on what your business does and who your customers are, even if they have limited time.
Why do I need a company overview?
The company overview is the part of your business plan that gives the basics and background of your business. It’s the foundation on which you will build the rest of your business plan.
If you’re looking to appeal to investors or potential clients, you need a reader to make an informed decision about your company. Before they can do that, they must know what your company does and who your customer is. Lenders in particular need a reason to keep reading, since they see tons of business plans regularly. The company overview provides those answers, and it will help you get a better sense of your business so you can firm up things like your marketing plan.
What should i include in a company overview.
The exact elements that you need in your company overview will depend upon what details of your business are important, but there are some foundational elements that will be included in every company overview.
Once you’ve covered the basics, you can include any other minor details that will benefit a reader who will need to make an informed decision about your business.
Basic company information
Consider the company overview like an introduction for your business. In the opening paragraph of your company overview, you’ll want to include basic company information. That includes:
Your company name: This should be the official name of your business, exactly as it is written when you registered your business with the state.
Business structure: Your reader will want to know what business entity your company comes in: sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership or corporation.
Location(s): Share where your business is headquartered and other locations the business owns.
Ownership and management team
Break down who owns your business and how each owner is involved with the business. What shares of the company belong to whom? If you have a highly involved management team, share their names and key roles with the company as well.
Part of what makes your company unique is its history. And, even startups have some history. Don’t put too much focus on this section, but do add some personality and interesting details if possible, especially if they relate to your company culture.
Your company’s mission statement should be included in the company overview. If you don’t yet have a company mission statement, that’s okay. Think of a mission statement as the purpose of your company.
If you don’t have one, you can create one with your team. Or you can simply replace the mission statement with a problem statement. Your business idea should exist to solve a problem or pain point faced by your customers. Share what that problem is and what your business does to solve it. That’s essentially your mission statement.
Product/service and customer
This section of the company overview is where you can share the nitty-gritty details of your business. Talk about what product or service you provide and to whom you provide it. You can share some numbers here, but in general, save the numbers for later in your business plan.
The company overview should give the reader a general understanding of your business, your product or service, and your customer. If they’re interested to know more, they’ll reach out to you for a meeting or take the time to read the rest of your business plan. Keep it simple and straightforward here.
While concrete details and facts about your business are important to whoever is reading your company overview, it’s also important to share your dreams and your vision. If you’re writing a business plan for a business that’s already in place, it’s very likely you’re looking for business financing to scale or solve a business problem. If you’re just starting out, though, then it’s likely you’re hoping to find startup funding.
The section on your future business goals should include a brief description of your growth goals for your business. Where you are now tells the reader a lot, but they also want to know where you plan to go.
A company overview is comprised of many small parts. Each part shares just a little bit more about your company with your reader.
Tips for writing a company overview
While a company overview is simply the details of your company written out, it might not be easy to write. Break it down into small steps and use these tips to make putting together your company overview just a little bit easier.
Start with the elevator pitch
If your business is already in operation, then you likely have an elevator pitch. Your company overview can start off with your elevator pitch.
The first paragraph of your company overview should include just a few sentences that explain your business and what you do. The shorter and clearer this is, the more likely your reader will understand and keep reading.
Stick to the basics
It’s tempting to pile on all the details when you’re writing a company overview. Remember, many of the details of your company, including the numbers, will be included in later sections of your business plan.
Your company overview should include only the most basic details about your company that the reader needs to know.
When you share the history, mission statement, and vision for the future of your company, it’s okay to show your passion. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t love what you do.
Your excitement for your business could spark interest for the reader and keep them engaged with your company overview and business plan.
Keep it succinct
When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to get carried away. Remember that you’ve got plenty of space for details in your business plan. The company overview should be just the most basic information someone needs to understand your business.
It’s OK if your first draft of your company overview is long. Simply go through and edit it to be shorter, removing unnecessary details and words each time you read through it. Clear, concise descriptions are more likely to be read and to keep the reader reading to other sections of your business plan.
Your company overview is just one piece of a multi-tiered business plan. Creating a clear structure for your business plan makes it easier to read. The same is true for your company overview.
Your business plan should have chapters, one of which is the company overview. Then, you can further break down the content for easy skimming and reading by adding sub-chapters. You can denote these breaks in content with bold headers.
While you can break down each section of the company overview with bold headers based on the above suggestions, you can also interweave some information together, such as the company structure and leadership structure. Each section should be only a few sentences long.
Write it later
If you’re struggling to write your company overview, come back to it. Write the rest of your business plan first and then write your company overview.
While this might seem like the opposite way of doing things, knowing what will be contained in the rest of your business plan can help you to focus in on the very most essential details in the company overview and to leave everything else out.
Get a test reader
If you’re struggling to edit down your company overview, get a test reader. Ideally, you’ll want to ask someone who doesn’t know a lot about your business. They’ll help you understand whether or not you’ve clearly communicated your message.
Proofreading is the final step in editing something you’ve written. This type of editing looks for typos, misspellings and grammatical errors that have been missed. Many of these small errors can be difficult to spot in our own writing, so be sure to ask someone who hasn’t seen multiple drafts of your company overview.
Company overview examples
If you don’t want to shell out for business planning software, but would still like some company overview examples to get you started, there are many places online you can look to for help getting started, like the Small Business Administration and SCORE.
Many successful companies also have some version of their company overview made public as their company profile page online. There are some variations from the company overview steps we’ve listed above, of course, but you can use the language and style of these company overview examples for inspiration:
Starbucks company profile .
Puma company page .
TaskRabbit About page .
Peloton company page .
Nestlé About page .
If you’re still feeling stuck, or want more company overview examples, try searching the websites of your favorite companies for more information. You might be surprised what you find — the Nestlé page, for example, has more information about their strategy and business principles.
On a similar note...
- Search Search Please fill out this field.
- Building Your Business
What Is a Business Plan?
Business Plan Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes
Definition and Examples of a Business Plan
How a business plan works, types of business plans, business plan vs. business model.
Geber86 / Getty Images
A business plan is a detailed written document that describes your business’s activities, goals, and strategy. A strong plan outlines everything from the products a company sells to the executive summary to the overall management. In essence, a business plan should guide a founder’s actions through each stage of growth
Think of your business plan as a road map. It documents the various stages of starting and running your business, including business activities and objectives. Business plans create the structure you need to make decisions by outlining the financial and operational goals you’re striving toward.
One of the most common reasons for crafting a business plan is to attract investors—and, in return, receive funding. As an early stage company, for example, you may leverage your business plan to convince investors or banks that your entity is credible and worthy of funding. The business plan should prove that their money will be returned .
A business plan can also be useful for when a well-developed company goes through a merger or acquisition . As outlined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a merger creates a new entity via the combination of two businesses. An acquisition, on the other hand, is when a company is purchased and absorbed into an existing business. In either case, a business plan helps establish relationships between business entities, making a merger or acquisition more likely.
- Alternate name : Strategic plan
A business plan is a formalized outline of the business operations, finances, and goals you aim to achieve to be a successful company. When designing a business plan, companies have leeway for how long, short, or detailed it can be. So long as it outlines the foundational aspects of the business, in most cases, it will be effective.
The most common type of business plan is a traditional business plan. This style tends to have the following common elements, generally in this order.
- Executive summary : Tells your reader why your company will be successful. Includes the company’s mission statement , product information, and basics regarding the business structure.
- Company description : Where you brag about your entity’s strengths. Answer the question, what problem is your team solving?
- Market analysis : A deep dive into your industry and the competition. Consider why competitors are successful. How can your offering do it better? If applicable, how can you enhance the experience for the consumer?
- Management plan : Outlines leadership structure of the company and may be best detailed as a chart. This way, readers can see exactly who is planning to run the company and how they will impact growth.
- Marketing and sales plan : Details how you’ll attract consumers with your product or service, and how you will retain those customers. All strategies outlined in this section, such as the use of digital marketing , will be referenced in your financial plan.
- Funding request : For those companies asking for funding, this is where you’ll detail the amount of funding you’ll need to achieve your goals. Clearly explain how much you need and what it will be used for.
- Financial plan : Convinces the reader that your company is financially stable and can turn a profit . You will need to include a balance sheet , an income statement, and the cash flow statement (or cash flow projection, in the case of a new venture).
- Appendix : Where any supporting documents, such as legal documents, licenses of employees, and pictures of the product will be included.
Your company’s business plan should fit your needs, which will often depend on what stage of growth you are in. If you are considering starting a new venture, for example, writing a detailed business plan can help prove if your concept is viable or not.
If your business is seeking financial capital, though, you will want your business plan to be investor-ready. This will require you to have a funding request section, which would be placed right above your financial plan.
You should avoid using lofty terms or technical jargon that those outside your team won’t understand. A business plan is meant to be shared with those inside and outside your organization. Simple and effective language is best.
Your business’s stage impacts the length and detail of a business plan. As discussed, a traditional plan follows a detailed structure, from the executive summary to the appendix. It is a lengthier document, often amounting to dozens of pages, and is often used when seeking funding to prove business viability. In most cases, crafting a traditional plan will take lots of due diligence work.
The other main type of business plan is a lean startup plan. A lean startup plan is much more high-level and shorter than the traditional version. Companies just starting development will often create a lean startup plan to help them navigate where they should start. These can be as short as one or two pages.
A lean plan will include the following elements.
- Key partnerships : Notes other services or businesses you will work with, such as manufacturers and suppliers.
- Key activities and resources : Outlines how your company will gain a competitive advantage and create value for your consumers. Resources you may leverage include capital, staff, or intellectual property.
- Value proposition : Clearly defines the unique value your company offers.
- Customer relationships : Details the customer experience from start to finish.
- Channels : How will you stay connected with your customers? Detail those methods here.
- Cost structure and revenue streams : Details the most significant costs you will face as well as how your business will actually make money.
Remember that business plans are meant to change as your company grows or pivots. You should actively review and edit your business plan to keep it up to date with business activities. For example, you may start with a lean plan and move to a traditional plan when you hit the fundraising stage.
A business plan may often be confused with a business model, and it is easy to understand why. Simply put, a business plan is the holistic overview of the business, while a business model is a skeleton for how money will be made.
- A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a business’s operations, finances, and goals. It guides the business’s day-to-day decisions.
- A business plan is necessary for your company’s success, as it creates a path to scalability.
- There are two main types of business plans: a traditional business plan and a lean startup plan.
- A traditional business plan will be essential when you begin to seek debt or equity capital for your company.
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Merge and Acquire Businesses .” Accessed June 8, 2021.
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ." Accessed June 8, 2021.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.