How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needi

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated May 7, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

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

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

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  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

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 customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

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

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours 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? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

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 an overview 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.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of 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.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix 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.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: 10 AI prompts you need to write a business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information to include in a business plan is sometimes not quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

There are plenty of great options available (we’ve rounded up our 8 favorites to streamline your search).

But, if you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template , you can get one right now; download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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Business Plan Template

Free Business Plan Template

Paresh Balar

  • March 18, 2024

24 Min Read

how to write a business plan

Welcome to the journey of entrepreneurship . You are here because you have a great business idea and want to know how to write a business plan to convert that idea into reality.

Before you start writing your business plan, let’s understand What is a business plan? Why do you need one in the first place? And What should you include in your business plan?

Table of Contents

  • What is a business plan?
  • What to include in your business plan?

Business Plan Cover Page

Things to consider before writing a business plan.

  • Why do you need a business plan?

Let’s get started with an important question.

What is a Business Plan?

In simple words, a business plan is a document that outlines your business goals and details how you plan to achieve those goals. It is a living document that will prove to you and the rest of the world that your idea is not just a dream but can be a viable reality.

Also, it will help investors learn about your business, and vision, and convince them that your business idea is worth investing in. Your business plan will provide concrete evidence that your business idea is sound and has every chance of success.

Your business plan is the backbone of your business.

What Should You Include in Your Business Plan?

Every business idea and plan is unique in its terms. You should include all the details that explain your business idea in the best possible way. However, there are a few elements that every entrepreneur should include in their business plan.

The following is a full guide for creating a comprehensive business plan. We’ll first list out the sections that must be included in the business plan and in the later part, we’ll explain what should be added to each section:

Business Plan Outline

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Overview
  • Problem Analysis
  • Products & Services
  • Product Features
  • Market Overview
  • Market Size
  • Target Customers
  • Customer Needs
  • Direct Competitors
  • Indirect Competitors

Competitive Advantages

Swot analysis.

  • Promotions Plan
  • Distribution Plan
  • Key Operational Processes

Management Team

  • Management Team Gaps
  • Board Members
  • Revenue Model
  • Financial Highlights
  • Funding Requirements
  • Use of Funds
  • Exit Strategy
  • Appendix – Supporting Documentation

Now you are ready to write your business plan, let’s understand in detail how you can write your business plan and what you should include in each element of the business plan.

business plan cover page

The business plan cover page is the first and most important part of the business plan because it will create the first impact and will set the platform for how investors or readers will engage with your business plan.

Just by looking at the business plan cover page, an investor or reader can get a quick idea about the purpose of your business idea and business plan.

However, many entrepreneurs do not pay enough attention to the cover page, which is their biggest mistake.

business plan table of contents

In any document, the business plan table of contents provides a quick overview and works as navigation to navigate across the document. The same does for a business plan as well.

A table of contents is important to provide a quick overview of the sections that you have included in your business plan and help readers to navigate to the section that interests them the most. If investors are excited about a particular part of the business plan first, they will find the table of contents extremely useful in finding the relevant sections within the business plan.

Usually, the table of contents needs to be added at the start of the document and just after the business plan cover page.

Here’s a Quick Overview of Each Key Chapter:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first section of your business plan. However, the executive summary is always written at last as it is a brief introduction to your business plan and a summary of your entire business plan document.

A good executive summary should answer the following basic questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve with your business idea?
  • Why is your business idea important? and
  • How are you going to achieve your business goals?

Generally, a good executive summary should include the following details:

  • A brief description of the problems you will be solving
  • Summary of your business goals & vision
  • Products or services you are going to offer
  • A solid description of the market you are targeting
  • A quick look at your competition and your competitive advantages
  • A basic financial projection of your revenue, expenses, and profits
  • Your funding requirements (if any) and how you will be using that funds.

It does seem like lots of details are required to write a good executive summary but at the same time, it is important to get it right because if your summary does not clearly explain how you will solve a customer problem and make a profit, then investors or readers might not find it worth reading.

Most of the investors just read the executive summary and decide if they should read the rest of the business plan or not. So make your efforts count in this part of the business plan.

In short, write your executive summary in such a way that readers would want to turn the page and keep on reading.

Always remember, that a good executive summary should not be more than one or two pages long. However, in some cases, it can be longer if there is an absolute requirement.

2. Company Overview

The company overview section provides a brief history of your company if it already exists. However, if you are starting a new business, here you will need to write about yourself, your achievements, and how you will set up and form your business as a company.

Here you need to answer questions such as how and when your company was formed, what type of legal entity you are, and what are your achievements to date. Your past journey and achievements are the best sign of your possible future success, so make sure to include all the important milestones you or your company have achieved to date.

As a startup, your company overview can be very much short, so focus on your personal history, achievements, and the journey that led you to start your business in the first place. Sharing your original idea is important because it shows how you think and how you were able to craft your idea into a business.

Even if you are just starting, your educational background, professional experience, achievements, and the details of your best business idea can give potential investors a vision of what you are trying to achieve.

Have a look at this company overview example

  • Starbucks company profile
  • Puma company page

3. Problem Analysis

You have started the business because you have identified the unique problem that customers are facing and in this section, you just need to explain that problem.

The problem statement section can be explained with three simple questions.

  • Whom does the problem affect?
  • What are the causes of the problem?
  • Why is it important to fix it?

When you write your problem statement, just describe how bigger the problem is and why it is most important to fix it. Also, there might be multiple problems you will be solving, but always try to focus on the main problem because you don’t win on the number of problems you solve; you win on how well you solve a specific problem .

While writing the business plan, most entrepreneurs focus on the solution they are going to offer, and in that process, they forget to explain the actual importance of the problem. Remember the more accurately you will explain the problem, the more valuable the solution will be.

Remember to keep the problem statement as simple as possible and should be self-explanatory. Also, it is good to include the key statistics that explain the severity of the problem.

After you explain the problem, it is also important to describe the world once a particular problem will be solved and that will set the stage to introduce the solution you are proposing.

4. The Solution

Business Plan Solution Section

The solution section is also called the product & services section . In this section, you will need to define your best-proposed solution to the problem you explained in the previous problem analysis section.

Your solution details should be as simple as possible. It is not recommended to use too many technical or industry details while writing about your product details. Keep in mind your readers will not have the same education or technical background as you.

The length of this section will depend on the nature of your business. for example, if your business is product-focused and the product is relatively new in the market, then you should write more about the product, its design, its features, etc. However, if your business is relatively common like selling bicycles or restaurant business and you are planning to compete with better pricing or customer service then you probably don’t need to write more about products.

If your product is hard to explain it’s a good idea to include a picture. Also, if you are planning to expand your business and will come with new products or services in the future, then you can mention those details here as well.

Your product or service pricing should be mentioned here in this section. Apply the right pricing strategy to set the best pricing for your product or services. Also, if you have any product patents, copyrights, licenses, etc then add those details here in this section.

In short, your solution section should answer the following common questions:

  • Your products or services are currently under development or already available?
  • If not available, what will be the timeline for delivering products and services to the market?
  • How are your products or services different from the competition?
  • How will you get your products? Are you the manufacturer or do you purchase products from suppliers or wholesalers?

When you write this product and services section, think of your reader as a person who knows little to nothing about your business. so make it as simple as possible.

5. Market Analysis

Before you start your business, it is essential to check if there is a viable market available for the products or services you are planning to offer, and that makes market research the most critical and key to success for any business.

In simple words, market analysis is studying the industry your business will operate in, the size of the industry, and its trend & direction (growing, stable, or in decline).

The market analysis consists of main three parts:

  • Market Overview: This is a general overview of the industry. In this part, you will need to describe the current position of the industry, market trends, and where it is heading. Also, you can write about your knowledge and experience in the industry.
  • Target Market: In this part, you will need to be more specific about the segment of the market that will use your products or services. Not everyone from the industry will use your product or services, so it is important to find the right audience for your product. (For example, if you are starting a veg restaurant in the town, then all the people from town will not visit your restaurant. The only people who prefer and eat veg food will be your target customers).
  • Market Size: Market size is all about finding how many potential customers are there for your product or service. Here you will need to show some statistics about the size of the industry (e.g., total U.S. sales in the last year) and its growth rate over the last few years.

The main objective of the market analysis is to identify the opportunities and risks associated with the business. It will also help you to understand how you should prepare your marketing strategy , where you should invest in terms of marketing efforts, and avoid making the wrong decisions.

With market analysis, you can identify the market entry barrier, and market needs, and estimate the market attractiveness from a financial standpoint.

6. Customer Analysis

Once you complete your market analysis, it’s time to identify the customers and needs of customers who are going to use your product or services, and this process is called customer analysis . Customer analysis is a key element of any successful marketing plan, as well as your overall business plan.

Customer analysis is critical for any business to succeed because if you do not know who is going to your offerings, and what your customers want, no business can succeed.

Now that you know customer analysis is that important, it is time to learn how you can perform strong customer analysis.

Customer analysis consists of main three parts:

  • Demographics: Age, Sex, Ethnicity, Income, Family, Occupation, etc.
  • Geographic: Location (Neighbourhood, Region, Urban/Rural, Online)
  • Psychographic: Lifestyle, Personality, etc
  • Interests: Hobbies, Activities, etc
  • Growth: Size of the target customers and whether they are growing, shrinking, or stable.

It’s up to you what is the best way to get this information for your business. However, some practical methods include customer surveys, existing customer data analysis, social media listening, or talking with your customer support team.

  • Identify your customer’s needs: Once you identify who your customers are, it’s important to understand their needs as well, and the answer to this question should be your offering.
  • Explain how your product or services will meet those needs: Now that you know your target customers and what they need, it’s time to explain your products or services’ benefits. In this part, list out the key features of your products or services that will fulfill customers’ needs, explain the benefits of your offerings, and the outcome customers can expect by using your products or services.

Keep in mind, that a strong customer analysis must answer these three key questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What do they need?
  • How do your products or services meet those needs?

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7. Competitive Analysis

Business Plan Competitive Analysis Section

Competitive analysis is all about finding your competitors, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, products and services, pricing, social media presence, marketing & sales strategy, etc.

Your competitors can be categorized into two classes:

  • Direct Competitors: Direct competitors are the ones who provide the same solution as you do. For example, if you operate an Italian restaurant, other restaurants that serve Italian food will be your direct competitors. In this section of your business plan, outline who your direct competitors are, and add their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Indirect Competitors: Indirect competitors are the ones who do not provide the same solution as you do. However, solve the same customer problem as you do. For example, if you operate an Italian restaurant, a Mexican or Spanish restaurant would be an indirect competitor. In this section of your business plan, outline who your indirect competitors are, and add their strengths and weaknesses.

Once you identify who your competitors are, it’s time to explain how different and superior you are compared to them and that will be the competitive advantage section of your business plan .

competitive advantages

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Her strengths and weaknesses are subjective to your business which you can control and change like business location, pricing, uniqueness, etc. While opportunities and threats are external that are running outside your business, in the larger market. However, you can take advantage of opportunities and defend your business against potential threats, but you can’t change them.

It is always best if the business owners perform a SWOT analysis themselves. This task is not something that you should assign to someone else. A precise SWOT analysis will allow you to measure your strengths and weaknesses against the opportunities and threats in your business environment.

Once your SWOT analysis is ready, it will help you to form a strategy to achieve your business goals.

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8. Marketing Plan

Now that you have explained your products or services and identified who is going to use those products or services, it is time to let your customers know about your products or services. And for this, you will have to plan strategy, and that planning you will need to explain in this section.

Your marketing plan can be divided into the following sections:

  • Pricing: Explain your product or service pricing here in this section. Mainly, discuss how you finalized your pricing and how your pricing is better than the competition. Also, discuss if it’s low-cost or premium offerings and how your pricing supports it. This will ensure investors also that you have finalized your pricing with proper research.
  • Promotional Plan: In this section, talk about your marketing activities and strategies that you will execute to attract your customers. It is always great to have some unique selling propositions (USP). However, Unique selling propositions should be short and self-explanatory. For example, Domino’s Pizza’s USP is “We deliver hot, fresh pizza in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.” Also, discuss your other marketing or promotional activities that may include discount offers for early customers, media or online advertisements, product launches or social events, radio newspaper or magazine ads, affiliate or referral programs, etc. In this section, you can also write about your customer relation and support team and how they will work to retain your existing customers.
  • Distribution Plan: The main purpose of your marketing plan is that customers to buy your products or services. So it is important to explain how they can buy your products or services. Your distribution plan will include all details about your distribution channel, sales channel & strategy, and payment policies.

Once you complete writing your marketing plan , make sure your marketing plan answers these key questions.

  • What will be the pricing of your offerings?
  • How will you reach out to your target customers?
  • How will you retain your customers to buy from you repeatedly?
  • How and from where customers can buy your products and services?

Your marketing plan can be 7-8 pages long. However, while writing your business plan, make sure you do not go into details and try to keep it as simple as possible. You can separately write your marketing plan for internal purposes.?

9. Operations Plan

Your operation plan will explain how you will manufacture your product and run your business. It can include a lot of details depending on your business. For example, if you are in the production business, you will want to include all the information about how you will get raw materials, and equipment, build your products and ship them.

However, it is not recommended to include all these details while writing the operations section of your business plan . You should include only major details that you think will give you a competitive advantage or are important for your readers.

An operations plan is useful for internal purposes as it will help your team to understand their roles to achieve your business goals. However, it will help investors also to learn how you will run your business to make your business succeed.

Business Plan Management Team Section

The management team should be the easiest section of your business plan because, in this section, you will need to write about yourself and your core team members who will run the business.

Always remember, that businesses’ success will depend on the team who is running them. So you must write this section carefully and convince your readers or investors that you are the best person to execute and run this business.

Many investors believe it is not the business that succeeds, it is the team that makes the business successful. In fact, in some cases, investors have funded start-ups mainly based on the team who will run the business.

The ultimate guide to starting a business

In this section, list out important details of core team members like name, position in the company, contact information, qualifications, past experiences, achievements, etc.

You can also mention any management gaps present in your organization and when you are planning to fill those gaps. You can also mention if there is an advisory team or board of members who might not work in your organization but will advise you from outside.

10. Financial Plan

Business Plan Finance Section

The financial section of the business plan is the most important component of the business plan. Whatever you will write in the business plan will be conceptual until you do not add some numbers to support it.

Have a financial plan if you want to secure outside funding from investors or bank loans from financial institutes. Even if you do not need funds, it is always helpful to have a financial forecast to achieve your business goals and make your business successful. Financial forecasting will give you a clear idea of whether your business is viable or not.

Your financial plan will include the following sections.

  • Revenue Model: The main purpose of this section is to explain the different revenue streams of your business. Do you sell products?  Do you provide services? Do you provide third-party advertisements? Or do you sell all of the above? It is equally important to update this revenue model section, once you start generating revenue. Use the revenue model as a living document to improve your plans. Focus on revenue streams that work best, while changing your approach to those that aren’t doing well.
  • Financial Highlights: Include financial reports like cash flow, balance sheet, profit & loss, projected revenue, expenses, etc.
  • Funds Needed: This section is required if you are looking for funds to run your business operations. Before you directly request funds, it is good to explain your current financial situation, how much you have already invested, and how much funds you already have secured. Once you explain your current financial position, it is time to explain what type of funding you are looking for. What are your preferred options to secure funds? It is important to update this section once you secure funding.
  • Use of Funds: Once you explain how many funds you are looking for, it’s time to explain how you will use those funds. You will use it to hire new talents, expand your operations, pay your existing debts, or buy new equipment. If you are going to use funds for multiple things, mention each and also mention how much funds you are going to spend for each thing. Investors or financial institutes usually approve funds if they have a clear idea about how you are going to use your money.
  • Exit Strategy: If you are looking for equity funding, it is important to have an exit strategy. A common exit strategy includes selling your company to a larger firm (acquisitions), selling or diluting your ownership, initial public offering (IPO), etc. If you have such plans, provide a detailed explanation of them in this section.

With upmetrics, business financial forecasting is easy and fun. Once you add your data, the system will generate all required reports automatically. Later you can embed those reports into your business plan. learn more about the upmetrics financial planning feature.

11. Supporting Documentation (Appendix)

Adding supporting documents is not a mandatory section in your business plan. However, it is important to add the documents which you think can convince investors that your business will succeed.

These documents can include achievements, product patents, awards, financial statements, resumes of key team members, legal agreements, product or organization pictures, etc. These documents can help readers understand your story clearly and concisely.

Once you write your business plan, it is equally important to update your business plan as your business grows. Keep in mind, that a business plan is not just a document but it is a roadmap of your business.

Now before you start the actual writing of your business plan and learn what to include in each section of the business plan, there are some key concepts that you must keep in mind and rules that you should follow during the entire business planning process .

Key things to remember while creating business plan

1. Keep it short

Don’t you want your business plan to be read by your investors? Remember, many investors do not like to read a long business plan.

In this competitive time, no one has time to go through a 100-page long document. A typical 20-25 pages should be fine for any standard business plan. A well-written business plan ensures to communicate your message to your potential investors effectively.

However, if your business idea is a completely new kind of business or even a new industry, it may need quite a bit of writing to get the message across.

Your business plan writing purpose will decide how long your business plan should be . If you are writing your business plan to seek millions of funding, then you might need a lengthy and detailed business plan. A short business plan would work if you are looking to expand your business.

2. Be realistic and creative

Do not consider your business idea as your baby. Be realistic and honest with yourself while writing your business plan, and always try to add facts and realistic details of your business idea.

Also, your business plan should grab your reader’s attention quickly. Be creative while designing your business plan cover page and writing any important details in your business plan.

When it comes to the formatting of the business plan, make sure to use bullet points, images, and charts. Also, highlight the key points or metrics that you want readers to focus on. It helps bring your idea to life. Plus, it will keep your readers focused on reading.

3. You should be able to change it as the business grows

Most businesses start with a business plan, and once written, it’s never revisited. Never make that mistake. Your business plan should be treated as a working document that should be developed as your business grows.

For example, you might want to update your business plan as per the changing trends for a new round of funding or you might want to update it to counter unexpected problems like the COVID crisis. In a nutshell, keep your plan alive!

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

Some entrepreneurs have achieved tremendous success without writing a business plan with their past experiences, less competition, or maybe by luck.

But the fact is, that many entrepreneurs have failed as well. It is just that we learn more about success stories only.

So, does writing a business plan guarantee success? Of course Not.

But, the business plan is your companion on your entrepreneurship journey. It will help you and your team understand the problems and the competition you will encounter in your journey. It will keep you and your entire team in sync and on the right path to achieving your business goals and success.

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About the Author

how to write a business plan for money

Paresh Balar is the co-founder of Upmetrics, the #1 business planning software. His ultimate goal with Upmetrics is to revolutionize how entrepreneurs create, manage, and execute their business plans. He loves sharing his thoughts on business and financial planning and its challenges through his blog posts. Read more

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide) – Forbes Advisor

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you’re offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  2. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples | Bplans

    Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. After completing your plan, you can ...

  3. Write your business plan | U.S. Small Business Administration

    Common items to include are credit histories, resumes, product pictures, letters of reference, licenses, permits, patents, legal documents, and other contracts. Example traditional business plans. Before you write your business plan, read the following example business plans written by fictional business owners.

  4. How to Write a Business Plan | Money

    Be sure to communicate why your business is unique and what it has to offer a potential customer. Summarize its competitive advantages, marketing plan, financial plan and any other relevant points you choose to include. Use research and data to clearly support your ideas. 2. Company description.

  5. How to Write a Business Plan Complete Guide - Upmetrics

    A short business plan would work if you are looking to expand your business. 2. Be realistic and creative. Do not consider your business idea as your baby. Be realistic and honest with yourself while writing your business plan, and always try to add facts and realistic details of your business idea.

  6. How to write an effective business plan | CNN Underscored Money

    Keep it to one or two pages. To make things easier for yourself, write this section last. By then you’ll have a stronger understanding of your whole business plan and can more easily pull the ...