How to make a business plan

Strategic planning in Miro

Table of Contents

How to make a good business plan: step-by-step guide.

A business plan is a strategic roadmap used to navigate the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. It's the foundation upon which you build a successful business.

A well-crafted business plan can help you define your vision, clarify your goals, and identify potential problems before they arise.

But where do you start? How do you create a business plan that sets you up for success?

This article will explore the step-by-step process of creating a comprehensive business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a business's objectives, strategies, and operational procedures. It typically includes the following information about a company:

Products or services

Target market

Competitors

Marketing and sales strategies

Financial plan

Management team

A business plan serves as a roadmap for a company's success and provides a blueprint for its growth and development. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners organize their ideas, evaluate the feasibility, and identify potential challenges and opportunities.

As well as serving as a guide for business owners, a business plan can attract investors and secure funding. It demonstrates the company's understanding of the market, its ability to generate revenue and profits, and its strategy for managing risks and achieving success.

Business plan vs. business model canvas

A business plan may seem similar to a business model canvas, but each document serves a different purpose.

A business model canvas is a high-level overview that helps entrepreneurs and business owners quickly test and iterate their ideas. It is often a one-page document that briefly outlines the following:

Key partnerships

Key activities

Key propositions

Customer relationships

Customer segments

Key resources

Cost structure

Revenue streams

On the other hand, a Business Plan Template provides a more in-depth analysis of a company's strategy and operations. It is typically a lengthy document and requires significant time and effort to develop.

A business model shouldn’t replace a business plan, and vice versa. Business owners should lay the foundations and visually capture the most important information with a Business Model Canvas Template . Because this is a fast and efficient way to communicate a business idea, a business model canvas is a good starting point before developing a more comprehensive business plan.

A business plan can aim to secure funding from investors or lenders, while a business model canvas communicates a business idea to potential customers or partners.

Why is a business plan important?

A business plan is crucial for any entrepreneur or business owner wanting to increase their chances of success.

Here are some of the many benefits of having a thorough business plan.

Helps to define the business goals and objectives

A business plan encourages you to think critically about your goals and objectives. Doing so lets you clearly understand what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

A well-defined set of goals, objectives, and key results also provides a sense of direction and purpose, which helps keep business owners focused and motivated.

Guides decision-making

A business plan requires you to consider different scenarios and potential problems that may arise in your business. This awareness allows you to devise strategies to deal with these issues and avoid pitfalls.

With a clear plan, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions aligning with their overall business goals and objectives. This helps reduce the risk of making costly mistakes and ensures they make decisions with long-term success in mind.

Attracts investors and secures funding

Investors and lenders often require a business plan before considering investing in your business. A document that outlines the company's goals, objectives, and financial forecasts can help instill confidence in potential investors and lenders.

A well-written business plan demonstrates that you have thoroughly thought through your business idea and have a solid plan for success.

Identifies potential challenges and risks

A business plan requires entrepreneurs to consider potential challenges and risks that could impact their business. For example:

Is there enough demand for my product or service?

Will I have enough capital to start my business?

Is the market oversaturated with too many competitors?

What will happen if my marketing strategy is ineffective?

By identifying these potential challenges, entrepreneurs can develop strategies to mitigate risks and overcome challenges. This can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes and ensure the business is well-positioned to take on any challenges.

Provides a basis for measuring success

A business plan serves as a framework for measuring success by providing clear goals and financial projections . Entrepreneurs can regularly refer to the original business plan as a benchmark to measure progress. By comparing the current business position to initial forecasts, business owners can answer questions such as:

Are we where we want to be at this point?

Did we achieve our goals?

If not, why not, and what do we need to do?

After assessing whether the business is meeting its objectives or falling short, business owners can adjust their strategies as needed.

How to make a business plan step by step

The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include.

1. Create an executive summary

Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

Keep your executive summary concise and clear with the Executive Summary Template . The simple design helps readers understand the crux of your business plan without reading the entire document.

2. Write your company description

Provide a detailed explanation of your company. Include information on what your company does, the mission statement, and your vision for the future.

Provide additional background information on the history of your company, the founders, and any notable achievements or milestones.

3. Conduct a market analysis

Conduct an in-depth analysis of your industry, competitors, and target market. This is best done with a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, identify your target market's needs, demographics, and behaviors.

Use the Competitive Analysis Template to brainstorm answers to simple questions like:

What does the current market look like?

Who are your competitors?

What are they offering?

What will give you a competitive advantage?

Who is your target market?

What are they looking for and why?

How will your product or service satisfy a need?

These questions should give you valuable insights into the current market and where your business stands.

4. Describe your products and services

Provide detailed information about your products and services. This includes pricing information, product features, and any unique selling points.

Use the Product/Market Fit Template to explain how your products meet the needs of your target market. Describe what sets them apart from the competition.

5. Design a marketing and sales strategy

Outline how you plan to promote and sell your products. Your marketing strategy and sales strategy should include information about your:

Pricing strategy

Advertising and promotional tactics

Sales channels

The Go to Market Strategy Template is a great way to visually map how you plan to launch your product or service in a new or existing market.

6. Determine budget and financial projections

Document detailed information on your business’ finances. Describe the current financial position of the company and how you expect the finances to play out.

Some details to include in this section are:

Startup costs

Revenue projections

Profit and loss statement

Funding you have received or plan to receive

Strategy for raising funds

7. Set the organization and management structure

Define how your company is structured and who will be responsible for each aspect of the business. Use the Business Organizational Chart Template to visually map the company’s teams, roles, and hierarchy.

As well as the organization and management structure, discuss the legal structure of your business. Clarify whether your business is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

8. Make an action plan

At this point in your business plan, you’ve described what you’re aiming for. But how are you going to get there? The Action Plan Template describes the following steps to move your business plan forward. Outline the next steps you plan to take to bring your business plan to fruition.

Types of business plans

Several types of business plans cater to different purposes and stages of a company's lifecycle. Here are some of the most common types of business plans.

Startup business plan

A startup business plan is typically an entrepreneur's first business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs articulate their business idea when starting a new business.

Not sure how to make a business plan for a startup? It’s pretty similar to a regular business plan, except the primary purpose of a startup business plan is to convince investors to provide funding for the business. A startup business plan also outlines the potential target market, product/service offering, marketing plan, and financial projections.

Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a long-term plan that outlines a company's overall strategy, objectives, and tactics. This type of strategic plan focuses on the big picture and helps business owners set goals and priorities and measure progress.

The primary purpose of a strategic business plan is to provide direction and guidance to the company's management team and stakeholders. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years.

Operational business plan

An operational business plan is a detailed document that outlines the day-to-day operations of a business. It focuses on the specific activities and processes required to run the business, such as:

Organizational structure

Staffing plan

Production plan

Quality control

Inventory management

Supply chain

The primary purpose of an operational business plan is to ensure that the business runs efficiently and effectively. It helps business owners manage their resources, track their performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Growth-business plan

A growth-business plan is a strategic plan that outlines how a company plans to expand its business. It helps business owners identify new market opportunities and increase revenue and profitability. The primary purpose of a growth-business plan is to provide a roadmap for the company's expansion and growth.

The 3 Horizons of Growth Template is a great tool to identify new areas of growth. This framework categorizes growth opportunities into three categories: Horizon 1 (core business), Horizon 2 (emerging business), and Horizon 3 (potential business).

One-page business plan

A one-page business plan is a condensed version of a full business plan that focuses on the most critical aspects of a business. It’s a great tool for entrepreneurs who want to quickly communicate their business idea to potential investors, partners, or employees.

A one-page business plan typically includes sections such as business concept, value proposition, revenue streams, and cost structure.

Best practices for how to make a good business plan

Here are some additional tips for creating a business plan:

Use a template

A template can help you organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your business ideas and strategies. Starting with a template can also save you time and effort when formatting your plan.

Miro’s extensive library of customizable templates includes all the necessary sections for a comprehensive business plan. With our templates, you can confidently present your business plans to stakeholders and investors.

Be practical

Avoid overestimating revenue projections or underestimating expenses. Your business plan should be grounded in practical realities like your budget, resources, and capabilities.

Be specific

Provide as much detail as possible in your business plan. A specific plan is easier to execute because it provides clear guidance on what needs to be done and how. Without specific details, your plan may be too broad or vague, making it difficult to know where to start or how to measure success.

Be thorough with your research

Conduct thorough research to fully understand the market, your competitors, and your target audience . By conducting thorough research, you can identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and develop strategies to mitigate them.

Get input from others

It can be easy to become overly focused on your vision and ideas, leading to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity. By seeking input from others, you can identify potential opportunities you may have overlooked.

Review and revise regularly

A business plan is a living document. You should update it regularly to reflect market, industry, and business changes. Set aside time for regular reviews and revisions to ensure your plan remains relevant and effective.

Create a winning business plan to chart your path to success

Starting or growing a business can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, a well-written business plan can make or break your business’ success.

The purpose of a business plan is more than just to secure funding and attract investors. It also serves as a roadmap for achieving your business goals and realizing your vision. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies, you can develop a visually appealing, persuasive business plan.

Ready to make an effective business plan that works for you? Check out our library of ready-made strategy and planning templates and chart your path to success.

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How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

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How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

the most popular use of a business plan

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

the most popular use of a business plan

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

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The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

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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.

the most popular use 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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The Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan Here's the no-nonsense guide on how to write a business plan that will help you map success for your startup.

By Carolyn Sun

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." If you're starting a business, you should have a business plan regardless of whether you're bootstrapping it or looking for outside funding.

The best sorts of business plans tell a clear story of what the company plans to do and how it will do it. Given the high failure rate of startups in their first year, a business plan is also an ideal opportunity to safely test out the feasibility of a business and spot flaws, set aside unrealistic projections and identify and analyze the competition.

A business plan doesn't need to be complicated, but for it to serve its purpose and set you up for success, it must be clear to whomever is reading your plan that you have a realistic handle on the why and how your business will be a success.

To get you moving in the right direction, here's a guide on how to write a business plan.

Overall tips

There's a lot of advice in the infosphere about how to write a business plan, but there's no single correct way. Your approach depends on your industry, who is reading your plan and what the plan is intended for. Are you trying to get funding? Sara Sutton Fell, founder of FlexJobs , a job site for flexible telecommuting jobs, says her business plan was an initiator for more in-depth conversation with potential investors. "A plan does help to see if investors and entrepreneurs are on the same page with general expectations for the business," she says.

A business plan serves many purposes, but there is universal consensus on the following when it comes to your business plan:

Have several versions tailored for specific audiences: "One of the mistakes that inexperienced business owners make is not understanding who they're writing the plan for," says David Ciccarelli, a small business owner who got consultation from his local Small Business Association (SBA) when he was starting his company Voices.com , which connects employers with voiceover talent.

Your plan is a living document: Tim Berry, the founder of a business planning software company Palo Alto Software , took his company from zero to $5 million in sales in its first three years. To do so requires frequent review and close tracking, says Berry, who met with his management team every month to review the plan versus what actually happened -- and then to revise. "There is no virtue to sticking to a plan if it's not useful and responsive to what actually happens," he cautions.

Be realistic about financial estimates and projections: "When you present a plan to bankers and financiers, or even to your employees, people will get way more excited about what's real rather than some huge thing that's never going to happen," says Ciccarelli. So present an achievable sales forecasts based on bottom-upwards information (i.e. how many units per month get sold in how many stores) and stop over projecting profits.

Writing your business plan is about the process and having a blueprint: Your business plan "reflects your ideas, intuitions, instincts and insights about your business and its future," according to Write Your Business Plan (Entrepreneur, 2015). The plan serves as a safe way to test these out before you commit to a course of action. And once you get your business going, the plan also serves as a reference point. "I still print the document," says Ciccarelli. "You're capturing it in time. If you're changing it all the time, you kind of don't remember where you were last year."

Back up any claims: Follow up your projections and assertions with statistics, facts or quotes from a knowledgeable source to lend your plan credibility.

Presentation counts: Reading any long, text-heavy document is hard on the eyes, so format with this in mind. Consider formatting your text pages into two-columns and break up long passages with charts or graphs. Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman are standard industry fonts.

Writing your business plan isn't busy work or a luxury; it's a vital part of the process of starting a business and arms you with information you need to know. So, let's get into what information goes into your business plan.

Related: Bu siness Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide

What goes into a business plan?

A typical business plan is 15 to 25 pages. Its length depends on a variety of factors, such as whether your business is introducing a new product or belongs to a new industry (which requires explanation to the reader), or if you're pitching to bankers, who generally expect to see a traditional written business plan and financials.

"Most equity investors prefer either an executive summary or pitch deck for first contact, but will often request a more detailed plan later in the due diligence process. Potential customers don't need all the details of your internal operation. Your management team needs access to everything," says Akira Hirai, managing director of business plan consulting service Cayenne Consulting .

Most business plans include these seven sections:

1. Executive summary : The executive summary follows the title page and explains the fundamentals of your business. It should provide a short and clear synopsis of your business plan that describes your business concept, financial features and requirements (i.e. cash flow and sales projections plus capital needed), your company's current business position (i.e. its legal form of operation, when the company was formed, principals and key personnel) and any major achievements in the company that are relevant to its success, including patents, prototypes or results from test marketing.

2. Business description : This section typically begins with a brief description of your industry and its outlook. Get into the various markets within the industry, including any new products that will benefit or hurt your business. For those seeking funding, reinforce your data with reliable sources and footnote when possible. Also provide a description of your business operation's structure (i.e. wholesale, retail or service-oriented), who you will sell to, how you will distribute your products/services, the products/services itself (what gives you the competitive edge), your business's legal structure, your principals and what they bring to the organization.

Here are some worksheets from Write Your Business Plan that will help determine your unique selling proposition and analyze your industry.

Click to Enlarge+

worksheets

3. Market strategies: Here is where you define your target market and how you plan to reach them. Market analysis requires research and familiarity with the market so that the target market can be defined and the company can be positioned (i.e. are you a premium product or a price-competitive product?) in order to garner its market share. Analyze your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales/growth potential. This section also talks about distribution plans and promotion strategy and tactics that will allow you to fulfill your plans.

Here is a worksheet from Write Your Business Plan that will guide you toward identifying your target market.

Worksheet

4. Competitive analysis: The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle. Show why your business will be a success over others.

5. Design and development plan: You will only need this section if you have a product in development, such as an app. The purpose of this section is to provide investors with a description of the product's design, chart its development within the context of production and marketing and show a development budget that will enable the company to reach its goals.

6. Operations and management plan: This section describes how the business functions on a daily basis, its location, equipment, people, processes and surrounding environment. If you have a product that needs to be manufactured, explain the how and where; also, describe your work facility, the personnel, the legal environment (such as licensing, permits, special regulations, etc.), key suppliers and inventory. This section will also highlight the logistics of the organization such as the various responsibilities of the management team and the tasks assigned to each division within the company.

7. Financial factors: Financial data is always at the back of a business plan -- yet it's extremely important. The financial data can include your personal financial statement, startup expenses and capital, your projected cash flow statement and 12-month profit-and-loss statement. PaloAlto's Berry stresses that if you're going after investors, you'll need to show a cash flow statement and a break-even analysis -- or the breakdown to see where your business breaks even.

The best way to prepare for running a business is to have all the components of the plan ready. So if you are are showing a prospective lender your business plan on 10 PowerPoint slides and get asked about something that isn't in the presentation, you can speak knowledgeably and follow up with a more fleshed out plan -- and quickly.

Some business owners hire business plan writing services. Cayenne Consulting's Hirai says that his clients generally fall into one of two categories: those intimidated by the process and those who could write the plan themselves but would prefer to spend their time on other priorities.

If you find yourself intimidated or stuck, you can always write the parts of plan yourself that you understand and hire a consultant or researcher to help with parts that you find confusing.

Or if you're a startup watching every dollar, then tap the free services of the federal Small Business Association (SBA). Every state has a district office . Through the SBA, you can get business plan assistance through its various resource partners, which includes Women's Business Centers , Small Business Development Centers and Service Corps of Retired Executives .

Allow this business plan template for Business Plan for a Startup Business to guide you:

Different types of business plans

Generally, business plans can be divided into four categories :

Working plan: This plan is what you will use to operate your business and is not meant to be admired. This version of your plan is an internal document and will be long on detail, short on presentation. Here, you can omit descriptions that you need not explain to yourself or your team.

Mini plan: The reader may request a mini plan, or a condensed version of your business plan (1-10 pages), which includes most of the same components as in a longer traditional plan -- minus the details and explanation. This includes the business concept, financing needs, marketing plan, financial statements (especially cash flow), income project and balance sheet. This shorter plan is not meant to be a substitute for a full-length plan, but serves as an option to present to potential partners or investors.

Presentation plan: Whether you're using a pitch deck or a written business plan, the information in your presentation plan will be, more or less, the same as in your working plan but worded differently and styled for the eyes of an outsider. The reader of your presentation plan will be someone who is unfamiliar with your business, such as investor or venture capitalist, so lose any jargon or shorthand from your working plan, which only makes sense to you. Also, keep in mind that investors will want to see due diligence on your competition threats and risks as well as financial projections. In addition, looks count, so use the color printer, a nice cover and bindings and the fancy paper stock. Or else, if you're presenting your business plan as a PowerPoint presentation, you can use this business plan presentation template .

What-if plan: This is a contingency plan -- in case your worst case scenario happens, such as market share loss, heavy price competition or defection of a key member of your team. You want to think about what to do in the face of an of these, and if you're trying to get outside funds, having a contingency plan shows that you've considered what to do if things don't go according to plan. You don't necessarily need this, but if you are getting outside funding, then it can strengthen your credibility showing that you have thought about these what-if possibilities. Even if you're not going to get outside funding, shouldn't you be thinking of the what ifs?

If four plans seem like a mountain of work, don't panic. Select two to start off -- a working plan and a mini plan, which will be an abbreviated version of your working plan.

Take several months to write your business plan. Consider it a journey, not a sprint.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Business Plan

Carolyn Sun is a freelance writer for Entrepreneur.com. Find out more on Twitter  and  Facebook . 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

May 24, 2021

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

Three adjoining circles about business opportunity

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

An image showing product service and demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Business plan development

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

A notepad with a written executive summary for business plan writing

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

Writing the company philosophy and vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

A man holding an iPad with a cup of coffee on his desk

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

An iPad with colored pens on a desk

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Business plan SWOT analysis

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

An iPad with graph about pricing strategy

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

A wooden stamp with the words "quality control"

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Organization chart

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

A table showing yearly revenue of a business

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

80% of businesses fail... Learn how not to.

Learn from business failures and successes in 5 min or less. The stories, frameworks, and tactics that will make you a 10x better founder.

the most popular use of a business plan

Brandon Boushy

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How to Start a $4.2M/Year Reselling Business

What is a Reseller Business?

How to make money reselling, is a reseller a home-based business, how much do resellers make, step 1. what can i resell to make money, step 2. research your niche market, step 3. create a reseller business plan, step 4. find resale products, step 5. create your resale business model, step 6. implement your sales strategy, step 7. start marketing your reselling business, step 8. manage your inventory and sales, step 9. expand your reselling business, go resell with your own ecommerce business.

  • Buy the products 
  • Pay business expenses

woman working on a laptop at the couch

How to Become a Reseller Business

the most popular use of a business plan

  • Decide what resale items you’ll sell
  • Research your market
  • Create a business plan
  • Find products to buy and sell
  • Start your business
  • Create a sales strategy
  • Start marketing
  • Manage your inventory and sales
  • Expand your reselling business
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Resell Clothes and Accessories
  • Software and Digital Product Reselling
  • Car Accessories
  • Antique Furniture
  • Collectibles

Electronics

Clothing and accessories.

woman holding a phone with clothes on the background

Software and Digital Products

young woman with a headset working on a computer

  • Identify potential customers
  • Create a buyer persona
  • Analyze your competition

Identify Potential Customers

man using a magnifying glass on a wooden figures

Create A Buyer Persona

Research your competition.

laptop on a table with screenshot of how to write a business plan

  • Include an executive summary 
  • Define the products or services
  • Identify your target market
  • Explain the pricing strategy and how you will make a profit
  • Include a marketing and sales strategy
  • Provide financial projections and a break-even analysis
  • Search for directories of suppliers online
  • Go to places you can purchase products
  • Vet suppliers
  • Get samples
  • Negotiate the terms of the agreement

Search for Supplier Directories Online

laptop on a table and a product box

  • Reference USA : The website claims to have over 400 data points on the majority of businesses in the U.S including which wholesale supplier provides each of their products and when the last shipment was.
  • ThomasNet : Search a wholesale database by size of company, compliance standard, types of products, and annual sales.
  • Wholesale Centra l : Search their database or check out one of their tradeshows.
  • Worldwide Brands : This wholesale supplier directory only lists the highest level of wholesalers and dropshippers. Cut out middle men and get the lowest prices possible.

Go To Places That Sell Items

  • Online Marketplaces
  • Trade Shows
  • Industry Events
  • Used Clothing Store
  • Social Media Sites
  • Other Retailers
  • Estate Sales

Vet Potential Suppliers

man working on a computer

Request Samples

Negotiate with suppliers.

a folder with legal documents on the table

  • Business Structure : LLCs and corporations are popular types of businesses for resellers.
  • Resale Permit : Most states have a resale permit (sometimes called a resale certificate). These allow you to buy products without paying tax. Learn more about each state’s resale permits.
  • Business License : May be required by state or local governments to operate legally. This permit business license allows you to purchase goods from wholesalers without paying sales tax, as you will collect it from your customers when you resell the products.
  • Business Account From Bank : Make sure to get a business bank account to keep your business finances separate.

the most popular use of a business plan

  • Listing on Amazo n: Find out how to sell products on the world’s largest online marketplace by dropshipping products .
  • Niche Marketplaces : Selling on specialty platforms can be a great way to sell products fast. With StockX you can resell the product immediately if there is a bid you are willing to accept on the type of product you are selling.
  • Your Website : If you don’t get sales through a website, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table because a business grows by collecting data and increasing lifetime customer value. Learn how to create a website.
  • Social Media : You can develop a following and sell on social media. Learn to earn on TikTok .
  • Retail Store : Sell in your own retail store or provide wholesale orders to other retailers.

the most popular use of a business plan

Setting Prices

Creating a brand, networking , providing great customer service.

man showing and pointing to website logos

  • Amazon Seller Central
  • Zoho Inventory

the most popular use of a business plan

  • Upsell customers. A reselling business can do this both in person and in your own ecommerce store.
  • Increase your marketing spending.
  • Start reselling additional products.
  • Create a customer loyalty program.
  • Partner with or buy other businesses.
  • Add a retail store.
  • Expand to other regions.
  • Open a reselling business e-commerce store if you don't already have one.

How to Invest in Real Estate: 7 Steps to $100K/Month

  • Create passive income
  • Invest in real estate actively and passively
  • Use online platforms
  • Make the most out of a real estate website
  • Earn a great living without being a personal finance wiz

How to Invest in Real Estate

  • Start with a real estate investment plan
  • Consider what is the best tax structure for your income and scenario
  • Look at active investment options
  • Find ways to invest without buying property
  • Get real estate software to manage investments
  • Find investors
  • Keep growing your business [/su_note]

Step 1. Start with a real estate investment plan

  • How old do you want to be when you stop working?
  • How much do you want to make?
  • How much is the average rent in your area?
  • How much profit do you make on each property? 
  • How many rental properties do you need to own?

How to Get Started In Real Estate

  • Passive : Invest in other people's deals.
  • Hands on : Start a joint venture.
  • More active : Buy and rent.
  • Most hands on : Create your own investment firm.[/su_quote]

Step 2. Think about your taxes, finances, and regulations

man working on a calculator with a notebook and cash on the table

  • Do you want a liquid asset (stocks, bonds, ETFs , publicly offered REITs ) or to buy properties?
  • Are you an accredited investor? Accredited investors are people who make over $200,000 or have a net worth of over $1 million, excluding their first home. This gives you access to private equity opportunities. Learn more.
  • Do you need monthly or quarterly distributions? If so, you don't want to invest in capital appreciation models or real estate developers.
  • What is your tax income bracket? REITs count as normal income. If it's not in a retirement fund, it will create a major tax consequence.
  • Are you a real estate professional? You only qualify as a real estate professional if you spent more than 50% of your working hours managing real estate, own 5% or more of the company, and worked at least 750 hours during the year. Check the IRS website for more information.
  • Take detailed notes of date, time, and what work was performed.
  • Make sure to have security cameras on all your rental properties—and time stamp the videos. Make a hard copy of the video before the year ends.
  • Identify everyone in your phone that is real estate related as “Name (real estate).” Make sure to print out your phone bills before December 31 each year.
  • Save all expenses related to the tax claim. Use accounting software to automate documentation.
  • Use a mileage tracker to document miles and time spent commuting.

Step 3. Consider ways to invest in real estate actively

Invest in your own home, consider house hacking.

single-family home vs a quadplex infographic table

Buy Rental Properties

House flipping, step 4. how to invest in real estate without buying property, airbnb co-hosting, real estate investment trusts (reit): how to invest in real estate stocks, real estate investment groups (reig).

  • Acting as a property manager
  • Flipping houses
  • Running Airbnbs 
  • Financing building projects 

Real Estate Limited Partnerships (RELP)

Real estate mutual funds, real estate exchange traded funds (etfs), crowdfunding real estate investing platforms.

  • Start with Fundrise to get familiar with how real estate investments work.
  • Reinvest dividends.
  • Build up to YieldStreet for potentially lower fees.
  • Once you reach $5,000, go for RealtyMogul or Equity Multiple.
  • Build up to CrowdStreet.
  • Keep repeating until you decide which ones you like better and focus on them. 

Step 5. Get real estate software

woman working on a laptop

  • Syndication Pro : Publish offerings, automate distributions, and manage investors with this CRM that meets SEC compliance issues.
  • Active Campaign : Automation software is good for those who need a custom automation that isn't included in Syndication Pro.
  • REI Blackbook : While Syndication Pro is intended for managing investors, REI Blackbook is meant for wholesaling, renting, and flipping properties.

Step 6. Find real estate investors

  • Hire a professional photographer for your website.
  • Include a bold vision statement and a bold picture in the home page banner.
  • The ‘about me’ page should answer, ‘What are you going to do for them?’

Step 7. Keep growing your investments

Can i invest just $100 in real estate, how to invest in real estate with no money and bad credit.

man holding a tablet while accessing Upflip website about wholesale real estate

How to invest in real estate with little money

How do beginners make money in real estate.

  • Reduce your personal expenditure on housing by nearly 75%.
  • Build equity faster because you are only paying $1 for every $4 purchased.
  • Give you the ability to buy another quadplex within the first five years.

Which Investment Is Best in Real Estate?

How to invest in real estate book options.

Amazon-best-selling-books-about-real-estate-on-the-table

  • Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat: The BRRRR Rental Property Investment Strategy Made Simple by David M Greene
  • How to be a Real Estate Investor by Phil Pustejovsky
  • The Book on Rental Property Investing: How to Create Wealth With Intelligent Buy and Hold Real Estate Investing by Brandon Turner

A Few Words of Caution

  • Many financial instruments are governed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Past performance does not predict future performance.
  • After-tax profits are more meaningful than pre-tax profits.
  • Talk to a financial consultant to evaluate how to buy property within your financial scenario.
  • Avoid high fees.[/su_note]

So What's the Best Way to Invest in Real Estate?

  • Defining Investment Objectives
  • Property Investment Taxes
  • Traditional Real Estate Investing
  • Equity Investments
  • Online Real Estate Platforms
  • Growing Your Investment Properties

19 Best Cleaning Business Franchise Opportunities

Ever wondered what cleaning franchise opportunities are out there? We reviewed the cleaning industry to help you find commercial cleaning services that will help you build a company faster.

Neel Parekh started MaidThis in 2013 when he realized that cleaning companies were operating like they were pre-internet companies. Requests for Airbnb cleaning led him to focus on this niche of the cleaning industry and earned him recognition on the 2022 Top 500 New & Emerging Franchise list.

We’ll discuss the following cleaning franchises to help you decide which one is best for you.

[su_note note_color="#dbeafc"]

General Cleaning Industry Overview

Our #1 cleaning franchise brand: maidthis, the upflip cleaning business blueprint, residential cleaning franchises, commercial cleaning services franchises, specialty cleaning franchises.

  • Contact the Franchise That Works for You [/su_note]

Get ready to find out more about how to get a cleaning franchise.

According to IBIS World, cleaning services is a growing industry. There are three main areas that cleaners operate under:

  • Commercial Cleaning Services: Commonly referred to as janitorial cleaning, these services made over $90 billion in 2022 and are expected to grow to $96.1 billion by 2028. This segment of the industry averages 6.9% profit.
  • Residential Cleaning Services: The housekeeping, maids, and gardening industry made over $30 billion last year and is expected to grow to $33 billion by 2028. This industry has a nearly 52% profit margin.
  • Specialty Cleaning Services: This is a catchall for other services like carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, power washing, and window washing. These add up to around $10 billion in revenue, and profits vary.

That means cleaning is a nearly $130 billion industry. You should also be aware that customers expect green cleaning services to be offered in all types of buildings.

Office space, retail stores, medical facilities, and even homeowners are becoming more aware of hospital-grade disinfectants and HEPA vacuums. So there are a lot of evolving industry trends.

Despite all the changes, Queen Bee Cleaning Services Owner Cristobal Mondragon told us:

[su_quote] There’s no better time to get into the cleaning business! [/su_quote]

Check out our interview with him below.

[su_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4Iip7BHXwg"]

How much does a cleaning franchise make?

Cleaning franchises can make up to $3.25 million annually based on the information disclosed on their various websites. Merry Maids disclosed the highest revenue statistic. Every franchise for cleaning business operations is different, but some share their numbers on their websites.

All cleaning companies should disclose how much their franchises make in their Financial Disclosure Document. If they don’t, run! That means they don’t have a proven track record (and are breaking franchising laws). Next, we’ll answer how much a cleaning franchise costs.

How much does a cleaning franchise cost?

Chris Mondragon holding cash and cleaning supplies

Cleaning companies franchise their business operations to small business owners for an initial franchise fee ranging from about $1,000 to $100K. The differences are impacted by:

  • Local market potential
  • Reputation of the brand
  • Size of the zone
  • Corporate greed
  • Master vs. Service franchise
  • How much assistance the corporate office provides

In addition, you’ll have initial costs to other suppliers that may bring the total cost to buy franchise cleaning businesses up to $250,000. I know that’s a huge range, but many cleaning franchises are less than $100K for a recognized brand.

Can I Buy a Cleaning Franchise Under $1,000?

No, you can’t start a cleaning franchise for under $1,000 in most locations. That said, if you are considering franchising a cleaning business for under $1,000, there are some companies that will allow a down payment of as little as $1,000 to start your own business using their brand recognition. Options include:

  • UpFlip Cleaning Business Blueprint
  • Stratus Building Solutions
  • Anago Cleaning Systems

We’ll cover all of these and more before you finish this article. First, we want to introduce you to the MaidThis cleaning franchise.

As a franchise owner, you’ll be operating a cleaning franchise that focuses on residential and Airbnb cleaning. You’ll mostly be focused on growing the business and supporting your team using the best processes in the cleaning industry.

• Initial License Fee: $35K • Other Startup Costs: $12.6K to $31.6K • Total Expenses: $47.6K to $66.55K • Royalty Fees: 6% • Advertising: 2%

This cleaning franchise opportunity is relatively rare. Finding a franchise where you can work completely remotely is amazing. Given most states don’t already have a franchise, it’s even better.

Hear Neel’s story below.

[su_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVyLriqFVdc"]

We’ve partnered with Neel to provide you a unique opportunity to start a remote cleaning company. He’ll even give you $6,000 off the marketing when you sign up through our link. Request information from MaidThis .

Neel explained the most important thing he does to grow his business answering the phone:

[su_quote]Our close rate when we answer the phone is over 60%, but if we don’t it drops down to 16.7%. That’s why we use an AI text messaging system to make sure we close as many clients as possible.[/su_quote]

Next, we introduce another completely unique option: the Upflip Cleaning Business Blueprint.

The UpFlip Cleaning Business BluePrint is a comprehensive program developed in collaboration with Cristobal Mondragon.

With a history of founding Queen Bee Cleaning Services and achieving an impressive annual revenue exceeding $1 million, Chris shares his proven strategies for entrepreneurial triumph. This exceptional package encompasses:

  • A 10-module comprehensive course
  • Your personalized website and SEO
  • Pre-designed marketing and sales scripts
  • Templates for Google Local Service Ads
  • An Airbnb client booking handbook
  • Specialized review software
  • Ongoing mentorship throughout your cleaning business launch and operations

In essence, we provide you with the full spectrum of resources synonymous with a cleaning business franchise, all without the burden of royalties. This translates to substantial cost savings, enabling you to embrace entrepreneurship and become the master of your own enterprise.

We’ve broken the rest of this blog into sections based on the three major cleaning segments. We’ll start with residential cleaners.

Two commercial cleaners with supplies

Want to know how to start a cleaning franchise? Start by considering a residential cleaning company like these:

  • Two Maids (and a Mop)
  • You’ve Got Maids
  • Merry Maids

#2. The Maids: Top-Ranked Cleaning Company by Entrepreneur

The Maids, an official partner of Mr. Clean, offers residential and small business cleaning services. Franchise operators who want to join this proven business model need to pay :

• Initial License Fee: $12.5K • Additional Fees at Signing: $32K to $80K • Other Startup Costs: $10K to $33K • 3 Months Operating Expenses: $22K to $39K • Total Expenses: $76K to $165K • Royalty Fees: 3.9% to 6.9% • Advertising: 2%

Learn more about cleaning franchise opportunities on The Maids website.

#3. Two Maids: Best Employee Pay Model

Two Maids webpage on laptop with soap and a sponge beside it

Another residential cleaning company franchise is Two Maids , which compares to other cleaning franchise opportunities by offering:

  • Pay for Performance: Employees get paid based on performance instead of hourly pay, incentivizing the best performers.
  • Guidance with Systems: The company is highly focused on creating the right systems for you to succeed.

Starting a cleaning business franchise with Two Maids will require a business owner to have the following financial considerations :

• Initial Franchise Fee: $19,950 • Initial Investment: $83,140 to $123,890 • Net Worth Requirement: $200,000 • Cash Requirement: $51,140 • Royalty Fees: 4-7% • Ad Royalty: 2%

Check out the Two Maids Franchise website to learn more about being your own boss.

#4. You’ve Got Maids: Best for High-Value Residential Clients

You’ve Got Maids franchise cleaning company might be right for you if you want to clean people’s homes. They offer weekly and biweekly cleaning, move-in/move-out cleaning, spring cleaning, and full-time residential cleaner placements. You’ve Got Maids Cleaning franchises require:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $7,000 • Initial Investment: $36K to $108K • Net Worth Requirement: $200,000 • Cash Requirement: $40K to $100K • Royalty Fees: 2.99% to 5.99% • Ad Royalty: $75/week

Note that there’s been a 29% decline in You’ve Got Maids franchises over the last three years and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what that means for you if you want to become one of these franchise owners.

#5. Molly Maid: Most Cleaning Franchise Options

Another residential cleaning franchise opportunity is Molly Maid . You’ll need to meet the following qualifications to start your own business under Molly Maid cleaning franchises:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $14,900 • Initial Investment: $127K to $185K • Net Worth Requirement: $250,000 • Cash Requirement: $65,000 • Royalty Fees: 3% to 6.5% • Ad Royalty: $104/week

Molly Maid’s weekly ad royalty might distract new franchisees from focusing on getting cleaning clients . Personally I’d prefer paying franchise fees less routinely.

Neighborly is the parent company of Molly Maids and offers other cleaning franchise opportunities including window washing, junk removal, lawn care, and carpet cleaning for franchise owners.

#6. Merry Maids

Merry Maids estimated total initial investment screenshot

Merry Maids is one of the most well-known cleaning franchise brands in the cleaning industry. Twenty-five percent of Merry Maids franchises make over $3 million annually.

• Initial Franchise Fee: $37,500 to $51,500 • Initial Investment: $50K to $100K • Net Worth Requirement: $250,000 • Cash Requirement: $65,000 • Royalty Fees: 5% to 7% • Ad Royalty: 1.3%

Data is according to Entrepreneur .

#7. Maid Right

For those wondering how to start a franchise cleaning business with Maid Right, you’ll need :

• Initial Franchise Fee: $65,000 • Initial Investment: $103K to $148K • Net Worth Requirement: $200,000 • Cash Requirement: $50K • Royalty Fee: 6% • Ad Royalty: 2%

Go to the Maid Right website to learn more about their franchise fees, cleaning standards, and processes.

Now that you know about home cleaning services, want to learn about commercial cleaning franchises?

MadeThis CEO, who advises-many franchises remotely, in foreground with cleaning crew vacuuming and cleaning in background

These commercial cleaning franchises perform office cleaning and other janitorial work :

• Jan-Pro • Jani-King • Coverall • Stratus Building Solutions • Vanguard Cleaning Systems • Anago Cleaning Systems

#8. Jan-Pro: Best Commercial Cleaning Franchise Under $50K

One of the top commercial cleaning industry franchises is JanPro, which ranks at the top of multiple Entrepreneur categories.

Work with commercial clients as a Jan-Pro franchise for as little as $3,150, which includes the down payment, $1,000 for emergency expenses, and the Franchise Development Starter Kit.

Jan-Pro cleaning systems helps book commercial facilities that need commercial cleaners, and you choose your hours or client count each month. Expect the following startup costs when cleaning commercial businesses:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $2K to $4.5K • Initial Investment: $4.8K to $58K • Royalty: 10% • Ad Royalty: 1%

#9. Jani-King: Largest Global Franchise Cleaning Company

Jani King master-franchise opportunity webpage on a tablet

With over 7,000 global franchises, Jani-King is the largest cleaning franchise for sale. This janitorial franchise opportunity is losing franchises, but Franchise Times shows that they have rising revenue.

Be careful when considering buying this cleaning franchise for sale. Audit the prior business owners’ books carefully before buying.

• Initial Franchise Fee: Not Disclosed • Initial Investment: $20K to $52K • Net Worth Requirement: Not Disclosed • Cash Requirement: Not Disclosed • Royalty Fees: Not Disclosed • Ad Royalty: Not Disclosed

#10. Coverall: Most Focused on A Positive Work Environment

If you’re wondering how to start your own cleaning business, consider Coverall . Coverall cleaning franchises are marketed as janitorial cleaners focused on helping friends and families build wealth.

You should expect the following costs for these cleaning business franchises:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $16K to $41K • Initial Investment: $18K to $52K • Royalty Fee: 5% • Net Worth Requirement : Not Disclosed • Cash Requirement : Not Disclosed • Ad Royalty : Not Disclosed

Next, find out how to start a cleaning business with Stratus.

#11. Stratus Building Solutions: Lowest Cost Cleaning Franchise

Stratus Clean website screenshot with cleaner in foreground

Would you rather focus on booking janitorial services or cleaning and managing a crew?

Stratus offers two ways of franchising :

  • Unit Franchises
  • Master Franchises

Their janitorial franchises are some of the lowest-cost franchises in the cleaning industry. They start at just $1,000 for an owner-operator without employees. This commercial cleaning franchise opportunity requires that you focus on the manual labor.

Meanwhile, the Stratus master franchise opportunity is a 9-to-5 admin, invoicing, and business consulting service for the janitorial services franchises. Master franchising requires:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $3,600 to $69,000 • Initial Investment: $4,600 to $79,000 • Net Worth Requirement: $5K to $40K • Cash Requirement: $2K to $20K • Royalty Fees: 5% • Ad Royalty: 1%

This franchise opportunity lets you focus on the parts of a janitorial services business that most interest you.

#12. Vanguard Cleaning Systems

Commercial cleaning business Vanguard Cleaning Systems operates a lot like Stratus Building Solutions. You can either perform daily janitorial services or perform admin tasks for the other cleaning franchises.

• Initial Franchise Fee: $5K • Initial Investment : $6K to $37K • Net Worth Requirement : $50K and $250K • Cash Requirement : $7K and $45K • Royalty Fees : 11.5% • Ad Royalty: N/A

Check out Vanguard Cleaning Systems’ franchise opportunities.

#13. Anago Cleaning Systems: Easiest-to-Get-Approved Cleaning Franchise

Anago Cleaning Systems franchises have low net worth and cash requirements for commercial cleaning services franchises. Anago Cleaning Systems uses the same franchise business model as the other commercial cleaning franchise opportunities on the list, where you have master franchise and unit franchise options.

The master franchise gets an exclusive territory where they book clients and sell unit franchises.

• Initial Franchise Fee: $5K to $31K for Units; $98K for Master franchises • Initial Investment: $11K to 61K for Units; $219K to $339K for Master • Net Worth Requirement: $31K • Cash Requirement: $1K • Royalty Fees: 10% • Ad Royalty: 2%

Learn more about Anago Cleaning Systems franchising .

Chris Mondragon holding cleaning products

Haven’t found a cleaning service you like yet?

Specialized services like window washing, green cleaning, and junk hauling are all options to consider when deciding how to start a cleaning company.

Check out some unique cleaning franchises like:

  • Aire-Master of America
  • College HUNKS Hauling Junk
  • ServiceMaster Clean
  • TruBlue Total House Care

#14. Aire-Master of America: Most Unique Cleaning Services Franchise

If you want to offer air cleaning services, this company franchise is a good one to consider. Aire-Master of America provides fragrances, equipment, and servicing to commercial buildings, enhancing their workspaces and creating environments that help employees and customers feel better.

According to Entrepreneur , you should expect:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $30K to $100K • Initial Investment: $45K to $170K • Net Worth Requirement: $20K • Cash Requirement: $50K • Royalty Fees: 5% • Ad Royalty: N/A

Find out more about Aire-Master of America franchises .

#15. Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning: Best Carpet Cleaning Franchise

Oxi Fresh webpage on laptop

If you want to start a carpet cleaning franchise, consider Oxi Fresh.

• Initial Franchise Fee: $42,000 • Initial Investment: $48K to $78K • Net Worth Requirement: $20K • Cash Requirement: $50K • Royalty Fees: $395 monthly • Ad Royalty: 3%

Oxi Fresh has franchises across the U.S. and Canada and offers the opportunity to become a master franchise in other countries.

#16. College HUNKS Hauling Junk: Best Name

College HUNKS Hauling Junk performs junk removal and moving services for homeowners and businesses. These junk removal businesses also donate junk and meals and emphasize their recycling efforts. It gets better though. They average $1.63 million revenue and you’ll need:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $45K to $75K • Initial Investment: Not Disclosed • Net Worth Requirement: $200K • Cash Requirement: $75K • Royalty Fees: 7% • Ad Royalty: 2%

I just wish the uniforms were superhero costumes!

#17. ServiceMaster Clean

Want to operate a floor cleaning business? Consider ServiceMaster Clean, which is a residential and commercial cleaning business offering cleaning franchises for:

• Initial Franchise Fee: $32,500 • Initial Investment: $90K • Net Worth Requirement: $100K • Cash Requirement: $50K • Royalty Fees: 7% • Ad Royalty: 2%

Their top franchises average over $3.2 million in revenue annually, while 25% of single-zone franchises average $1.85 million in revenue.

Find out more about ServiceMaster Clean franchises.

#18. PuroClean: Most Transparent Cleaning Franchises

PuroClean webpage on desktop

Offer building remediation with these cleaning franchise opportunities. You’ll clean after property damage from water, fire, mold, and other hazardous materials.

PuroClean lists what you need to start a cleaning franchise business directly on their site and offers financing for up to 50% of the total franchise cost.

#19. TruBlue Total House Care: Most Diverse Offerings

TruBlue is a combination cleaning, handyman, and landscaping franchise, and they also offer accessibility remodeling services. This might be the franchise cleaning business for you if you want to build an empire because of all the additional services you can offer.

You’ll need:

• Total Investment: $65,050 to $91,400 • Franchise Fee: $44,900 • Minimum Liquid Capital: $50,000

Find out more about TruBlue Total House Care cleaning franchises.

Contact the Franchise That Works for You

Young woman holding cell phone calling franchise about estimated total initial investment

Once you’ve determined your ideal cleaning franchise based on your location, skill set, and budget, the next step involves initiating contact with them to kickstart your franchise journey.

I’m considering Neel’s MaidThis franchise opportunity because it is available in Las Vegas and I know lots of people who work in the cleaning industry. The estimated total initial investment is comparable to many companies, they offer comprehensive training, and you’ll be one of the earliest cleaning franchise owners in your area.

That means you’ll get more personalized support than those who join later and you’ll have the ability to be on the forefront of cleaning strategies.

Don’t hesitate to explore one or more of the providers that boast more than a decade of industry experience, too.

Which pathway aligns with your preference for embarking on the journey of starting a cleaning business?

  • Start my own cleaning business from scratch .
  • Start my cleaning business with a course .
  • Contact a franchise. Tell us in the comments which one!

the most popular use of a business plan

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the most popular use of a business plan

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the most popular use of a business plan

the most popular use of a business plan

The 7 Best Business Plan Examples (2024)

As an aspiring entrepreneur gearing up to start your own business , you likely know the importance of drafting a business plan. However, you might not be entirely sure where to begin or what specific details to include. That’s where examining business plan examples can be beneficial. Sample business plans serve as real-world templates to help you craft your own plan with confidence. They also provide insight into the key sections that make up a business plan, as well as demonstrate how to structure and present your ideas effectively.

the most popular use of a business plan

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the most popular use of a business plan

Example business plan

To understand how to write a business plan, let’s study an example structured using a seven-part template. Here’s a quick overview of those parts:

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

7 business plan examples (section by section)

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

  • Executive summary

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

In this free business plan template, the executive summary is three paragraphs and occupies nearly half the page:

  • Company description

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

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

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

company description business plan

  • Market analysis

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

marketing swot example

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

  • Products and services

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

  • Marketing plan

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

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

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

marketing section template for business plan

Logistics and operations

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

Financial plan

The financial plan (a.k.a. financial statement) offers a breakdown of your sales, revenue, expenses, profit, and other financial metrics. You’ll want to include all the numbers and concrete data to project your current and projected financial state.

In this business plan example, the financial statement for ecommerce brand Nature’s Candy includes forecasted revenue, expenses, and net profit in graphs.

financial plan example

It then goes deeper into the financials, citing:

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

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

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

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

  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials 

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

  • Market research: in depth
  • Financials: in depth

Internal 

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

  • Market research

Feasibility 

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

A strategic (or growth) business plan lays out your long-term vision and goals. This means your predictions stretch further into the future, and you aim for greater growth and revenue. While crafting this document, you use all the parts of a usual business plan but add more to each one:

  • Products and services: for launch and expansion
  • Market analysis: detailed analysis
  • Marketing plan: detailed strategy
  • Logistics and operations plan: detailed plan
  • Financials: detailed projections

Free business plan templates

Now that you’re familiar with what’s included and how to format a business plan, let’s go over a few templates you can fill out or draw inspiration from.

Bplans’ free business plan template

the most popular use of a business plan

Bplans’ free business plan template focuses a lot on the financial side of running a business. It has many pages just for your financial plan and statements. Once you fill it out, you’ll see exactly where your business stands financially and what you need to do to keep it on track or make it better.

PandaDoc’s free business plan template

the most popular use of a business plan

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is detailed and guides you through every section, so you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. Filling it out, you’ll grasp the ins and outs of your business and how each part fits together. It’s also handy because it connects to PandaDoc’s e-signature for easy signing, ideal for businesses with partners or a board.

Miro’s Business Model Canvas Template

Miro's business model canvas template

Miro’s Business Model Canvas Template helps you map out the essentials of your business, like partnerships, core activities, and what makes you different. It’s a collaborative tool for you and your team to learn how everything in your business is linked.

Better business planning equals better business outcomes

Building a business plan is key to establishing a clear direction and strategy for your venture. With a solid plan in hand, you’ll know what steps to take for achieving each of your business goals. Kickstart your business planning and set yourself up for success with a defined roadmap—utilizing the sample business plans above to inform your approach.

Business plan FAQ

What are the 3 main points of a business plan.

  • Concept. Explain what your business does and the main idea behind it. This is where you tell people what you plan to achieve with your business.
  • Contents. Explain what you’re selling or offering. Point out who you’re selling to and who else is selling something similar. This part concerns your products or services, who will buy them, and who you’re up against.
  • Cash flow. Explain how money will move in and out of your business. Discuss the money you need to start and keep the business going, the costs of running your business, and how much money you expect to make.

How do I write a simple business plan?

To create a simple business plan, start with an executive summary that details your business vision and objectives. Follow this with a concise description of your company’s structure, your market analysis, and information about your products or services. Conclude your plan with financial projections that outline your expected revenue, expenses, and profitability.

What is the best format to write a business plan?

The optimal format for a business plan arranges your plan in a clear and structured way, helping potential investors get a quick grasp of what your business is about and what you aim to achieve. Always start with a summary of your plan and finish with the financial details or any extra information at the end.

Want to learn more?

  • Question: Are You a Business Owner or an Entrepreneur?
  • Bootstrapping a Business: 10 Tips to Help You Succeed
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset: 20 Ways to Think Like an Entrepreneur
  • 101+ Best Small Business Software Programs 

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8 Business Plan Templates You Can Get for Free

Author: Kody Wirth

8 min. read

Updated April 10, 2024

A business plan template can be an excellent tool to simplify the creation of your business plan. 

The pre-set structure helps you organize ideas, covers all critical business information, and saves you time and effort on formatting.

The only issue? There are SO many free business plan templates out there. 

So, which ones are actually worth using? 

To help remove the guesswork, I’ve rounded up some of the best business plan templates you can access right now. 

These are listed in no particular order, and each has its benefits and drawbacks.

What to look for in a business plan template

Not all business plan templates are created equal. As you weigh your options and decide which template(s) you’ll use, be sure to review them with the following criteria in mind:

  • Easy to edit: A template should save you time. That won’t be the case if you have to fuss around figuring out how to edit the document, or even worse, it doesn’t allow you to edit at all.
  • Contains the right sections: A good template should cover all essential sections of a business plan , including the executive summary, product/service description, market/competitive analysis, marketing and sales plan, operations, milestones, and financial projections. 
  • Provides guidance: You should be able to trust that the information in a template is accurate. That means the organization or person who created the template is highly credible, known for producing useful resources, and ideally has some entrepreneurial experience.
  • Software compatibility: Lastly, you want any template to be compatible with the software platforms you use. More than likely, this means it’s available in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or PDF format at a minimum. 

1. Bplans — A plan with expert guidance

Preview of Bplans' free business plan template download asset.

Since you’re already on Bplans, I have to first mention the templates that we have available. 

Our traditional and one-page templates were created by entrepreneurs and business owners with over 80 years of collective planning experience. We revisit and update them annually to ensure they are approachable, thorough, and aligned with our team’s evolving best practices.  

The templates, available in Word, PDF, or Google Doc formats, include in-depth guidance on what to include in each section, expert tips, and links to additional resources. 

Plus, we have over 550 real-world sample business plans you can use for guidance when filling out your template.

Download: Traditional lender-ready business plan template or a simple one-page plan template .

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2. SBA — Introduction to business plans

the most popular use of a business plan

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two different business plan templates along with a short planning guide. 

While not incredibly in-depth, it’s enough to help you understand how traditional and lean plans are structured and what information needs to be covered. The templates themselves are more like examples, providing you with a finished product to reference as you write your plan.

The key benefit of using these templates is that they were created by the SBA. While they may provide less guidance, you can be assured that the information and structure meet their expectations.

Explore: The SBA’s planning guide and free templates

3. SCORE — Planning workbook

the most popular use of a business plan

SCORE’s template is more like a workbook. It includes exercises after each section to help you get your ideas down and turn them into a structured plan.

The market research worksheets are especially useful. They provide a clear framework for identifying your target market and analyzing competitors from multiple angles. Plus, they give you an easy way to document all the information you’re collecting.

You will likely have to remove the exercises in this template to make it investor-ready. But it can be worth it if you’re struggling to get past a blank page and want a more interactive planning method.

Download: SCORE’s business plan template

4. PandaDoc — A template with fillable forms

the most popular use of a business plan

PandaDoc’s library offers a variety of industry-specific business plan templates that feature a modern design flair and concise instructions. 

These templates are designed for sharing. They include fillable fields and sections for non-disclosure agreements, which may be necessary when sending a plan to investors.  

But the real benefit is their compatibility with PandaDoc’s platform. Yes, they are free, but if you’re a PandaDoc subscriber, you’ll have far more customization options. 

Out of all their templates, the standard business plan template is the most in-depth. The rest, while still useful, go a bit lighter on guidance in favor of tailoring the plan to a specific industry.

Explore: PandaDoc’s business plan template library  

5. Canva — Pitch with your plan

A sample of the 696 free business plan templates available from Canva. The templates represented here are for a restaurant and two options designed around a minimalist beige aesthetic.

Canva is a great option for building a visually stunning business plan that can be used as a pitch tool. It offers a diverse array of templates built by their in-house team and the larger creative community, meaning the number of options constantly grows.

You will need to verify that the information in the template you choose matches the standard structure of a traditional business plan. 

You should do this with any template, but it’s especially important with any tool that accepts community submissions. While they are likely reviewed and approved, there may still be errors.

Remember, you can only edit these templates within Canva. Luckily, you only need a free subscription, and you may just miss out on some of the visual assets being used. 

To get the most value, it may be best to create a more traditional planning document and transfer that information into Canva. 

Explore: Canva’s business plan gallery

6. ClickUp — The collaborative template

Preview of ClickUp's business plan template within the project management platform. It includes a number of fillable cells to help guide the creation process.

Out of all the project management tools that offer free business plan templates, ClickUp’s is the most approachable.

Rather than throwing you into all the features and expecting you to figure it out—ClickUp provides a thorough startup guide with resource links, images, and videos explaining how to write a plan using the tool. 

There’s also a completed sample plan (structured like an expanded one-page plan) for you to reference and see how the more traditional document can connect to the product management features. You can set goals, target dates, leave comments, and even assign tasks to someone else on your team. 

These features are limited to the ClickUp platform and will not be useful for everyone. They will likely get in the way of writing a plan you can easily share with lenders or investors. 

But this is a great option if you’re looking for a template that makes internal collaboration more fluid and keeps all your information in one place.

Sign Up: Get a free trial of ClickUp and explore their template library

7. Smartsheet — A wide variety of templates

A preview of the Smartsheet business plan template. It provides a preview of the cover page, directory, and small views of the remaining template pages.

I’m including Smartsheet’s library of templates on this list because of the sheer number of options they provide. 

They have a simple business plan template, a one-page plan, a fill-in-the-blank template, a plan outline, a plan grading rubric, and even an Excel-built project plan. All are perfectly usable and vary in visual style, depth of instructions, and the available format.

Honestly, the only drawback (which is also the core benefit) is that the amount of templates can be overwhelming. If you’re already uncertain which plan option is right for you, the lengthy list they provide may not provide much clarity.

At the same time, it can be a great resource if you want a one-stop shop to view multiple plan types.

Explore: Smartsheet’s business plan template library  

8. ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan

Preview of the ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan template. It just represents the cover page of the full template.

I’m adding ReferralRock’s template to this list due to its specificity. 

It’s not your standard business plan template. The plan is tailored with specific sections and guidance around launching an affiliate marketing business. 

Most of the template is dedicated to defining how to choose affiliates, set commissions, create legal agreements, and track performance.

So, if you plan on starting an affiliate marketing business or program, this template will provide more specific guidance. Just know that you will likely need to reference additional resources when writing the non-industry sections of your plan.

Download: ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan template

Does it matter what business plan template you use?

The short answer is no. As long as the structure is correct, it saves you time, and it helps you write your business plan , then any template will work. 

What it ultimately comes down to, is what sort of value you hope to get from the template. 

  • Do you need more guidance? 
  • A simple way to structure your plan? 
  • An option that works with a specific tool?
  • A way to make your plan more visually interesting?

Hopefully, this list has helped you hone in on an option that meets one (or several) of these needs. Still, it may be worth downloading a few of these templates to determine the right fit. 

And really, what matters most is that you spend time writing a business plan . It will help you avoid early mistakes, determine if you have a viable business, and fully consider what it will take to get up and running. 

If you need additional guidance, check out our library of planning resources . We cover everything from plan formats , to how to write a business plan, and even how to use it as a management tool . 

If you don’t want to waste time researching other templates, you can download our one-page or traditional business plan template and jump right into the planning process.

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

Content Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.

Start stronger by writing a quick business plan. Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Qualities of a good template
  • ReferralRock
  • Does the template matter?

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24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

the most popular use of a business plan

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The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
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Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

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

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

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

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

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

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

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

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

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

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

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

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

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

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

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

4. Target Audience

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

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

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

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

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

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

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

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

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

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

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

7. Pricing and Revenue

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

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

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

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

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

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

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

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

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

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

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

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

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

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

3. Internal Use

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

4. Strategic Initiatives

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

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

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

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

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

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

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

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

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

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

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

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

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

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

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

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

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

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

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

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

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

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

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

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

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

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

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

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

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

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

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

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

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

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

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

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

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

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

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

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

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

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

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

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

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

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

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

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

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

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

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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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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11.4 The Business Plan

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the different purposes of a business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a full business plan

Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.

Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.

As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Business Plan Overview

Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.

Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.

The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.

Purposes of a Business Plan

A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.

Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.

A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.

You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.

Link to Learning

Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.

If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.

Types of Business Plans

The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.

Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary

As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.

A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.

In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.

Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.

The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.

Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .

Are You Ready?

Create a brief business plan.

Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.

  • These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
  • Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?

Full Business Plan

Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.

Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.

Business Description

This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.

Industry Analysis and Market Strategies

Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.

Operations and Management Plan

In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.

Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.

Marketing Plan

Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.

Financial Plan

A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.

Entrepreneur In Action

Laughing man coffee.

Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.

A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.

Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.

  • You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
  • Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
  • What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?

What Can You Do?

Textbooks for change.

Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?

Work It Out

Franchisee set out.

A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.

  • What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
  • Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?

This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.

  • 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
  • 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” Foundr.com . July 12, 2015. https://foundr.com/4-startup-case-studies-failure/
  • 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2017/02/15/inventor-of-the-cut-buddy-paid-youtubers-to-spark-sales-he-wasnt-ready-for-a-video-to-go-viral/#3eb540ce798a
  • 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6902-business-plan-competitions-entrepreneurs.html
  • 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf
  • 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2019-RBPC-Competition-Rules%20-Format.pdf
  • 54 Foodstart. http://foodstart.com
  • 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018. https://givingcompass.org/article/hugh-jackman-journey-to-starting-a-social-enterprise-coffee-company/

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  • Authors: Michael Laverty, Chris Littel
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LeBron James can opt out of the final year of his current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers and become a free agent this summer. What he decides to do will represent one of the first big dominoes to fall in the Lakers’ offseason.

Many, if not most, believe he will stay with the Lakers. However, given the power he wields between himself and his representation at Klutch Sports, he may ask the team to do him a favor or two for him to stay.

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Adrian Wojnarowski, another ESPN reporter, said recently that playing on the same team with his son isn’t really a top priority for the elder James.

Los Angeles is slated to have the No. 17 pick in June’s draft. But according to the terms of the Anthony Davis trade in 2019, the New Orleans Pelicans can take either its first-rounder this year or next year. It is believed they will elect to take L.A.’s 2025 first-rounder.

This summer, the Lakers can trade up to three first-round draft picks and offer additional pick swaps in order to acquire the type of third star player that could make them championship contenders. Perhaps that would be more enticing to James than getting to be teammates with his son.

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Everyone hates Workday

It creates mountains of busywork for everyone. So why does half of the Fortune 500 use it?

If you've hunted for a job in the past decade or so, you've likely encountered the following obstacle course. Applying to a desired role online, you're greeted with a login prompt. The employer is asking you to create a profile to apply? Annoying, but you go ahead.

You're given a long form to fill out with the information that's already on your résumé. In a world where we can all attach PDFs, this seems unnecessary, but — ah, phew — the form promises to autofill the entries if you simply drag your résumé over, and — oh, crap. It loads all wrong. Your work experience is scattered across the lines that want your name and address. Your address, truncated, is where your college degree should be. It's a mess. You find it's easier to delete it all and manually type in each entry. How obnoxious.

Soon after, applying to a different job at a different company, you click through and see the same form. You recognize the logo at the top of the page: a blue W with a yellow arch cresting above it. Is the arch a … frown? Geez. But you'd set up a user ID to apply to the previous job, so this should be — huh? It wants an entirely new ID. New company, new profile, new form. Oof. Surely it saved your application entries from the other job, right? Nope. Does the autofill work this time? Of course it doesn't. Another half-hour of formatting and you're done with the application — and so done with whichever confounding organization decided to execute these tasks this way.

Then you find another job opening and — no. No! So the logo is a frown.

The company devising this torture that is the modern job application is called Workday. Since 2006, Workday, which provides software for payroll, talent management, and expense processing, has been making a mint creating misery where painless processes could be. More than half of the Fortune 500 companies use Workday to pay, hire, onboard, and administer benefits to their employees. Clients range from Netflix to Goodwill, Spotify to The Washington Post, Chick-fil-A to Ohio State University. Trillions of dollars in revenue and tens of millions of employees are at the mercy of Workday's back-end people-management software. The company is worth some $70 billion, a market cap greater than that of FedEx, Nintendo, or Honda.

LinkedIn, Reddit, and Blind abound with enraged job applicants and employees sharing tales of how difficult it is to book leave, how Kafkaesque it is to file an expense.

Few seem happy about this. LinkedIn, Reddit, and Blind abound with enraged job applicants and employees sharing tales of how difficult it is to book paid leave, how Kafkaesque it is to file an expense, how nerve-racking it is to close out a project. "I simply hate Workday. Fuck them and those who insist on using it for recruitment," one Reddit user wrote. "Everything is non-intuitive, so even the simplest tasks leave me scratching my head," wrote another. "Keeping notes on index cards would be more effective." Every HR professional and hiring manager I spoke with — whose lives are supposedly made easier by Workday — described Workday with a sense of cosmic exasperation. "It's like constantly being botsmacked by bureaucracy incarnate," said a copy director at an AI startup in San Francisco who had the misfortune of having to hire contractors through Workday. He went on: "Getting someone onboarded using Workday is like trying to get water from your sink to your stove using a colander." The X account Work Day Failing tracks memes and news articles describing workers and companies suffering within various circles of Workday hell, from Amazon's failed migration to Workday in 2021 (after which Workday's stock dropped by 7%) to an ongoing class-action lawsuit that alleges Workday uses AI to discriminate against candidates based on race, age, and disability. ("We believe this lawsuit is without merit and deny the allegations," said a Workday spokesperson. "Workday does not have oversight or control of our customers' job application processes.")

If candidates hate Workday, if employees hate Workday, if HR people and managers processing and assessing those candidates and employees through Workday hate Workday — if Workday is the most annoying part of so many workers' workdays — how is Workday everywhere? How did a software provider so widely loathed become a mainstay of the modern workplace?

The answer, to use a term that any client of Workday could surely use, is POSIWID. This is a saying in systems thinking: The purpose of a system is what it does (POSIWID), not what it fails to do. And the reality is that what Workday — and its many despised competitors — does for organizations is far more important than the anguish it causes everyone else.

Of the 160 million Americans with jobs, about 130 million of us aren't self-employed or don't own a business and so receive wages and health-insurance plans through our employers. Serving these 130 million people are roughly 1 million human-resources professionals. That's an impossible shit ton of hirings, firings, withheld taxes, expenses, paid leaves, orientation trainings, and professional-growth reviews to keep track of. It's a world of paperwork that software is eager to eat.

In the late 20th century, companies moved more and more of that recordkeeping from filing cabinets to mainframe computers and then to servers. In 1988, PeopleSoft , backed by IBM, built the first fully fledged Human Resources Information System. In 2004, Oracle acquired PeopleSoft for $10.3 billion. One of its founders, David Duffield, then started a new company that upgraded PeopleSoft's model to near limitless cloud-based storage — giving birth to Workday, the intractable nepo baby of HR software.

Unlike its predecessors, Workday stores our applications and profiles as objects that relate to each other, linked with metadata. How this works is less important than the fact that it means Workday could conceivably build its own encrypted database of our information, across our different jobs and applications. When you leave Spotify to go work at Netflix, your profile could follow you, allowing you to more easily apply to the job. The multiplying powers of tech could scale to free us of our busy work, as promised.

But Workday's servers belong with its clients, and so it can't (or won't) do this. Does Workday want to carry the liability of a data breach that could damage half of the Fortune 500? Probably not. A Workday spokesperson said that Workday's clients "configure the application process for each job to fit their unique hiring processes and needs." She added, "Our customers retain control over their own data."

This raises another point: Workday is indifferent to our suffering in a job hunt, because we aren't Workday's clients, companies are. And these companies — from AT&T to Bank of America to Teladoc — have little incentive to care about your application experience, because if you didn't get the job, you're not their responsibility. For a company hiring and onboarding on a global scale, it is simply easier to screen fewer candidates if the result is still a single hire.

Also, because Workday is a jack of all trades program (recruiting and finance and company-wide planning etc. etc.), the supposed convenience of an all-in-one platform often come at the cost of creating frustrating new problems for clients. At one major university last year, migrating its IT — including 11,000 outstanding invoices — to Workday became a full-blown fiasco . A search on a job board can return hundreds of listings for in-house Workday consultants: IT and engineering professionals hired to fix the software promising to fix processes.

Bureaucratic hell is always about one person's ease coming at the cost of someone else's frustration, time wasted, and busy work.

For recruiters, Workday also lacks basic user-interface flexibility. When you promise ease-of-use and simplicity, you must deliver on the most basic user interactions. And yet: Sometimes searching for a candidate, or locating a candidate's status feels impossible. This happens outside of recruiting, too, where locating or attaching a boss's email to approve an expense sheet is complicated by the process, not streamlined. Bureaucratic hell is always about one person's ease coming at the cost of someone else's frustration, time wasted, and busy work. Workday makes no exceptions.

Workday touts its ability to track employee performance by collecting data and marking results, but it is employees who must spend time inputting this data. A creative director at a Fortune 500 company told me how in less than two years his company went "from annual reviews to twice-annual reviews to quarterly reviews to quarterly reviews plus separate twice-annual reviews." At each interval higher-ups pressed HR for more data, because they wanted what they'd paid for with Workday: more work product. With a press of a button, HR could provide that, but the entire company suffered thousands more hours of busy work. Automation made it too easy to do too much. (Workday's "customers choose the frequency at which they conduct reviews, not Workday," said the spokesperson.)

Of course, Workday has innumerable competitors, their names as ridiculous as their sheer volume. We have Dayforce, Zenefits, and Sage. We must not confuse Paycom with Paycor, or Kudos with Kudoboard. How dare you mistake Namely or Cornerstone for Rippling. Beyond standard HR Information Systems, legions of niche operators offer add-ons to boost employee engagement, from Bonusly (really) to BucketList (sad but true), to Motivosity (yes).

Are any of these better, or are they all maligned? As easily as you can find a founder who hates UKG Pro but loves Rippling you can find a similar rant from another founder ripping Rippling a new one. HR and payroll and recruiting are unenviable tasks, and not easy even before scale. At the scale of a large company, this is simply too much work to expect a few people to do and far too user-specific to expect automation to handle well. It's why Workday can be the worst while still allowing that Paychex is the worst , Paycom is the worst , Paycor is the worst , and Dayforce is the worst . "HR software sucking" is a big tent.

The writer and tech critic Cory Doctorow coined the term "enshittification" to describe how internet platforms inevitably decay. First, platforms are good to their users, creating value (Facebook, where people can connect and share their lives with one another). Then they abuse their users to make money for their actual customers, advertisers or businesses (Facebook, where we sell your data to inundate you with ads). Then they abuse those business customers to try to recoup revenue for themselves (Facebook, pivoting to video). Then platforms die.

Workday finds itself between enshittification steps two and three. The platform once made things faster, simpler for workers. But today it abuses workers by cutting corners on job-application and reimbursement procedures. In the process, it provides the value of a one-stop HR shop to its paying customers. It seems it's only a matter of time before Workday and its competitors try to split the difference and cut those same corners with the accounts that pay their bills.

Workday reveals what's important to the people who run Fortune 500 companies: easily and conveniently distributing busy work across large workforces. This is done with the arbitrary and perfunctory performance of work tasks (like excessive reviews) and with the throttling of momentum by making finance and HR tasks difficult. If your expenses and reimbursements are difficult to file, that's OK, because the people above you don't actually care if you get reimbursed. If it takes applicants 128% longer to apply , the people who implemented Workday don't really care. Throttling applicants is perhaps not intentional, but it's good for the company.

Customer service is Workday's goal. It's just that the customer isn't you.

I once worked at a cocktail lounge with a creaky board behind the bar, and the owner refused to fix it. We all complained nonstop about the board, but never about him. He'd seemed to realize the same net benefit that Workday and all of its love-to-hate-them competitors provide us in the modern workplace: Nothing brings people together like a common enemy.

Matt Alston 's writing has appeared in Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Believer. He trained as a civil engineer, and now works as a copywriter in tech. He lives in Maine with his wife and daughter.

About Discourse Stories

Through our Discourse journalism, Business Insider seeks to explore and illuminate the day’s most fascinating issues and ideas. Our writers provide thought-provoking perspectives, informed by analysis, reporting, and expertise. Read more Discourse stories here .

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Best Cloud Storage Services: Personal & Business Storage Providers in 2024

Cloudwards.net may earn a small commission from some purchases made through our site. However, any earnings do not affect how we review services. Learn more about our editorial integrity and research process .

the most popular use of a business plan

Choosing the best cloud storage provider is difficult. This guide shows the 10 top cloud storage services for cost, safety and collaboration features, covering personal cloud storage and business file storage solutions.

Ben Stockton

Last Updated: 03 Apr'24 2024-04-03T08:37:49+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

  • Sync.com — Top cloud storage pick for sharing, versioning, large files, iPhone and more
  • pCloud — Best online storage pick for Windows, Mac, Linux and music  
  • Icedrive — Top cloud drive with excellent speeds
  • MEGA — Very secure service with the most free cloud storage (20GB)
  • IDrive — Best cloud storage-online backup hybrid
  • OneDrive — Best cloud storage service for Office integration
  • Google Drive — Top pick for integrated apps and students
  • Koofr — Top pick for multiple cloud accounts
  • Dropbox — Best pick for cloud collaboration
  • Box — Great pick for business cloud storage

the most popular use of a business plan

  • Excellent security
  • Competitive pricing
  • Unlimited file sizes
  • User interface needs work
  • Slower sync speeds

Welcome to our updated 2024 guide to the best cloud storage services. Cloudwards.net has been conducting cloud storage reviews for several years now, and in that time much has changed.

Competition between big corporate players like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, and the emergence of privacy-oriented providers like Sync.com, pCloud and MEGA, has been a boon for consumers. To save you some time we have a list of what we think are the top players for your money.

Find the best cloud storage provider for your needs:

  • 1000 GB / 1TB
  • 2000 GB / 2TB
  • 3000 GB / 3TB or more
  • Basic encryption is fine
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Sync Folder
  • File Link Sharing
  • Folder Sharing
  • Subscription
  • one-time payment

Logo: Icedrive

Updated to remove IDrive’s discontinued free plan and add its new 30-day free trial.

Updated to reflect news about MEGA’s encryption.

Updated to reflect an increase in IDrive’s free plan to 10GB of storage.

Cloudwards.net updated the top 10 cloud storage services rankings, including IDrive in the list, removing iCloud and adjusting other providers.

We added new information about Sync.com’s integration with Microsoft Office.

Updated with new video ranking.

Updated to reflect changes in Icedrive’s pricing plans and storage offers

The Best Cloud Storage Comparison

How we chose the best cloud storage.

When we review a service, we run tests for around a week, testing all of its features to see if they work as advertised. We analyze the service’s security, including encryption protocols and secure storage methods. Finally, we run technical tests to see how they perform in terms of speed, RAM and CPU usage.

Security and privacy are Cloudwards’ priority when it comes to cloud storage, so we give zero-knowledge services a much greater score than those that don’t offer it. Our experts take great care to parse through the complex legal implications of the services privacy policies and the privacy laws of countries where they keep their servers.

Cloud Storage Courses

Check out our cloud storage courses and grab a limited-time offer. Registration available now!

We take a number of other factors into consideration as well, but we’ll go into more detail on that after the list. If you’re particularly interested in cloud storage speeds, we have custom data that shows a performance comparison of the top providers below . Our analysis of 12 top cloud services showed that around half of them perform better than you’d expect.

If you are still figuring out how to best pick the right service for you, we have a handy video guide, below.

The Top 10 Cloud Storage Providers for 2024

Without further ado, here are the 10 best cloud storage service providers on the market right now.

1. Sync.com – Best Secure Cloud Storage

sync-versioning

More Details About Sync.com:

  • Pricing: 5GB free, 2TB for $96 per year ($8 per month)
  • Number of devices: 5 on Individual Plans
  • Website: Sync.com
  • Excellent value
  • Secure cloud storage
  • Easy to use
  • Slower than some rivals

Sync.com is our choice for the best cloud service, hitting the top spot in many of our cloud storage lists. It’s one of the most secure cloud services out there, and it keeps improving its service and adding new features as the service matures and grows. Sync also won our cloud storage pricing comparison .

Security & Collaboration in One Package

To start with, Sync.com comes with zero-knowledge encryption as standard. This means that if there was a security breach or the authorities demanded access to your account, the intruder would only see scrambled data because you’re the only one holding the encryption key.

To add to this, Sync.com offers advanced sharing controls, including passwords, download limits and expiry dates for sharing links. Plus, Sync.com allows you to create and edit Microsoft Office documents (including Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents) in a privacy-friendly collaboration environment, without breaking zero-knowledge encryption.

Sync.com Pricing & Free Storage

Pricing is where Sync.com truly shines. Sync.com comes with 5GB free storage , which isn’t much, but it’s enough to try the service out. However, its paid plans are some of the cheapest around. For just $8 per month (paid annually), you get 2TB of storage space.

get sync.com free storage

For comparison, the same amount of file storage from Dropbox is $9.99 a month. In fact, there is no provider in our top 10 that offers 2TB of storage for a lower price.

The only flaw we can find with Sync.com is that it’s slow. In fact, it was one of the worst performers in our fastest cloud storage list , so if you’re impatient, Sync.com might not be for you.

However, all in all, Sync.com is a great online storage provider at a price you’ll be hard-pressed to beat. It also has a good number of features, as well as support for Windows 10 and Mac users. If you want to learn more, take a look at our Sync.com review .

  • Price per user
  • Unlimited GB

2. pCloud – Best Multi-Platform Cloud Storage

pCloud-Web-Interface-Files

More Details About pCloud:

  • Pricing: 10GB free, 2TB for $95.88 per year ($7.99 per month)
  • Number of devices: Unlimited
  • Website: pCloud.com
  • Choice of encryption levels
  • Clever virtual drive
  • EU servers available
  • Zero-knowledge encryption isn’t free
  • No document integration

You’ll often see us praise pCloud in our cloud storage reviews, and it’s not hard to see why. It has a number of unique features wrapped in a sleek and secure package. Plus, it offers great pricing, putting it alongside Sync.com .

Top-Shelf Media & Sharing Capabilities

pCloud is a great option for media lovers . That’s thanks to features offered in the embedded pCloud music player, which automatically crates playlists by artist, album or folder. Its video player is also fairly advanced, even letting you change playback speed and convert video files to other formats.

If you’re running out of media storage space on your device, pCloud’s virtual drive will come in handy. pCloud can mount a virtual drive on your device (similar to Local Disk (C:)) which uses your cloud storage instead of your hard drive’s storage.

If you’re a creator that loves to post on social media, pCloud lets you back up images that you previously uploaded to your socials as part of its backup feature. This feature also lets you back up your entire device to the cloud, or even move all your files from another cloud service to pCloud.

get pcloud lifetime storage

What Is pCloud Crypto?

pCloud doesn’t offer zero-knowledge encryption out of the box, which is a downside. You’d have to pay $3.99 per month for this protection — called pCloud Crypto — although it is included for free with business plans. However, pCloud Crypto is a little different from the kind of encryption you’ll see other providers offer.

With pCloud Crypto, you get a specific folder to store your files that you want to be protected with zero-knowledge encryption. Anything outside of pCloud Crypto can still be read by pCloud’s servers, allowing you to preview files or play content from within the app.

pCloud and Sync.com fight hard to be the top-value services in this list, so take a look at our Sync.com vs pCloud head-to-head article. Also consider that pCloud lets you can save money by signing up for a pCloud Lifetime account , giving you online storage that remains yours — forever. 

  • Price per user (minimum 3)
  • Encryption for pCloud Drive

3. Icedrive – Fastest Online Cloud Storage

01_icedrive_review_browser_encrypted

More Details About Icedrive:

  • Pricing: 10GB free, 1TB for $71.88 per year ( $5.99 per month)
  • Website: Icedrive.net
  • Secure Twofish algorithm
  • Preview encrypted files
  • Zero knowledge isn’t free
  • Limited choice of plans

Icedrive is a new entry on our list, and it’s a provider you may not have heard of before. That’s not surprising, given it has only been in operation since 2019. It’s been making waves, though, with highly competitive pricing and some interesting features that set it apart from some of its more established rivals.

Novel Encryption Methods & Zero-Knowledge Security

One of the biggest differences from the other providers on our list is that Icedrive doesn’t use the industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption. Instead, it uses an algorithm called Twofish.

Twofish was one of the final contenders for the Advanced Encryption Standard contest at the turn of the century. Some consider Twofish to be more secure (if sometimes slower) than the eventual winner, Rijndael (now known simply as AES). Icedrive points out that the current standard is backed by the NSA — make of that what you will, but don’t let it scare you just yet.

Paid accounts include zero-knowledge encryption as standard, so files should be safe from prying eyes. Unlike most other zero-knowledge providers, Icedrive lets you preview certain files by streaming them in encrypted form to your computer, where they are then decrypted on the fly. 

Icedrive also offers two-factor authentication (2FA) and it has a no-nonsense privacy policy that rules out most problematic behaviors. As a UK-based company, Icedrive is governed by stringent GDPR regulations.

Icedrive Online Storage Pricing & Lifetime Plans

get icedrive lifetime storage

One of the biggest selling points of Icedrive is the price, though. If you pay annually, 1TB of storage costs just $5.99 . If you need more space, the next tier up gives you 3TB of cloud file storage for $10.99 per month (for accounts paid annually). That’s quite a big jump, which might be costly for some users, but you can also opt for a lifetime subscription.

That may or may not be a risk, though, especially given how new of a provider Icedrive is. Still, if you’re looking for a highly secure provider and need less than 1TB of storage space, then Icedrive is a great option. Check out our Icedrive review for more details.

  • Bandwidth limit: 50GB
  • Bandwidth limit: 250GB
  • Bandwidth limit: 2TB
  • Bandwidth limit: 8TB
  • Additional 128GB storage for users who purchased the Lifetime Plan
  • Additional 512GB storage for users who purchased the Lifetime Plan

4. MEGA – Best Free Cloud Storage

05_mega_review_pricing_rewards

More Details About MEGA:

  • Pricing: 20GB free, 2TB for $122 per year (around $10 per month)
  • Website: MEGA.io
  • No U.S. servers
  • Great free storage
  • Time-limited rewards
  • Ownership concerns

If you’re worried about privacy with other free cloud storage providers, like Google (our number seven pick), you can go for a provider at the other end of the privacy spectrum: MEGA. Although MEGA’s colorful founder Kim Dotcom has had run-ins with the law, he’s no longer part of the company. MEGA’s focus is security, so zero-knowledge encryption is the absolute standard, with nobody but you having access to your files. 

A Truly Secure Cloud Storage Service

In terms of privacy, MEGA has servers in Canada, New Zealand and Europe — it’s one of the best cloud storage for Europe . They’re all locations that have reasonable privacy laws that, as you might have noticed, is exactly why no data is held on American servers. 

Because MEGA uses zero-knowledge encryption, it can’t read any of the files that you store, but it does keep some of your metadata (like IP logins) to monitor access. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the recent report that found serious problems with MEGA’s encryption process. Still, we feel confident recommending it as an overall secure and private service.

There is also some controversy about how much of MEGA’s stock is owned by people under the influence of the Chinese government, which could be a concern for some users. You can read more about this in our MEGA review .

Best Cloud Storage: Free 20GB

get mega cloud storage

MEGA is a good option for users who want a free storage cloud account. In 2021, it increased its free file storage space from 15GB to 20GB. Plus, you can extend your free space by completing various tasks — like installing the desktop and mobile apps — but that extra space expires after a year.

Although its paid plans aren’t the cheapest cloud storage options out there, at the end of the day, the base 20GB still blows its free cloud storage rivals away, earning it the fifth spot on our list. The good news is that, even if you don’t pay for a MEGA subscription, free accounts get full access to the privacy and protection that MEGA’s encrypted cloud storage provides.

If lifetime plans is what you’re looking for, pCloud, Internxt and Icedrive has got your back.

  • File transfer: 2TB (Monthly plan) 24TB (yearly plan)
  • File transfer: (monthly plan) 96TB (yearly plan)
  • File transfer: 16TB (monthly plan) 192TB (yearly plan)

5. IDrive – Best Value Cloud Storage

IDrive desktop app sync tab

More Details About IDrive:

  • Pricing: 10GB free, 5TB for $6.22 per month (two-year plan)
  • Provider website: idrive.com
  • Both backup & cloud storage
  • Packed with features
  • No monthly plan

IDrive is a unique option, offering a hybrid solution for both cloud storage and online backup — it’s actually our number one pick for online backup, a fact that it owes mostly to its incredibly affordable prices and incredible wealth of features. 

Hybrid Cloud Storage & Backup With IDrive

Besides all the backup features like disk-imaging and courier recovery that we won’t spend too much time on here — check out our IDrive review for that — it also boasts proper file sync and share features that earns it a spot on this list.

You can designate any folder on your device as a sync folder, and you can move them wherever you want. There’s also selective sync, which can save you a lot of time and bandwidth if there are certain large files you want to exclude. In comparison, the file-sharing is a bit bare-bones, though you can set access privileges on the share-links that you create. 

Although IDrive works great as traditional cloud storage, online backup is its bread and butter. That means that unlike other entries on this list, IDrive is an excellent solution for backing up your entire device automatically, since you won’t have to manually move things you want to protect into a sync folder. 

Affordable Cloud Storage Pricing Plans

get idrive first year discount

One of the best aspects of IDrive is just how much storage you get for such a cheap price. IDrive’s personal plans are incredibly generous considering how much storage you get.

For example, the two cheapest plans offer 5TB and 10TB of storage — which is a lot — for just $6.22 per month (two-year plan) and $6.22 per month on the two-year plan respectively. 

The only downside here is that you have to sign up for a full year, but if you’re a first-time user, you can get an even bigger discount by using our IDrive promo code . It also has a free 30-day trial, so you can test it first.

  • No credit card required.
  • One user, multiple computers. Plans starting from 5TB up to 100TB. Big discount for first-time signup.
  • 5 computers, 5 users. Starting at 5TB up to 500TB. Big discount for first-time signup.
  • Unlimited users, multiple computers and servers. NAS devices. 250GB storage. Starting at 250GB up to 50TB. Large discount for first-time signup.

6. OneDrive – Best Personal Cloud Storage

onedrive-splash-2

More Details About OneDrive:

  • Pricing: 5GB free, 1TB for $6.99 per month
  • Website: microsoft.com/microsoft-365/onedrive
  • Excellent collaboration tools
  • Great integrated apps
  • A large variety of features
  • Generous free storage
  • No zero-knowledge encryption
  • Limited file versioning

There are big names in cloud computing, and then there’s Microsoft. There isn’t a market in computing that Microsoft hasn’t tried to dominate, and it’s not surprising that it has an online storage offering in its OneDrive service, which offers seamless integration with other Microsoft services, such as Office. It’s even integrated into Windows itself.

Collaborate Easily With Microsoft Office & OneDrive

Office integration is the biggest selling point for OneDrive users — or rather, the collaboration benefits that come from a combined Office and OneDrive service. A Microsoft 365 Personal subscription (previously Office 365) includes 1TB of OneDrive storage, but it also comes with full desktop versions of Office apps, with Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint thrown in. 

These Office apps make collaborating on documents simple. You can share any of your documents stored in the cloud, and multiple users can work on them together in real time. Any changes are instantly visible to all other co-authors and automatically saved to the cloud.

You never have to worry about losing that 90-page thesis to a hard drive failure ever again. With a Microsoft Personal subscription, you can install Office on up to five different devices, allowing you to share the service across an entire family or household. You can learn more about these collaboration options in our OneDrive review .

The collaboration features come at a cost, though. OneDrive doesn’t have zero-knowledge encryption, so your information is visible to Microsoft and anyone else who gains access to its servers, legally or not. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that as a U.S. company, Microsoft servers are based stateside, so your data is subject to intrusive laws, such as the Freedom Act.

OneDrive Family & Business Plans

get onedrive family cloud storage

You can take things a step further with a Microsoft Family 365 subscription, which gives users 1TB of storage for up to six people at just $8.33 a month (paid annually). This can save you a small fortune on storage and productivity apps for the family, making it a good value option.

OneDrive also has some excellent business options that  make it our favorite value product in our list of the top enterprise file sync and share providers (where a business online storage provider like Egnyte reigns). With Office and Windows integration, as well as pretty good pricing, OneDrive is certainly a provider we can recommend with confidence.

  • For one person
  • Comes with Office 365 Personal
  • Comes with Office 365 Home

7. Google Drive – Best File Cloud Storage

04_Google_Drive_Review_Features_marketplace

More Details About Google Drive:

  • Pricing: 15GB free, 2TB for $99.99 per year ($8.33 per year)
  • Website: google.com/drive
  • Privacy concerns

If you want a similar experience to OneDrive, you may want to try Google Drive. Like Microsoft’s service, Google offers storage that integrates well with its own suite of office applications, which serve to replace the Microsoft Office experience in full — and do so pretty well, too.

An Endless List of App Integrations

You can collaborate in real time using Google Docs, leave comments and roll-back changes, thanks to Google’s built-in versioning features. Only OneDrive and Dropbox can really rival Google Drive for collaboration, and you can check out our Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive article to see how they compare.

There’s an entire marketplace of other Google Drive apps, so you can integrate other productivity apps, grammar checkers and more. You can also use Google Drive with other apps, including Google Calendar and Google Keep, a simple note-taking app. You can quickly compare how it matches from other basic platforms like Simplenote .

Google Drive Free Storage & Pricing

These kinds of integrations make Google Drive our top choice as the best online cloud provider for integrated apps, but it shines in other areas, too. If you have a Gmail account, you’re already using Google Drive, with 15GB of free storage thrown in, although its pricing is reasonable if you require more.

gdrive cta

Google Drive is the best cloud storage for students and free users, for good reasons. Unlike some of the other providers we’ll mention, free users gain almost all of the same features that come with paid subscriptions. Powerful collaboration options in a free product help Google Drive to come out to be one of the best in this list.

If you’re curious about Google Drive pricing, then you can add 100GB of extra storage for a very reasonable $2 a month. There are some downsides, though. As you can read in our Google Drive review , there’s no zero-knowledge encryption, which is particularly concerning given that Google is not renowned for having the greatest policies when it comes to your personal data .

The price you pay for accessing the collaboration tools and app integrations is that Google will scan the contents of anything you upload to Google Drive; it has full access to read, catalogue and use that data. You’ll need to decide for yourself whether you’re willing to give up some privacy to benefit from the useful tools that Google offers.

  • *The plan is "hidden." To find the 200GB plan, you need to be subscribed to one of the other plans, upgrade or downgrade to the 200GB through your account's settings.

8. Koofr  – Top Online Provider for Multiple Cloud Accounts

05_koofr_review_mobile_app_menu

More Details About Koofr:

  • Pricing: 10GB free, 1TB for $10.85 per month
  • Website: Koofr.eu
  • Links to other cloud accounts
  • Virtual drive
  • Integrates with Microsoft Office 365
  • More expensive than some

It’s by no means a household name, but Koofr offers some features that set it apart from the other providers on our list. As a downside, Koofr isn’t the cheapest, as our Koofr review will explain. It has some very cheap plans that offer 100GB of storage or less, as well as a free 10GB plan.

Manage Multiple Cloud Storage Services

One of the most useful is the ability to link it to other cloud storage services. Currently, you can connect accounts from Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, allowing you to mix and match your services in one place. Still, with other big platforms available, this is only a minor blip in a pretty unique offering from Koofr.

Once you’ve connected your accounts, you can access all your remote files at once, letting you move and copy files between each of your linked accounts, as well as search for files across all platforms. Any files stored in your other cloud accounts won’t count against your Koofr storage quota.

Great Privacy, Lacking Security

Unfortunately, this level of access between services does mean that Koofr lacks the kind of zero-knowledge encryption that privacy-focused providers offer. Still, Koofr’s servers are based in Germany, so your data falls under much stronger EU privacy laws. Koofr does offer 2FA to help keep your data safe in the event that your password is hacked, though.

Koofr integrates with Microsoft Office 365, though this feature has a few limitations. Free accounts can create an Office document but only paid accounts can edit it. Plus, Koofr doesn’t let you set editing permissions for files (only for folders), so you can’t really collaborate with other people on documents.

Get Koofr Lifetime

You’ll pay around $10.85 per month for 1TB of storage (prices are in euros, so conversion rates will fluctuate). This is costly, compared to Sync.com or pCloud, which offer double the storage for a similar cost. If you don’t need a huge amount of space but want to have all your cloud accounts in one place, then it’s worth taking a look at Koofr.

  • *Prices in Euro

9. Dropbox – Best Cloud Data Storage

dropbox-menu

More Details About Dropbox:

  • Pricing: 2GB free, 2TB for $203.88 per year ($16.99 per month)
  • Number of devices: 3 to unlimited
  • Website: Dropbox.com
  • Collaboration with both Office & Google
  • Not the cheapest

Dropbox may not have been the first cloud storage service, but it was the first to really bring the idea into the mainstream. More than a decade after its launch, it’s still going strong, with only Google Drive having a larger market share. Dropbox also has the name recognition that providers like Sync.com can only dream of at present.

One of the Best Cloud Storage Services for Collaboration

One of the reasons why Dropbox is still so popular is the excellent collaboration it offers, which is why Dropbox Business is one of our top recommendations in our cloud storage for collaboration shortlist. 

You can launch and collaborate on both Microsoft and Google documents with Dropbox, making it a good solution for users who need to use both services. Both formats work seamlessly, allowing you to co-author documents in real time, which are then automatically saved to the cloud.

The excellent collaboration tools come at a cost in two ways. First off, this integration is only possible because Dropbox’s servers can access your files, due to the lack of zero-knowledge encryption. Dropbox has had security breaches in the past, which we discuss in our Dropbox review . This could be a red flag for some users, and for good reason.

Dropbox homepage 2021

Dropbox is also more expensive than some of the other providers in this list, with 2TB of storage costing $9.99 per month if you pay annually. If you’re looking for information on Dropbox’s business storage plans that are paid per user, you can find out more in our Dropbox Business review .

Save Hard Drive Space With Dropbox Smart Sync

To help users save up on space, Dropbox introduced “smart sync”, which allows you to set all of your files and folders to be either stored locally or online-only. The online-only files still show up in your Dropbox folder, but they don’t take up any space. 

For many users looking for the best cloud storage with sync, Dropbox continues to be a good choice. Its pricing and a lack of encryption could put you off, as could historical data breaches, but features like “smart sync” show that Dropbox continues to innovate, and it still remains one of the greatest services for users who are looking to collaborate on documents.

  • 1 user Signature requests and eSignature templates
  • 3 users minimum

10. Box – Best Online Cloud Storage for Businesses

best efss services box

More Details About Box:

  • Pricing: 10GB for free, 100GB for $14 per month or $120 per year
  • Website: box.com
  • Strong collaboration options
  • Google Workspace and Microsoft Office integrations
  • Great security
  • Primarily business focused
  • Private key management costs extra

Although Box is a cloud storage provider that focuses on businesses, it still offers two plans for personal users — one free and one paid. Due to its nature as a business-focused storage option, Box comes packed to the brim with advanced features. Everything from strong collaboration options to two-factor authentication, note-taking and project management is present, which makes for a solid list of features.

The one thing that is missing out of the box (we’ll show ourselves out) is private key management — the main requirement for zero-knowledge privacy. This is a feature that you have to pay extra for with Box, and the company won’t even tell you the price unless you contact them directly.

Collaboration With Box

The clear standout feature of Box is the long list of collaboration options it offers to users. The two most important integrations for this are obviously there, namely Google Workspace and Microsoft Office, but Box goes far beyond these two popular options. 

Instead of forcing you into the apps themselves, Box lets you edit and collaborate on documents directly from its own software, and this even extends to the mobile version. If you ever find yourself needing to edit a text or spreadsheet while on the move, Box is one of the few cloud storage options that let you do this directly from your mobile device.

Pricing That’s Hard to Swallow

get box cloud storage

By far the biggest drawback to Box is its frankly absurd price. As mentioned, there are only two plans available for personal users. The first is free and gives you access to 10GB of storage and most of Box’s features. However, the paid plan is a terrible value for money if all you want is storage. A mere 100GB will cost you $14 per month or $120 per year, which is outrageously expensive.

If you’re more concerned with collaboration and security than you are with price and storage space, then Box is an excellent cloud storage solution. If that’s not the case, you’re better off with any of the options presented above. For a deeper dive into the service’s pros and cons, check out our Box Review .

  • Single user
  • Price per user, minimum of three users
  • Users: No limit

How Does Cloud Storage Work?

Cloud storage is a way of storing your files and folders on online servers, allowing you to access them from any location and on any device with an internet connection. Your data is stored on servers that belong to your cloud storage provider, which usually offers a web interface, desktop app or mobile app to access your information.

These servers might be located in your own country or on the other side of the world. Most services use a sync folder on your desktop, allowing you to store files easily. Any files you put into this folder are also uploaded to the cloud servers, which will automatically update if you make any changes.

Why We Use Cloud Storage

People use cloud storage for many different reasons, starting with storage. While services like Dropbox and Sync.com might not be great for disaster recovery, they work very well for short-term storage of files that you access often.

In fact, that’s exactly what Drew Houston had in mind when he dreamed up the “sync” folder model commonly used by cloud storage services today back in 2007. He was traveling from New York to Boston on a Chinatown bus and realized that he left his USB drive behind . He decided he wanted a means of storing and accessing files online in a way that required little effort on his part.

Sync folders facilitate device synchronization, which we call “sync” for short. Any file you drag and drop into a sync folder gets automatically sent to the cloud, then sent to any other devices with a sync client installed. That way, you never have to worry about messing with removable storage. Changes to files also get synced across devices, which is what makes cloud storage ideal for getting work done, even remotely.  

Syncing Mobile Apps

Cloud storage tools also generally have mobile apps for Android and iOS that let you access files stored in the cloud. Many let you manually and automatically upload files, as well. That makes them convenient for safeguarding photos taken with your smartphone camera and saving memory at the same time.

Take a look at our roundup of the best cloud storage for Android , or our guide on the best cloud managers for Android if you have multiple cloud storage accounts.

A handful of cloud storage tools don’t sync devices. We can’t think of any tool, though, that doesn’t let you share files. File sharing can be used for both collaboration and socializing.

Most cloud storage tools let you invite specific users to access files based on their email address and generate links to files that can be more broadly used. Many cloud storage tools also let you share folder access, even granting others edit and upload permissions.  

Some cloud storage solutions also integrate with productivity tools like Office Online, Google Docs, Trello, DocuHub and DocuSign. Unfortunately for home users, such integrations are more common with EFSS tools, which are basically cloud storage services for teams and businesses.

Cloud Storage vs Online Backup

Before you start shopping for cloud storage in earnest, it helps to have a good understanding of what “cloud storage” actually means. That way you don’t end up with software that doesn’t really meet your expectations.

The first hurdle to overcome is knowing the difference between cloud storage and online backup. It’s easy to see why one might confuse these terms: both cloud storage and online backup are used to safeguard files in remote data centers. Both let you access the files stored in these data centers from different devices. Online backup is even sometimes confusingly called “cloud backup.”

The difference between the two is that the ultimate goal of online backup is disaster recovery, while cloud storage is generally best suited to quick file access and collaboration. We generally like to think of cloud storage as a productivity tool here at Cloudwards.net, although many people use such solutions for things like streaming music, watching videos and sharing photos, too.

Online backup safeguards hard drives better than cloud storage thanks to backup schedulers, better data recovery options and a few other things that you can read up on in our guide to best online backup.

Aside from storage, there are two features generally common to cloud storage: file sharing and file syncing. On top of that, a handful of cloud storage tools have integrated apps like word processors and task managers that help facilitate productivity.

It’s important to note that there are a handful of cloud solutions that blur the lines between storage and backup. IDrive and SpiderOak ONE are two of the best.

Is Cloud Storage Safe?

Most cloud storage services encrypt your data when it’s being sent to their servers and many store your data in encrypted form. However, no system is completely secure, and cloud storage servers can be hacked.

For instance, Dropbox suffered a major breach in 2012, when 68 million passwords were leaked. Government authorities may also request to access your data for legal reasons. You can help to keep your data more secure by using a service with zero-knowledge encryption, which means that the only person who can decrypt your data is you.

We also recommend setting up two-factor authentication with cloud storage services. This requires you to use an additional code when you log in, which is either sent to your phone as an SMS message or generated by an authenticator app. Even if someone has your password, 2FA means they can’t log in to your account without access to your phone, too.

Cloud Storage Speed Tests

Speed is one of the most important aspects of any cloud storage service. Although the time differences for a gigabyte or two may not be all too large, the time spent uploading or downloading terabytes can add up substantially. The upside of faster cloud storage is clear: using a faster service means you can access your files more quickly across your devices. 

If you know where to look, you can find the fastest cloud storage services , too. Our recent analysis of 12 top cloud storage services showed that around half of them only take 25 percent longer to upload and 27 percent longer to download than expected. This is using raw megabytes per second as a baseline, ignoring all other network conditions. 

Note : Testing was performed in Macedonia using 5.9 Mbps upload and 32 Mbps download speeds.

Of the lot, pCloud and IceDrive were the fastest across upload and download, with SugarSync following closely behind. Google Drive and Sync.com trailed the pack with the slowest speeds. For Google Drive, that’s bad news. Sync.com, on the other hand, offers full end-to-end encryption, so the speed loss makes sense. 

Final Thoughts: Best Cloud Storage

This list has our current top 10, but there are other good-quality providers that didn’t make the list. SecureSafe, SugarSync, Jumpshare and others all have their strengths, so be sure to take a look at our full list of cloud storage reviews to learn more about some of the other options out there, with new providers being added as they appear.

We also have determined the best cloud storage options for large files , and have created an online data storage price list , to make sure you’re getting the best value with today’s best cloud storage deals.

Sync.com and pCloud are great, privacy-focused options for most users, but if you’re more interested in document collaboration, you can’t go wrong with bigger players like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. However, MEGA offers more free storage, plus excellent security.

While, if you need online backup options in addition to cloud storage, IDrive is the way to go. It’s also the best online back-up for archiving, in case you need to archive data you rarely use to maximize storage space.

Do you use any of the products on our list? Do you think there are some glaring omissions, or do you think we’ve been unfair (or too fair) with any of the providers we’ve mentioned? Leave your own personal cloud storage reviews in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.

FAQ: Best Cloud Storage Providers

Sync.com is our favorite cloud storage for personal use , with good pricing plans, strong encryption and innovative features. Other good options are available, though, such as pCloud, Tresorit, MEGA and Google Drive, to name but a few.

For businesses, you can’t go wrong with a Sync.com , pCloud or Tresorit subscription, as our best business cloud storage list shows. If you’re unsure, key features to look out for are zero-knowledge encryption, server locations and document collaboration features.

pCloud is our top choice for free storage, although MEGA and Google Drive both offer a little more space. The beauty of free cloud storage providers is that you can try out a number of providers to find the perfect fit, with a provider like Koofr allowing you to combine multiple free storage providers together.

Our top choice for the best free online storage for photos is pCloud. It offers secure and cheap storage, will automatically upload photos from your phone and computer, and supports photo editing and social media backup.

A number of the best cloud storage providers offer packages with unlimited storage, but the best unlimited cloud storage provider is Sync.com for Teams. Be aware that most providers offering unlimited storage usually have a set limit, and if you go above the cap, you’ll need to request additional storage. Learn more from our guide on the best unlimited cloud storage providers .

Google Drive tops our list as the best cloud storage service for Android, but our number-one choice for iPhone users is Sync.com. However, most providers offer pretty good smartphone apps.

This is a really helpful article. If you could add a list that shows only Cloud Servers that have Zero Knowledge it would be very helpful for Medical and Legal businesses where client file confidentiality is required by law. That way those businesses can concentrate their search on cloud services that are eligible for their type of business.

Could you guys take a look at TeraCLOUD? It would be interesting to see your input on a Japanese company looking to expand its user base globally.

And once again we have a writer that doesn’t understand the difference between cloud syncing and cloud storage. Massive difference.

No shit! Time for some competence….

Excuse me. Here in Thailand, I could not access to bitcasa. So could someone from any other country could access bitcasa? If have, I will try to connect a VPN to that country. Thank you.(Sorry if one/some of my grammar and typing is/are wrong.)

Don’t buy Pcloud lifetime plan. It’s is waste of money.

From my experience, Pcloud is reducing speed if we purchasing lifetime plan. When i tried to upload files with yearly plan, we can upload properly. But when you purchased a lifetime plan uploading speed below 250kbps only even if you have 1GBPS/5G internet plan.

Some Youtubers mentioned that they are able to upload 5gb files within 10minutes. I think they are pcloud staff otherwise they are uploading files from pcloud data center itself.

Those are yours alright! . We at least need to get these people stealing images to start blogging! They probably just did a image search and grabbed them. They look good though!

New(ish) to tech and Cloud storage. I’ve contacted One Drive and ICloud to be told they both do the same thing, the same way. My problem is this, I want to store video files in the cloud so I don’t have to keep them in C drive. One drive and ICloud tech support to me this is not possible. How do I overcome this dilemma? When I stored my video data to an external hard drive eventually both drives crashed, I lost everything.

I don’t mind downloading to C drive then uploading to the cloud. However I don’t want to be hostage to always having to keep everything on C drive to use the cloud. Is there a cloud solution for me?

The pricing for Sync.com is outdated. They don’t offer a 200GB plan anymore. Lowest plan for individual users is 2TB at $8/mo.

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