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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

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Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

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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.

explain the main components of a business plan

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 ."

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

explain the main components of a business plan

What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. 

A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner. 

Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.  

Why do you need a business plan?

The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis. 

These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.

That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .  

What can you do with your plan?

So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.

Test an idea

Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful. 

The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.

Document your strategy and goals

For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen. 

With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.

Pursue funding

Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.

The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used. 

Better manage your business

A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.

Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.

What should your business plan include?

The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see. 

Executive summary

The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.

This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.

Products & Services

When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business. 

Market analysis

A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.

Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .  

Marketing & sales

Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it. 

Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.

Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business. 

Organization & management

This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.

Financial projections

Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think. 

Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate. 

Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. 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 for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

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. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

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. 

The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is 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.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This 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 holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.

It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process. 

To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan. 

It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. 

Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .

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Kody Wirth

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated March 4, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. 

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

If you’re stuck, start with a one-page business plan and check out our collection of over 550 business plan examples for inspiration. They’re broken out over dozens of industries—you can even copy and paste sections into your plan and rewrite them with information specific to your business.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

explain the main components of a business plan

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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9 essential components of a business plan.

9 Essential Components of a Business Plan

Maybe you’re a small business owner that has been in business for years. Or, you could be going through the process of starting a business. Regardless of where you’re at with your career, tasks and responsibilities will come at you quickly.

You need to worry about to-do lists, scheduled meetings, accounting processes and everything in between. When are you supposed to find the time to put your business plan together? It can be an intimidating process to go through, but having a well-thought-out business plan is incredibly important.

There’s no perfect recipe for a business plan, but one of the best things that you can do is write it before you start your business. It can act as a roadmap for where your business is going in the future and how you’re going to get there. So, where do you start?

Let’s take a look at everything that you need to know for writing a business plan that can get you ahead.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to make your business plan stand out, 9 components of a business plan, key takeaways.

Think about the last time you needed to get somewhere you hadn’t been before. You might drive, ride your bike or take the train. But no matter the way you get there, you first need to know how to get there. You might put the directions into a GPS, follow a bike path or look up the train schedules.

A business plan works in the exact same way, only it’s a roadmap for your business. It’s a comprehensive document that outlines how your small business is going to grow and develop.

Throughout a business plan, you’re going to communicate who your business is, what you plan on doing and how you plan on doing it. This can give valuable insights into your business for potential investors or hiring new talent.

That all said, a business plan is completely different from a general business concept or business idea. A business plan acts as a blueprint for your business and will highlight who you are. Most banking institutions and venture capitalists won’t invest in a small business unless they have a good business plan.

Potential investors are going to want to know that you have a product or service that fits in the market with a good team in place. Plus, it can show the scalability of your business and how you will grow sales volume.

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When Do You Need a Business Plan?

First and foremost, a business plan is important to have regardless of the industry you’re in or the products you offer your customers. It will not only keep you focused and efficient, but a well-written business plan can have other benefits.

A business plan can be helpful when:

  • You need new investments, funding or loans
  • You are searching for a new partner for your business
  • You are attracting and retaining top talent
  • You are experiencing slower growth than expected and want a change

Every business plan is going to be a little different compared to others. This is since your business is unique and your business plan is going to reflect that. But, if your plan is badly written or missing key bits of information then it won’t be as attractive to potential investors.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your business plan and make it stand out.

  • Make it as easy to read as possible. Investors want something that’s easily scannable and is divided into distinct sections. This way, they can quickly look through the plan and spot the key information.
  • Keep it brief. Most business plans are going to range anywhere from 10 – 20 pages. But, as long as you cover the essentials and highlight the key points, less can often be more.
  • Make sure you proofread and edit. Always double-check for grammatical errors and that it’s formatted properly. Typos and mistakes are not going to reflect positively for your business.
  • Have a quality design. Make sure you have the proper layout, formatting and brand messaging throughout. Bookbinding your business plan can make it look more professional.
  • Know all your business margins. Include each and every cost that your business incurs. You can make sure that you’re organizing and assigning those costs to the right product or service you offer.

One of the best things that you can do before writing your business plan is to determine who your audience is going to be. Are you pitching to a room full of potential investors? Do you have a meeting with your local financial institution’s venture funding department? Or, do you just want to create an internal document to help guide your business forward?

Being able to define who your audience is going to be will help you figure out how to write your business plan. For example, the language in your business plan might be different depending on who you want to highlight your business to.

Here are the 9 essential components of a business plan.

1. Executive Summary

Your executive summary is going to be at the front of your plan and be one of the first things that someone reads. But, writing the executive summary should be the last thing that you do, even though it’s first on the list. For now, you can leave your executive summary blank.

Why? Because it lays out every piece of vital information that’s included in your business plan, usually in one page or less. It’s basically a high-level summary of each of the sections in the plan. This means you can’t really write the executive summary first.

2. Company Description

This is where you’re going to highlight your business and what you do. Your company description will include three different things: a mission statement, company history and business objectives.

First, let’s look at your mission statement .

A mission statement is basically the main reason why you’re in business. It’s not necessarily about what you do or the products or services that you sell. Rather, it’s all about why your business does what it does.

Try and make your mission statement inspirational, motivational and even emotional. It’s going to be the foundation on which your business is built. Put some thought into the things that motivate you and the reasons why you started your business in the first place. What do you want to get out of it? Why are you doing it?

You can also think about the causes or different experiences which led you to start your business and the problems it can solve for your customers.

Next, let’s look at your company history .

This doesn’t need to be a long or in-depth section, but more of a highlight of what your business has done in the past and where you stand today. To help make things easier, you can even write about your company history in the form of a profile. Here’s some of the important information you can include in your company history.

  • The date you founded or started your business
  • Any major milestones worth highlighting
  • Your business location, or locations
  • How many employees you have
  • Your executive leadership and the roles that they have within your company
  • The flagship services or products that you offer your customers

Finally, let’s look at your business objectives .

Your business objectives are your guiding lights. They’re the goals that you plan on achieving and they will outline how you plan on getting there. When developing your business objectives, base them on the process of SMART goals.

These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Basically, each objective gets tied to the key results you want to achieve. If you don’t clearly define your business objectives, it can make it more difficult for your employees to work efficiently towards a common goal.

3. Market Research and Business Potential

This is the section of your business plan where you outline your target demographic and ideal customer base. You’re also going to do research into the potential and actual size of the market you’re going to enter into. Target markets are going to identify specific information about your customers.

Usually, you can research and find the following information for your target customers:

  • Location and average income
  • Age and gender
  • Education level and profession
  • Any activities or hobbies that are relevant

Getting as specific as possible will allow you to illustrate your expertise and get a sense of confidence when it comes to your business. For example, if your target market is extremely broad, it will show investors that it might be more difficult to generate revenue.

4. Competitive Analysis

What is your competition doing? Competitor research is going to start by identifying any companies that are currently in the market you want to enter into. Understanding everything you can about your competition can seem overwhelming and intimidating.

But having this information is extremely useful and will help you make more informed business decisions in the future. Here are a few common questions that you can ask yourself when you’re doing competitive research.

  • Where are they investing most in marketing and advertising?
  • Do they get any press coverage? If they do, how are they getting it?
  • What is their customer service like? Does your customer service stack up against theirs?
  • What are their pricing strategies and what are their sales?
  • Do they have good reviews on third-party rating platforms?

One of the best ways to do competitive research is to check out your competition’s website. Read through their About Us page or their value and mission statements. This will give you a better understanding of who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Being able to distinguish your business from your competition is a critical element of any business plan. Take some time to think about what sets your business apart and how you’re going to provide a solution to a problem.

5. Describe You Products or Services

What do you offer your customers? What product or service is your business built on? This section of your business plan is going to detail everything about your product or service. Plus, it’s going to highlight why what your business offers is better than the competition.

Touch on the benefits that your product or service offers, the production process and the product life cycle.

When you’re describing the benefits, try and focus on things like unique features and how they translate into benefits. You can also highlight intellectual property rights or patents that differentiate your products.

For the production process, you can explain how you create your existing or new products or services and how you source the raw materials. Other things such as quality control, quality assurance and supply chain logistics can get included.

With your product life cycle, you can highlight any cross-sells, down-sells or upsells. As well as your future plans for research and development.

explain the main components of a business plan

6. Marketing and Sales Strategy

You could spend weeks putting together an in-depth business plan that highlights your company and what you do. But, if you don’t have a solid marketing and sales strategy in place then it won’t matter how good your business plan is. You still need to know how you’re going to generate sales.

This part of your plan is entirely dependant on the type of products or services that you offer. You can include your company’s value proposition, ideal target market and your existing customer segments. Then, you can start with some more specifics.

What’s the launch plan that you have in place to help attract new business? What are your growth tactics to help your business expand in the future? Do you have any retention strategies in place, such as customer loyalty or referral programs? What about advertising across print, social media, search engines or television?

These are all good questions to ask yourself when putting together your sales and marketing strategy. You can use this part of the business plan to highlight your business strengths and how you differentiate from the competition.

7. Business Financials

If you are just starting your business then you aren’t going to have much financial data. You won’t have things like financial statements or an income statement. But, you still need to put together some type of financial plan and budget. If you have been operating for a while, you will have some important information to include, such as:

  • Profit and loss statements
  • Income statements
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheets
  • Revenue vs net income
  • The ratio of liquidity to debt repayment

Make sure that the data and figures that you include are accurate. For example, things like costs, profit margins and sale prices can be closely linked together. If you don’t have access to historical data, you can put together financial projections.

8. Management and Organization

The people that you have working for your business are the driving force behind your overall success. Without the right people in place, your business won’t likely be successful. This is the part of your business plan where you’re going to highlight your team.

Identify the members of your team and explain how they are going to help turn your business idea into a reality. Plus, you can highlight the qualifications and expertise of each team member. This will position your business as one that’s worth potentially investing in.

9. Include an Appendix

This is where you’re going to compile and include everything that both investors and your team will need access to. Include everything that’s useful for an investor to conduct due diligence.

Here are some of the most common official documents you can include in a well-organized appendix.

  • Any legal documents, local permits or deeds
  • Professional licenses or business registries
  • Any patents or intellectual property
  • Any industry memberships or associations
  • Your business identification numbers or codes
  • Any key purchase orders or customer contracts that you have in place

It can also be helpful to include a table of contents in your appendix. This can make it easier to find the right information or allow you to highlight the most important documents.

It’s worth noting that a business plan doesn’t just have to be a way to attract potential investors. There are several other reasons why having a business plan is important.

You can better clarify the goals and objections that you want your business to accomplish and you can gain insights into your target market. Team members can have a much better sense as to the direction the business is going and how they can contribute to its success and growth. Plus, you can establish and define the roles of each team member, all while setting achievable benchmarks.

Creating a business plan will act as a roadmap for your business. It’s going to highlight the goals and objectives you have. As well as touch on things like marketing, advertising, your management team and financials. Here’s a quick review of the 9 essential components of a business plan.

  • Executive summary, which you will write after you have completed steps 2 – 9
  • Company description, including a mission statement, company history and business objectives
  • Competitive analysis
  • Market research and business potential
  • Your products or services
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Business financials
  • Management and organization

Follow the 9 components outlined in this article to help you develop a business plan. You can clearly define your business goals and have a roadmap to help your business be successful.

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10 Essential Components of a Business Plan and How to Write Them

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Ayush Jalan

  • January 4, 2024

12 Min Read

10 Essential Business plan components and How to Write Them

A business plan is an essential document for any business, whether it’s a startup or an established enterprise. It’s the first thing any interested investor will ask for if they like your business idea and want to partner with you. 

That’s why it’s important to pay attention when writing your business plan and the components inside it. An incomplete business plan can give the impression that you’re unqualified—discouraging investors and lenders. 

A good business plan reduces ambiguity and communicates all essential details such as your financials, market analysis, competitive analysis, and a timeline for implementation of the plan. In this article, we’ll discuss the 10 important business plan components. 

10 Important Business Plan Components

A comprehensive and well-thought-out business plan acts as a roadmap that guides you in making sound decisions and taking the right actions at the right times. Here are its key components and what to include in them.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It’s the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

In other words, it helps the reader get a better idea of what to expect from your company. So, when writing an executive summary of your business, don’t forget to mention your mission and vision statement.

Mission statement

A mission statement is a brief statement that outlines your objectives and what you want to achieve. It acts as a guiding principle that informs decisions and provides a clear direction for the organization to follow.

For instance, Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s short, inspiring, and immediately communicates what the company does.

A mission statement should be realistic, and hint towards a goal that is achievable in a reasonable amount of time with the resources you currently have or are going to acquire in the near future.

Vision statement

While a mission statement is more actionable and has an immediate effect on the daily activities of the company, a vision statement is more aspirational and has a much broader scope.

In other words, it highlights where the company aims to go in the future and the positive change it hopes to make in the world within its lifetime.

2. Company description

Company description Steps: 1) Overview 2) Products & Services 3) Company history

The second component of your business plan is the company description. Here, you provide a brief overview of your company, its products or services, and its history. You can also add any notable achievements if they are significant enough for an investor to know.

A company overview offers a quick bird’s-eye view of things such as your business model , operational capabilities, financials, business philosophy, size of the team, code of conduct, and short-term and long-term objectives.

Products and services

The products and services part of your company description explains what your business offers to its customers, how it’s delivered, and the costs involved in acquiring new customers and executing a sale.

Company History

Company history is the timeline of events that took place in your business from its origin to the present day. It includes a brief profile of the founder(s) and their background, the date the company was founded, any notable achievements and milestones, and other similar facts and details.

If you’re a startup, you’ll probably not have much of a history to write about. In that case, you can share stories of the challenges your startup faced during its inception and how your team overcame them.

3. Market analysis

Market analysis

The market analysis section of your business plan provides an in-depth analysis of the industry, target market, and competition. It should underline the risks and opportunities associated with your industry, and also comment on the attributes of your target customer.

Demographics and segmentation

Understanding the demographics of your customers plays a big role in how well you’re able to identify their traits and serve them.

By dividing your target audience into smaller and more manageable groups, you can tailor your services and products to better meet their needs.

You can use demographics such as age, gender, income, location, ethnicity, and education level to better understand the preferences and behaviors of each segment, and use that data to create more effective marketing strategies.     

Target market and size

Understanding your target market lies at the core of all your marketing endeavors. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re serving, you won’t be able to serve well no matter how big your budget is.

For instance, Starbucks’ primary target market includes working professionals and office workers. The company has positioned itself such that many of its customers start their day with its coffee.

Estimating the market size helps you know how much scope there is to scale your business in the future. In other words, you’re trying to determine how much potential revenue exists in this market and if it’s worth the investment.

Market need

The next step is to figure out the market need, i.e., the prevalent pain points that people in that market experience. The easiest way to find these pain points is to read the negative reviews people leave on Amazon for products that are similar to yours.

The better your product solves those pain points, the better your chances of capturing that market. In addition, since your product is solving a problem that your rivals can’t, you can also charge a premium price.

To better identify the needs of your target customers, it helps to take into account things such as local cultural values, industry trends, buying habits, tastes and preferences, price elasticity, and more.

4. Product Summary

The product summary section of your business plan goes into detail about the features and benefits that your products and services offer, and how they differ from your competitors. It also outlines the manufacturing process, pricing, cost of production, inventory, packaging, and capital requirements.

5. Competitive analysis

Unless you’ve discovered an untapped market, you’re probably going to face serious competition and it’s only going to increase as you scale your business later down the line.

This is where the competitive analysis section helps; it gives an overview of the competitive landscape, introduces your immediate rivals, and highlights the current dominant companies and their market share.

In such an environment, it helps to have certain competitive advantages against your rivals so you can stand out in the market. Simply put, a competitive advantage is the additional value you can provide to your customers that your rivals can’t—perhaps via unique product features, excellent customer service, or more.

explain the main components of a business plan

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6. Marketing and sales plan

explain the main components of a business plan

The marketing and sales plan is one of the most important business plan components. It explains how you plan to penetrate the market, position your brand in the minds of the buyers, build brand loyalty, increase sales, and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Unique selling proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) conveys how your products and services differ from those of your competitors, and the added value those differences provide.

A strong USP will stand out in a competitive market and make potential customers more likely to switch to your brand—essentially capturing the market share of your rivals.

Marketing Plan

Your product might be unique, but if people don’t even know that it exists, it won’t sell. That’s where marketing comes in.

A marketing plan outlines strategies for reaching your target market and achieving sales goals. It also outlines the budget required for advertising and promotion.

You may also include data on the target market, target demographics, objectives, strategies, a timeline, budget, and the metrics considered for evaluating success.

Sales and distribution plan

Once people are made aware of your product, the next step is to ensure it reaches them. This means having a competent sales and distribution plan and a strong supply chain.

Lay out strategies for reaching potential customers, such as online marketing, lead generation, retail distribution channels, or direct sales.

Your goal here is to minimize sales costs and address the risks involved with the distribution of your product. If you’re selling ice cream, for example, you would have to account for the costs of refrigeration and cold storage.

Pricing strategy

Pricing is a very sensitive yet important part of any business. When creating a pricing strategy , you need to consider factors such as market demand, cost of production, competitor prices, disposable income of target customers, and profitability goals.

Some businesses have a small profit margin but sell large volumes of their product, while others sell fewer units but with a massive markup. You will have to decide for yourself which approach you want to follow.

Before setting your marketing plans into action, you need a budget for them. This means writing down how much money you’ll need, how it will be used, and the potential return you are estimating on this investment.

A budget should be flexible, meaning that it should be open to changes as the market shifts and customer behavior evolves. The goal here is to make sure that the company is making the best use of its resources by minimizing the wastage of funds.

7. Operations plan

The operations plan section of your business plan provides an overview of how the business is run and its day-to-day operations. This section is especially important for manufacturing businesses.

It includes a description of your business structure, the roles and responsibilities of each team member, the resources needed, and the procedures you will use to ensure the smooth functioning of your business. The goal here is to maximize output whilst minimizing the wastage of raw material or human labor.

8. Management team

At the core of any successful business lies a dedicated, qualified, and experienced management team overlooking key business activities. 

This section provides an overview of the key members of your management team including their credentials, professional background, role and responsibilities, experience, and qualifications.

A lot of investors give special attention to this section as it helps them ascertain the competence and work ethic of the members involved.

Organizational structure

An organizational structure defines the roles, responsibilities, decision-making processes, and authority of each individual or department in an organization.

Having a clear organizational structure improves communication, increases efficiency, promotes collaboration, and makes it easier to delegate tasks. Startups usually have a flatter organizational hierarchy whereas established businesses have a more traditional structure of power and authority.

9. Financial Plan

Financials are usually the least fun thing to talk about, but they are important nonetheless as they provide an overview of your current financial position, capital requirements, projections, and plans for repayment of any loans. 

Your financial plan should also include an analysis of your startup costs, operating costs, administration costs, and sources of revenue.

Funding requirements

Once an investor has read through your business plan, it’s time to request funding. Investors will want to see an accurate and detailed breakdown of the funds required and an explanation of why the requested funds are necessary for the operation and expansion of your business.

10. Appendix

The appendix is the last section of your business plan and it includes additional supporting documents such as resumes of key team members, market research documents, financial statements, and legal documents. 

In other words, anything important or relevant that couldn’t fit in any of the former sections of your business plan goes in the appendix.

Write a Business Plan Worth Reading

Starting a business is never easy, but it’s a little less overwhelming if you have a well-made business plan. It helps you better navigate the industry, reduce risk, stay competitive, and make the best use of your time and money.

Remember, since every business is unique, every business plan is unique too, and must be regularly updated to keep up with changing industry trends. Also, it’s very likely that interested investors will give you feedback, so make sure to implement their recommendations as well.

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About the Author

explain the main components of a business plan

Ayush is a writer with an academic background in business and marketing. Being a tech-enthusiast, he likes to keep a sharp eye on the latest tech gadgets and innovations. When he's not working, you can find him writing poetry, gaming, playing the ukulele, catching up with friends, and indulging in creative philosophies.

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The 5 Key Elements Of A Good Business Plan

22 January 2020

Although some Founders are sceptical about planning too far ahead for their businesses, preparing a solid business plan is necessary for many purposes.

explain the main components of a business plan

As any founder knows, the only sure thing about running a growing company is change.

In fact, your business plan is perhaps the thing that will change most often throughout your entrepreneurial journey.

Although some Founders are sceptical about planning too far ahead for their businesses, preparing a solid business plan is necessary for many purposes, including, but not limited to:

  • Raising finance through investment;
  • Applying for a business loan;
  • Budgeting for the long and short term;
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of how your business works.

Perhaps even more important than preparing a business plan, is making sure that this is updated for each of the small and big changes that your company will go through as it grows and evolves.

Different companies require different types of business plan. Depending on your business model, your revenue structure and many other factors.

However, there are 5 elements of a business plan that are absolutely key to making sure that the reader understands how your company works and plans on growing.

Download our editable Business Plan Template

It includes a complete structure , detailed instructions on how to write each section and tips on how to tweak it for each specific use .

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1. Executive Summary

The Executive Summary represents the reader’s first impression of your business

The Executive Summary is the first section of your business plan, and also the last one you should write. It represents the reader’s first impression of your business . As a result, it will likely define their opinion as they continue reading the business plan.

A good Executive Summary includes key facts about your business such as:

  • Business & product description;
  • Current positioning & targeting;
  • Financial outlook & requirements;
  • Past and future achievements & goals.

However, the most important function that a great Executive Summary serves is communicating to the reader why they should read the rest of the business plan , and why you want them to.

2. Business Overview

After the Executive Summary, a business plan starts with a comprehensive explanation of what your business proposition is and how it relates to the market where your company operates.

In this section of the business plan, you should explain precisely:

  • what your company does;
  • what are its products or services;
  • in which market it operates;
  • who are its customers.

When describing your business, you should make sure to that the reader knows what kind of market environment your business operates in, but also how it can thrive in such an environment from a competitive point of view.

For some very niche or particularly innovative sectors, this may mean that you need to inform the readers about specific market dynamics .

In these cases, make sure that you clarify what is considered ‘the industry standard ‘ in your sector, the selling points that current players are competing on and how your business is positioned relative to them.

Make sure to include:

  • Your mission statement;
  • The philosophy, vision and goals of your company;
  • Your industry and target audience;
  • The structure of your business, detailing your customers, suppliers, partners and competitors;
  • Your products and services and the problem they solve;
  • Unique Selling Point(s).

If the company already has a well-defined product or service, this section can be divided into Company Description and Products & Services .

3. Sales & Marketing Strategy

This section of the business plan requires a deep understanding of your market space and how your business positions itself within its niche and competes with existing players .

Within your Sales & Marketing strategy, you should outline:

  • A definition of your target market – include its size, existing and emerging trends and your projected market share;
  • An assessment of your market – this should summarise how attractive your target market is to your company and why, Porter’s Five Forces or the more recent Six Forces Model are useful tools to define this;
  • Threats & Opportunities – you can use a SWOT Analysis to present these;
  • Product/Service Features – once you have thoroughly described your product/service, make sure to highlight its Unique Selling Points, as well as any complementary offerings and after-sale services;
  • Target Consumers – whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s a good idea to include an ideal customer profile to describe exactly what niche(s) you are going to target;
  • Key Competitors – research and analyse any other players inside or outside your market whose offering might compete with you directly or indirectly;
  • Positioning – explain in a short paragraph how your company differentiates from your competitors and how it presents itself to your target niche;
  • Marketing Plan & Budget – outline the marketing and advertising tactics you will use to promote your business, giving an overview of your brand and of the communication elements that support it;
  • Pricing – explain how your pricing strategy fits within the competition and how it relates to your positioning;

A very common mistake that should be avoided is writing that you have no competition. Instead, you should show your efforts in researching your competitors and assessing how they could threaten your business .

4. Operations & Management

This section gives you the opportunity to explain to the reader how your company does things differently .

The people and processes that are allow your business to operate on a daily basis are the key to your competitive advantage . In fact, they help you build a better product, deliver it more efficiently or at a lower costs. Your Operations & Management must be able to successfully realise what you ‘promised’ in the previous sections.

Here, you must demonstrate how much you know about your business, so don’t leave out any relevant detail. Be concise but thorough, focus on two main points:

  • Production or Service Delivery;
  • Quality Control;
  • Credit policies;
  • Legal environment;
  • Organisational Structure – this is an overview of all the people involved in your business and their position in relation to each other. You should detail the experience of the existing team, as well as the roles that haven’t been filled yet. Include advisors and non-executive directors . Investors and banks will also look at this section to get an idea of salary costs. As these are normally a significant cost centre, don’t overestimate your staff needs.

5. Financial Plan

Your Financial Plan is possibly the most important element of your business plan . This is especially true if the business plan is aimed at investors or lenders.

This section includes projections, budgets and goals that are unique to each business. In particular, you should focus on explaining the assumptions on which you based your forecasts , more than on the forecasts themselves. Every good Financial Plan will include:

  • 12-month Profit & Loss Projection – A month-by-month forecast of sales, operating costs, tax and profits for the following year. Sometimes three years.
  • Cash Flow Statement & Forecast – This financial statement tracks the amount of cash that leaves or enters the business at any given time.
  • Breakeven Analysis – This is a cornerstone of your business plan. Here you should show what level of projected sales allows the business to cover its costs.
  • Capital Requirements – This point is fundamental as it shows investors what their money will be spent on. It should contain a summary of all the expenses for big purchases and day-to-day running costs.

The Financial Plan is usually followed by the Appendices. Here you should include detailed spreadsheets and calculations used to prepare the financial statements.

We help Founders write a solid business plan by supporting them with financial planning and forecasting .

Request a call to find out how we can help you.

The information available on this page is of a general nature and is not intended to provide specific advice to any individuals or entities. We work hard to ensure this information is accurate at the time of publishing, although there is no guarantee that such information is accurate at the time you read this. We recommend individuals and companies seek professional advice on their circumstances and matters.

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1.1: Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan

  • Last updated
  • Save as PDF
  • Page ID 21274

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Describe the purposes for business planning
  • Describe common business planning principles
  • Explain common business plan development guidelines and tools
  • List and explain the elements of the business plan development process
  • Explain the purposes of each element of the business plan development process
  • Explain how applying the business plan development process can aid in developing a business plan that will meet entrepreneurs’ goals

This chapter describes the purposes, principles, and the general concepts and tools for business planning, and the process for developing a business plan.

Purposes for Developing Business Plans

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. Externally, the most common purpose is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

As the road map for a business’s development, the business plan

  • Defines the vision for the company
  • Establishes the company’s strategy
  • Describes how the strategy will be implemented
  • Provides a framework for analysis of key issues
  • Provides a plan for the development of the business
  • Helps the entrepreneur develop and measure critical success factors
  • Helps the entrepreneur to be realistic and test theories

External Purposes

The business plan provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business. Thus, it is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel.

Business Plan Development Principles

Hindle and Mainprize (2006) suggested that business plan writers must strive to effectively communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future and to project credibility. The liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures much more difficult than for existing businesses. Consequently, business plan writers should adhere to five specific communication principles .

First, business plans must be written to meet the expectations of targeted readers in terms of what they need to know to support the proposed business. They should also lay out the milestones that investors or other targeted readers need to know. Finally, writers must clearly outline the opportunity , the context within the proposed venture will operate (internal and external environment), and the business model (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

There are also five business plan credibility principles that writers should consider. Business plan writers should build and establish their credibility by highlighting important and relevant information about the venture team . Writers need to elaborate on the plans they outline in their document so that targeted readers have the information they need to assess the plan’s credibility. To build and establish credibility, they must integrate scenarios to show that the entrepreneur has made realistic assumptions and has effectively anticipated what the future holds for their proposed venture. Writers need to provide comprehensive and realistic financial links between all relevant components of the plan. Finally, they must outline the deal , or the value that targeted readers should expect to derive from their involvement with the venture (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

General Guidelines for Developing Business Plans

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. Using a standard format helps the reader understand that the you have thought everything through, and that the returns justify the risk. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

As You Write Your Business Plan

1. If appropriate, include nice, catchy, professional graphics on your title page to make it appealing to targeted readers, but don’t go overboard.

2. Bind your document so readers can go through it easily without it falling apart. You might use a three-ring binder, coil binding, or a similar method. Make sure the binding method you use does not obscure the information next to where it is bound.

3. Make certain all of your pages are ordered and numbered correctly.

4. The usual business plan convention is to number all major sections and subsections within your plan using the format as follows:

1. First main heading

1.1 First subheading under the first main heading

1.1.1. First sub-subheading under the first subheading

2. Second main heading

2.1 First subheading under the second main heading

Use the styles and references features in Word to automatically number and format your section titles and to generate your table of contents. Be sure that the last thing you do before printing your document is update your automatic numbering and automatically generated tables. If you fail to do this, your numbering may be incorrect.

5. Prior to submitting your plan, be 100% certain each of the following requirements are met:

  • Everything must be completely integrated. The written part must say exactly the same thing as the financial part.
  • All financial statements must be completely linked and valid. Make sure all of your balance sheets balance.
  • Everything must be correct. There should be NO spelling, grammar, sentence structure, referencing, or calculation errors.
  • Your document must be well organized and formatted. The layout you choose should make the document easy to read and comprehend. All of your diagrams, charts, statements, and other additions should be easy to find and be located in the parts of the plan best suited to them.
  • In some cases it can strengthen your business plan to show some information in both text and table or figure formats. You should avoid unnecessary repetition , however, as it is usually unnecessary—and even damaging—to state the same thing more than once.
  • You should include all the information necessary for readers to understand everything in your document.
  • The terms you use in your plan should be clear and consistent. For example, the following statement in a business plan would leave a reader completely confused: “There is a shortage of 100,000 units with competitors currently producing 25,000. We can help fill this huge gap in demand with our capacity to produce 5,000 units.”

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  4. 7 Key Elements to a Business Plan

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COMMENTS

  1. The 12 Key Components of a Business Plan (2023)

    Some entrepreneurs choose to use diagrams and charts, while others rely on text alone. Regardless of how you go about it, good business plans tend to include the following elements: Executive summary. Company description. Market analysis. Marketing plan. Sales plan. Competitive analysis. Organizational structure.

  2. The 10 Components of a Business Plan

    Above all, the numbers should help answer why your business can do it better. 4. Competitive Analysis. A good business plan will present a clear comparison of your business vs your direct and indirect competitors. This is where you prove your knowledge of the industry by breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

  3. 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

    Here are some of the components of an effective business plan. 1. Executive Summary. One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

  4. 10 Important Components of an Effective Business Plan

    Effective business plans contain several key components that cover various aspects of a company's goals. The most important parts of a business plan include: 1. Executive summary. The executive summary is the first and one of the most critical parts of a business plan. This summary provides an overview of the business plan as a whole and ...

  5. The 8 Key Components of an Effective Business Plan

    Investors love it, and you will too. It's like a prediction of how much money your business will make and spend in the future. Advice: Be realistic with your financial projections. Include income, expenses, and cash flow predictions. Show how you'll make a profit. 8. Appendix.

  6. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    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 ...

  7. 13 Key Business Plan Components

    13 Key Business Plan Components. We've built a comprehensive guide to the major parts of a business plan for you. From elements like the executive summary to product descriptions, traction, and financials, we'll guide you on all of the key sections you should include in your business plan. December 14th, 2022 | By: The Startups Team | Tags ...

  8. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    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 ...

  9. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...

  10. Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

    A business plan is a written document that defines your business goals and the tactics to achieve those goals. A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines ...

  11. What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates

    If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture. 2. Feasibility Business Plan. This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing ...

  12. What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Essentials Explained

    It's the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you'll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and ...

  13. What is a Business Plan? Definition + Resources

    A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. But the reality can be more nuanced - it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written. Ideal times to write a business plan include: When you have an idea for a ...

  14. 8 Key Components of a Business Plan

    There are eight essential components, all of which are detailed in this handy guide. 1. Executive Summary. The executive summary opens your business plan, but it's the section you'll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan.

  15. 9 Essential Components of a Business Plan

    Here are the 9 essential components of a business plan. 1. Executive Summary. Your executive summary is going to be at the front of your plan and be one of the first things that someone reads. But, writing the executive summary should be the last thing that you do, even though it's first on the list.

  16. 10 Essential Business Plan Components + Free Template

    Here are its key components and what to include in them. 1. Executive summary. The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business plan. It's the first thing potential investors will read and should therefore provide a clear overview of your business and its goals.

  17. Writing a Business Plan: Main Components

    A business plan can take many forms, depending on the venture. A four-person management consulting firm may produce a leaner plan focused on service expertise and industry experience compared to a 20-employee widget maker, which would also have to describe products, manufacturing techniques, competitive forces and marketing needs, among other details.

  18. Components of a Business Plan

    The 10 sections or elements of a business plan that you must include are as follows: 1. Executive Summary. The executive summary provides a succinct synopsis of the business plan, and highlights the key points raised within. It often includes the company's mission statement and description of the products and services.

  19. Business Plan

    Creating a business plan is an indispensable part of any business. The main purpose of creating such a document is to attract prospective investors to provide capital to the enterprise. Therefore, the plan should cover all the important perspectives of a business - financial, operational, personnel, competition, etc. Table of contents.

  20. Business Plan

    A business plan should be structured in a way that it contains all the important information that investors are looking for. Here are the main sections of a business plan: 1. Title Page. The title page captures the legal information of the business, which includes the registered business name, physical address, phone number, email address, date ...

  21. The 5 Key Elements Of A Good Business Plan

    Sometimes three years. Cash Flow Statement & Forecast - This financial statement tracks the amount of cash that leaves or enters the business at any given time. Breakeven Analysis - This is a cornerstone of your business plan. Here you should show what level of projected sales allows the business to cover its costs.

  22. 1.1: Chapter 1

    As the road map for a business's development, the business plan. Defines the vision for the company. Establishes the company's strategy. Describes how the strategy will be implemented. Provides a framework for analysis of key issues. Provides a plan for the development of the business. Helps the entrepreneur develop and measure critical ...

  23. 10 key business plan sections and why they're important

    Here are 10 sections of a business plan that you may wish to include: 1. Executive summary. This is an essential part of a successful business plan that often takes the most time to complete. It's also one that you may consider completing last, even though it's usually the first thing that the reader sees. An executive summary is the definitive ...