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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.

what is contained in business plan

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

what is contained in business plan

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

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

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

What is a business plan?

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

Why do you need a business plan?

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

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

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

What can you do with your plan?

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

Test an idea

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

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

Document your strategy and goals

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

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

Pursue funding

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

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

Better manage your business

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

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

What should your business plan include?

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

Executive summary

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

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

Products & Services

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

Market analysis

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

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

Marketing & sales

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

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

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

Organization & management

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

Financial projections

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

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

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

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

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

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. 

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

Business model canvas

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

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

One-page business plan

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

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.

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

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

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

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

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

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

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

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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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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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

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New to business planning? Start here

What should i include in my business plan.

You must have an executive summary, product/service description, market and competitive analysis, marketing and sales plan, operations overview, milestones, company overview, financial plan, and appendix.

Why should I write a business plan?

Businesses that write a business plan typically grow 30% faster because it helps them minimize risk, establish important milestones, track progress, and make more confident decisions.

What are the qualities of a good business plan?

A good business plan uses clear language, shows realistic goals, fits the needs of your business, and highlights any assumptions you’re making.

How long should my business plan be?

There is no target length for a business plan. It should be as long as you need it to be. A good rule of thumb is to go as short as possible, without missing any crucial information. You can always expand your business plan later.

How do I write a simple business plan?

Use a one-page business plan format to create a simple business plan. It includes all of the critical sections of a traditional business plan but can be completed in as little as 30 minutes.

What should I do before writing a business plan?

If you do anything before writing—figure out why you’re writing a business plan. You’ll save time and create a far more useful plan.

What is the first step in writing a business plan?

The first thing you’ll do when writing a business plan is describe the problem you’re solving and what your solution is.

What is the biggest mistake I can make when writing a business plan?

The worst thing you can do is not plan at all. You’ll miss potential issues and opportunities and struggle to make strategic decisions.

Business planning guides

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Learn what a business plan is, why you need one, when to write it, and the fundamental elements that make it a unique tool for business success.

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A step-by-step guide to quickly create a working business plan.

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Tips to write your business plan

A curated selection of business plan writing tips and best practices from our experienced in-house planning experts.

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Business planning FAQ

What is business planning?

Business planning is the act of sitting down to establish goals, strategies, and actions you intend to take to successfully start, manage, and grow a business.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to write a business plan include:

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

What should a business plan include?

A traditional business plan should include:

  • An executive summary
  • Description of your products and services
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Marketing and sales plan
  • Overview of business operations
  • Milestones and metrics
  • Description of your organization and management team
  • Financial plan and forecasts

Do you really need a business plan?

You are more likely to start and grow into a successful business if you write a business plan.

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

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

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What to Include in Your Business Plan Here's what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and what it should look like.

By The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. • Dec 9, 2014

In their book Write Your Business Plan , the staff of Entrepreneur Media offer an in-depth understanding of what's essential to any business plan, what's appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors briefly describe just what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and how to know if it's time to write it.

A business plan is a written description of the future of your business. It's a document that tells the story of what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

But there are some generally accepted conventions about what a full-blown business plan should include and how it should be presented. A plan should cover all the important matters that will contribute to making your business a success. These include the following:

1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.

2. Your strategy and the specific actions you plan to take to implement it. What goals do you have for your business? When and how will you reach your goals?

3. Your products and services and their competitive advantages. Here's your chance to dazzle the readers with good, solid information about your products or services and why customers will want to purchase your products and services and not those of your competitors.

4. The markets you'll pursue. Now you have to lay out your marketing plan. Who will your customers be? What is your demographic audience? How will you attract and retain enough customers to make a profit? What methods will you use to capture your audience? What sets your business apart from the competition?

5. The background of your management team and key employees. Having information about key personnel is an important but often misrepresented portion of a business plan. It's not a long and detailed biography of each person involved but an accurate account of what they've done and what they bring to the table for this specific business opportunity.

6. Your financing needs. These will be based on your projected financial statements. These statements provide a model of how your ideas about the company, its markets and its strategies will play out.

As you write your business plan, stick to facts instead of feelings, projections instead of hopes, and realistic expectations of profit instead of unrealistic dreams of wealth. Facts—checkable, demonstrable facts—will invest your plan with the most important component of all: credibility.

How long should your plan be?

A useful business plan can be any length, from that scrawl on the back of an envelope to more than 100 pages for an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise. A typical business plan runs 15 to 25 pages.

Miniplans of five to 10 pages are the popular concise models that may stand on their own for smaller businesses. Larger businesses seeking major funding will often have miniplans as well, but the full business plan will be waiting in the wings. It's to your advantage to run long when creating your plan, then narrow it down for presentation purposes.

The size of the plan will also depend on the nature of your business and your reason for writing it. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you're looking for millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you'll usually (although not always) have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you already have relationships with potential investors, they may simply want a miniplan. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version may suffice.

Many business plan presentations are made with PowerPoint decks, using 10 to 12 slides to tell your story. That's a great starting point, but you should have at least a miniplan available, especially if you're seeking millions of dollars.

When should you write it?

Still not sure if it's time to write a business plan? Here are a few clues that it's time to start writing:

  • A business plan is a good way to explore the feasibility of a new business without actually having to start it and run it. A good plan can help you see serious flaws in your business concept. You may uncover tough competition when researching the market section, or you may find that your financial projections simply aren't realistic.
  • Any venture that faces major changes (and that means almost all businesses) needs a business plan. If the demographics of your market are rapidly changing, strong new competitive products challenge your profitability, you expect your business to grow or shrink dramatically, or the economic climate is improving or slipping rapidly, you'll need a business plan. This will allow you to make changes accordingly.
  • If you're contemplating buying or selling a business, your business plan can provide you with a handy tool to establish a value—and to support that value if challenged.
  • You'll need a business plan if you're seeking financing. Your business plan is the backbone of your financing proposal. Bankers, venture capitalists and other financiers rarely provide money without seeing a plan. Less sophisticated investors or friends and family may not require a business plan, but they deserve one. Even if you're funding the business with your own savings, you owe it to yourself to plan how you'll expend the resources you're committing.

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How To Write the Operations Plan Section of the Business Plan

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

what is contained in business plan

Stage of Development Section

Production process section, the bottom line, frequently asked questions (faqs).

The operations plan is the section of your business plan that gives an overview of your workflow, supply chains, and similar aspects of your business. Any key details of how your business physically produces goods or services will be included in this section.

You need an operations plan to help others understand how you'll deliver on your promise to turn a profit. Keep reading to learn what to include in your operations plan.

Key Takeaways

  • The operations plan section should include general operational details that help investors understand the physical details of your vision.
  • Details in the operations plan include information about any physical plants, equipment, assets, and more.
  • The operations plan can also serve as a checklist for startups; it includes a list of everything that must be done to start turning a profit.

In your business plan , the operations plan section describes the physical necessities of your business's operation, such as your physical location, facilities, and equipment. Depending on what kind of business you'll be operating, it may also include information about inventory requirements, suppliers, and a description of the manufacturing process.

Keeping focused on the bottom line will help you organize this part of the business plan.

Think of the operating plan as an outline of the capital and expense requirements your business will need to operate from day to day.

You need to do two things for the reader of your business plan in the operations section: show what you've done so far to get your business off the ground and demonstrate that you understand the manufacturing or delivery process of producing your product or service.

When you're writing this section of the operations plan, start by explaining what you've done to date to get the business operational, then follow up with an explanation of what still needs to be done. The following should be included:

Production Workflow

A high-level, step-by-step description of how your product or service will be made, identifying the problems that may occur in the production process. Follow this with a subsection titled "Risks," which outlines the potential problems that may interfere with the production process and what you're going to do to negate these risks. If any part of the production process can expose employees to hazards, describe how employees will be trained in dealing with safety issues. If hazardous materials will be used, describe how these will be safely stored, handled, and disposed.

Industry Association Memberships

Show your awareness of your industry's local, regional, or national standards and regulations by telling which industry organizations you are already a member of and which ones you plan to join. This is also an opportunity to outline what steps you've taken to comply with the laws and regulations that apply to your industry. 

Supply Chains

An explanation of who your suppliers are and their prices, terms, and conditions. Describe what alternative arrangements you have made or will make if these suppliers let you down.

Quality Control

An explanation of the quality control measures that you've set up or are going to establish. For example, if you intend to pursue some form of quality control certification such as ISO 9000, describe how you will accomplish this.

While you can think of the stage of the development part of the operations plan as an overview, the production process section lays out the details of your business's day-to-day operations. Remember, your goal for writing this business plan section is to demonstrate your understanding of your product or service's manufacturing or delivery process.

When writing this section, you can use the headings below as subheadings and then provide the details in paragraph format. Leave out any topic that does not apply to your particular business.

Do an outline of your business's day-to-day operations, including your hours of operation and the days the business will be open. If the business is seasonal, be sure to say so.

The Physical Plant

Describe the type, site, and location of premises for your business. If applicable, include drawings of the building, copies of lease agreements, and recent real estate appraisals. You need to show how much the land or buildings required for your business operations are worth and tell why they're important to your proposed business.

The same goes for equipment. Besides describing the equipment necessary and how much of it you need, you also need to include its worth and cost and explain any financing arrangements.

Make a list of your assets , such as land, buildings, inventory, furniture, equipment, and vehicles. Include legal descriptions and the worth of each asset.

Special Requirements

If your business has any special requirements, such as water or power needs, ventilation, drainage, etc., provide the details in your operating plan, as well as what you've done to secure the necessary permissions.

State where you're going to get the materials you need to produce your product or service and explain what terms you've negotiated with suppliers.

Explain how long it takes to produce a unit and when you'll be able to start producing your product or service. Include factors that may affect the time frame of production and describe how you'll deal with potential challenges such as rush orders.

Explain how you'll keep  track of inventory .

Feasibility

Describe any product testing, price testing, or prototype testing that you've done on your product or service.

Give details of product cost estimates.

Once you've worked through this business plan section, you'll not only have a detailed operations plan to show your readers, but you'll also have a convenient list of what needs to be done next to make your business a reality. Writing this document gives you a chance to crystalize your business ideas into a clear checklist that you can reference. As you check items off the list, use it to explain your vision to investors, partners, and others within your organization.

What is an operations plan?

An operations plan is one section of a company's business plan. This section conveys the physical requirements for your business's operations, including supply chains, workflow , and quality control processes.

What is the main difference between the operations plan and the financial plan?

The operations plan and financial plan tackle similar issues, in that they seek to explain how the business will turn a profit. The operations plan approaches this issue from a physical perspective, such as property, routes, and locations. The financial plan explains how revenue and expenses will ultimately lead to the business's success.

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What to Include in Your Business Plan Appendix

In the meticulous process of drafting a business plan, the appendix often plays an underestimated yet pivotal role. What are appendices? This segment, known as the “appendix in business plan”, serves as a reservoir for critical supporting documents and data. Far from being a mere afterthought, it is an integral component that complements the main content, offering in-depth details that investors and stakeholders might seek.

Understanding what is an appendix in a business plan is key to leveraging its full potential. It’s a section where you house vital information which, while not central to the plan’s narrative, is essential for substantiating your strategies and projections. 

Moreover, the purpose of including supporting documents in a business plan is to represent the robustness of your research, the depth of your planning, and your readiness for the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey. 

Therefore, in this guide, we will delve deep into the art and science of curating a well-structured and comprehensive business plan appendix. We’ll explore what goes into an appendix, how to organize an appendix effectively, and why a meticulously crafted appendix can be a game-changer for your business venture.

What Goes in An Appendix?

Aside from thinking of how to make an appendix , businesses also often wonder what to include in an appendix when developing a business plan. To answer this common query, this section is where you provide the supplementary material that validates your business plan. Let’s dissect the essential contents that form the backbone of a robust business plan appendix section. The appendix of a business plan might include:

  • Detailed Financial Projections: As a cornerstone of appendices in business plan, this includes comprehensive revenue forecasts , cash flow statements , and break-even analysis. These documents elevate your financial strategy from theory to actionable insights.
  • Market Research Data: Your business plan appendix example isn’t complete without the data that underscores your market understanding . Include demographic studies, industry analysis, and competitive landscape assessments.
  • Resumes of Key Personnel: Illustrate the strength of your team by including detailed resumes. This section answers what goes in the appendix from a human resource perspective, showcasing the expertise and experience driving your business.
  • Product or Service Descriptions: Here, an appendix document example involves detailed information about your products or services. This can include brochures, technical specifications, and product development plans.
  • Legal Documents: Integral to what should be included in an appendix, this encompasses licenses, permits, patents, trademarks, and any other legal paperwork that is pertinent to your business operations.
  • Supporting Letters: The appendix of a business plan includes any endorsements from key stakeholders, such as letters of intent from potential customers or testimonials from partners, adding credibility to your plan.
  • Additional Operational Information: This might cover the appendix business plan example components like your organizational chart, facilities descriptions, and equipment listings, depending on the nature of your business.
  • Marketing Materials and Strategies: These documents outline your marketing plan appendix. Marketing documentation typically includes advertising samples, press releases, and digital marketing strategies , all vital in illustrating how you intend to capture and grow your market share.

The Don’ts of a Business Plan Appendix

When crafting a business plan appendix, understanding the elements that should not be included is as crucial as knowing what to put in an appendix. The appendix should not be a dumping ground for all information. Avoid overloading it with irrelevant or redundant documents that do not directly support your business strategy .

For instance, what information should not be included in a business plan typically extends to outdated financial statements, overly technical jargon without clear explanations, and any personal or confidential information not pertinent to the business goals.

Additionally, avoid including excessively lengthy documents; the appendix in documents should complement your plan, not overshadow it. Remember, every page in your appendix should have a purpose and add value to your business plan, helping the reader understand and evaluate your business proposition effectively, without unnecessary clutter or distractions.

Understanding why a comprehensive and well-structured appendix is pivotal to business plans is key to elevating your strategy. Why do reports frequently include appendices? The appendix of a report is not just an add-on but a strategic tool that enhances the credibility and depth of your business plan. Business appendix writing should provide essential, supporting details in an organized and accessible way, complementing your vision and illustrating the thoroughness and feasibility of your proposal.

Keep in mind, the appendix is a valuable but optional section of your business plan. There’s no need to stress excessively about its contents. As you develop your plan, simply earmark any pertinent documents or data for inclusion in your appendix.

Struggling with the complexities of crafting your business plan? Get a head start with our no-cost, comprehensive business plan template . It comes complete with a predefined structure that simplifies organizing and presenting your supporting documents effectively.

Not entirely sure what to include in your business plan appendix? In a landscape where precision and foresight are invaluable, let BSBCON help you turn your business plan into a compelling and comprehensive guide to your business’s future.

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How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

3-minute read

  • 19th November 2023

An executive summary is the part of a business plan that gives an outline of the main plan. So to write an executive summary, we first need to read the business plan carefully and understand its key points. These key points are what we will condense to form the executive summary. It’s important to ensure that the executive summary can stand alone because plenty of users will read only that and not the main business plan. We could say that the business plan is the original TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)!

But first, let’s take a quick look at what goes into a business plan so we can focus on the sections we need for our executive summary.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that sets out a business’s strategy and the means of achieving it. The business plan usually contains the following sections:

How to Write an Executive Summary

The executive summary covers the same headings as the main business plan but not in so much detail. This is where our editing skills come to the fore!

The following six steps explain how to approach writing the executive summary.

Consider the Audience

Who will be using the summary? The business plan might be issued only to a very specific group of people, in which case, their needs are paramount and specialized. If the business plan is going out on wider release, we need to think about what a general reader will want to know.

Check That It Makes Sense on Its Own

Make sure the summary can be read as a stand-alone document for users who won’t read the whole plan.

Use Formatting Effectively

Make good use of formatting, headings, numbering, and bullets to increase clarity and readability.

Keep It Brief

One page (or around ten percent of the total word count for a large document) is great.

Avoid Jargon

Try to avoid jargon and use straightforward language. Readers of the executive summary might not have business backgrounds (for instance, if they are friend and family investors in a small start-up business).

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Proofread the Executive Summary

The executive summary will very likely be the first – and perhaps the only – part of the business plan some people will read, and it must be error-free to make a professional impression.

●  Consider the audience .

●  Ensure that the executive summary can stand alone.

●  Use formatting tools to good advantage.

●  Keep it brief.

●  Keep it simple.

●  Proofread it.

If you’d like an expert to proofread your business plan – or any of your writing – get in touch!

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Info-Guide – Write your business plan

1. executive summary.

The executive summary is an overview of the key points contained in your business plan and is often considered the most important section. It is usually the first section that a potential investor or lender will read, and may be the only section to be read if it is not prepared properly. This important summary should:

  • Include highlights from each of the other sections to explain the basics of your business
  • Be sufficiently interesting to motivate the reader to continue reading the rest of your business plan
  • Be short and concise — no more than two pages long

You will want to describe your business concept, competitive advantage, legal structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation), the market, and your own experience.

Although the executive summary is the first section of the plan, you should write it last.

2. Business strategy

This section should briefly but clearly describe what your business is all about. This segment should include the following elements:

Introduction

This section should give readers a very brief overview of your business — where you've been, where you are now, and where you're going in the future. Include:

  • A short history of your business — is it a new business venture, are you purchasing an existing business, or are you expanding an existing business?
  • The purpose of your business — discuss your vision and the main objectives of your business
  • A description of your products and services — what will you offer?
  • Your business' legal structure — are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a cooperative?

Current Position

  • Your current position — what stage of the business lifecycle is your organization in?
  • Your industry — is it growing, stable, or contracting?
  • Your achievements — what have you achieved so far?

Competitive Advantage

  • Your competitive advantage — what is your advantage over the competition (e.g. innovative products, strong business model, appeal to niche markets)?
  • Your competitors — who are they and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Your business model — why is it effective?

Growth Plan

  • Growth timeline — where do you see your business in a year from now? 3 to 5 years down the road?
  • Milestones — what objectives have you set for your business and when do you expect to achieve them?
  • Goals — what are your short-term (the upcoming year) and long-term (the next 3-5 years) goals?

You should also include the date the business was registered/incorporated, the name of the business, its address, and all contact information.

3. Marketing strategy

Describe the activities you will use to promote and sell your product or service. You should touch on each of the "four Ps" of the marketing mix:

  • Product — how does your product or service meet the needs of your target market?
  • Price — how much will you charge for your product or service and why?
  • Place — how are you going to get your product to your customers?
  • Promotion — how will you connect with your target market?

Your marketing strategy should also include information about your budget — how much money have you budgeted for marketing and sales costs?

You may also want to include a profile of your "ideal customers". You can create profiles based on customer type — consumers, retailers, or wholesalers — or base your segments on demographic information such as age, location, and income level.

Keep in mind that solid market research is the backbone of an effective marketing strategy. You will want to back up your statements with facts — explain how you reached your conclusions and include statistics from reliable sources.

Learn how to draw up a price list, prepare proposals and estimates, price a contract bid and present your prices to your customers.

Find out how to set a pricing strategy and how to study your costs and pricing to ensure that your business is profitable.

4. Operational plan

Your business plan should outline your current operational requirements as well as your projected requirements for the next 3 to 5 years. Your inventory management and accounting systems should have the ability to produce up-to-date reports.

You can include:

  • Day-to-day operations — provide a general description of the day-to-day operations of the business, such as hours of operation, seasonality of business, suppliers and their credit terms, and so on.
  • Facility requirements — identify your requirements in terms of size and location. Include any related documents in the appendix of your business plan, such as lease agreements or supplier quotations. Detail any special requirements associated with the facility and include any licensing documentation in your appendix.
  • Management information systems — indicate how you plan to control stock, manage accounts, control quality and track your customers.
  • Information technology (IT) requirements — identify the IT systems you will be using for your business. As this is a key factor for most businesses, indicate if you are using a consultant or IT support service and outline any planned IT developments.

You may also want to include your operations manual as an appendix to your business plan.

5. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis

Conducting a SWOT analysis is an important part of business planning. A properly prepared SWOT analysis shows investors that you have realistically and objectively considered these elements.

Banks and other lenders understand that businesses will encounter difficulties at some point, and want to know how you will deal with these challenges. Remember that overestimating strengths and opportunities or ignoring potential problems will undermine your credibility.

Putting time and effort into conducting a comprehensive SWOT analysis can help you:

  • Make sound decisions and future plans
  • Anticipate problems and make the necessary changes
  • Set aside resources to take advantage of potential opportunities

To obtain the market data on which to base your analysis:

6. Human resources plan

This section addresses how you plan to manage your employees and human resources processes. You should also discuss your short-term and long-term plans for employee recruitment, training, and retention. If appropriate, discuss any advisors, mentors, consultants that offer you support.

You may want to include:

  • A brief organizational layout or chart of the business
  • Who does what, with a brief job description of each position
  • The essential skills required for each position
  • Information on your employee training program
  • Any other relevant information related to personnel (e.g. gaps in your team, training budget)

Don't underestimate the importance of this part of your plan. Investors need to know that you and your employees have the necessary balance of skills, drive and experience to enable your business to succeed. It is also advisable to outline any recruitment or training plans, including timelines and costs.

Find out the processes and methods you will need to set up your management team.

7. Social responsibility strategy

Implementing good environmental and social practices is good business — it can give you a competitive advantage and help foster goodwill toward your business. In this section you should discuss ways in which your business honours ethical values and respects people, your community, and the environment.

You may want to include information about:

  • Your company's environmental policies and initiatives
  • Your company's contributions to your community
  • Relevant certifications such as fair-trade certification, organic certification, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification

More information

Discover the benefits of having an environmental policy. Find out how to select the right format and content.

8. E-business strategy

Effectively using information technology is an important part of managing a business. In this section, you should outline how you plan to use internet technologies to reach customers, manage your business, and reduce costs. You should include information about:

  • E-commerce activities (selling your product or service online)
  • Website development
  • Hardware and software requirements
  • Relationships with external information technology specialists

Keep in mind that implementing e-business strategies can save money — if this is the case for you, you may want to highlight potential savings in this section.

Get an overview of the key ways to set up a joint venture, the pros and cons of joint ventures, and learn how to manage this type of company.

9. Financial forecasts and other information

This section of your business plan essentially turns your plans into numbers. As part of any business plan, you will need to provide financial projections for your business. Your forecasts should run for the next 3 to 5 years. However, the first 12 months' forecasts should have the most detail, including assumptions both in terms of costs and revenues, so investors can clearly see your thinking behind the numbers.

As you put your plans down on paper, remember the importance of thinking objectively. Analyzing your venture from three points of view — optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic — can give you a solid idea of what to expect as you move forward.

Your financial forecasts should include:

  • Cash flow statements — this is a cash balance and monthly cash flow pattern for the first 12-18 months. Include working capital, salaries and sales.
  • Profit and loss forecast — this is the level of profit you expect to make, given your projected sales, the costs of providing goods and services, and your overhead costs.
  • Sales forecast — this is the amount of money you expect from sales of your product and/or service.

Things to consider:

  • How much capital do you need, if you are seeking external funding?
  • What security can you offer to lenders?
  • How do you plan to repay any borrowings?
  • What are your sources of revenue and income?

Your forecasts should cover a range of scenarios, and you should include the contingency plans you've developed to offset any risks. You can also review benchmarks and averages for your type of business and discuss your business' position.

Calculate how much a loan will cost your business, and print a complete loan amortization schedule.

Learn how to determine your income and expenses and calculate your profit.

Use these questions and comments to analyze your profits, their sufficiency and trend, and determine how each product or service is profitable.

Find out how your business measures up to others in your industry with this benchmarking tool.

See more documents

Access more resources in the electronic version of this document

10. Business exit strategy

This section of your business plan addresses your future plans — when the time comes, how will you exit your business? Early planning will give you the opportunity to consider all of your options, including strategies that may take time to implement. For example, if you plan on passing your business on to your children, you'll need sufficient time to train them and integrate them into your business.

As you prepare your exit strategy, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do I want to leave my business?
  • What do I want to do with my business? Options include selling it, passing it on to a family member, or closing the business and liquidating its assets.
  • How will I determine the value of my business?
  • How much money will I require to lead a comfortable life after exiting my business?

Once you considered your options and set objectives, it's time to add an exit strategy to your business plan. Although you may not be exiting your business for some time, a solid strategy will be a roadmap to your future goals.

Explore key factors affecting the value of your business and common methods used to calculate its value. Learn how you can find different buyers for your business.

Find out which points to consider and what steps to follow for a successful transfer of your business.

Find out when and how to close your GST/HST account and the ensuing obligations.

11. Sample business plans and other resources

You'll want to thoroughly review your plan once it's done. Try to avoid using jargon — the person reading your plan may not understand your businesses as well as you do. You can ask friends, family, associates, and mentors to review it. Don't be afraid to seek advice from professionals such as lawyers and accountants. You may also want to consider hiring a professional proofreader to check for errors.

Remember, your business plan represents your business, so you want it to be as professional as possible.

Get answers to frequently asked questions and see sample business plans and templates:

You can use this fillable business planning tool to prepare your business plan.

Take advantage of the guides, tools, templates and resources offered by Royal Bank to make your business project a reality in 5 steps.

Start planning with the help of this line-by-line approach to business plan writing that takes you through the process one step at a time.

You can create your own professional business plan with the help of the BDC sample plan and business plan template.

Are you ready to start your business? You can use this online tool to develop, write, and download your business plan.

Free, comprehensive tool for creating your business plan.

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what is contained in business plan

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    A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement.

  5. How To Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

    A business plan is a formal document (about 15-25 pages in length) that precisely defines a company's objectives in fine detail. It also describes how the company plans to achieve its goals. All companies — including startups and established institutions — create and use business plans.

  6. How To Write A Business Plan

    Create a company description. Brainstorm your business goals. Describe your services or products. Conduct market research. Create financial plans. Bottom line. Show more. Every business starts ...

  7. What Should a Business Plan Include?

    1. Executive Summary. The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company's structure. It should also include your financial plans.

  8. Contents of a Business Plan

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    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.

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    A plan should cover all the important matters that will contribute to making your business a success. These include the following: 1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the ...

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  15. 10 Important Components of an Effective Business Plan

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  16. How To Write the Operations Plan Section of the Business Plan

    The operations plan is the section of your business plan that gives an overview of your workflow, supply chains, and similar aspects of your business. Any key details of how your business physically produces goods or services will be included in this section. You need an operations plan to help others understand how you'll deliver on your ...

  17. Business Plan Executive Summary Example & Template

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  18. What to Include in Your Business Plan Appendix

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  19. How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

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  20. Info-Guide

    You will want to describe your business concept, competitive advantage, legal structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation), the market, and your own experience. Although the executive summary is the first section of the plan, you should write it last. 2. Business strategy.

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  24. Marketing Plan

    A marketing plan is a document that lays out the marketing efforts of a business in an upcoming period, which is usually a year. It outlines the marketing strategy, promotional, and advertising activities planned for the period. Elements of a Marketing Plan. A marketing plan will typically include the following elements: