A business plan template can help entrepreneurs and startups develop their ideas and turn them into reality. However, not many people know how to write a proper plan, nor do they want to spend hours making one.
Some resort to using business plan templates available online, but not all of them are suitable for all companies or business types.
We’ll discuss what a business plan is, the pros and cons of using a business plan template, and how to create your very own.
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Pros and cons of using a business plan template
- A template is especially useful for beginners. If you’ve not written a business plan before, it might be a good idea to use any help you can get.
- Simply follow the directions and you’ll have your plan ready in no time. No need to tweak around with the format, as it already provides instructions for arranging your ideas.
- Most templates already have the necessary elements of a business plan, so you won’t fail to include important information.
- Popular business plan templates are generally designed with investors and lenders in mind. Thus, you don’t have to worry about whether your plan is up to their standard.
- Having a template doesn’t necessarily make things easier. You still need to familiarize yourself with its content before using it.
- For example, for sections related to finances, you have to do the calculations yourself. If you have no experience doing that, you will have to find tutorials or hire someone to assist you.
- Most templates are one-size-fits-all. In reality, every business has different needs.
- Some templates might not come with sections that suit certain businesses. You’d be better off designing your own template that caters to your requirements.
8 steps to create a business plan template
Step 1: Set goals and objectives
This first section provides brief information about your company and its purpose.
The management summary is a synopsis of your entire business plan.
It covers the main points of your company description, products or services, market analysis, marketing strategies, execution plan, and financial plan.
The mission statement answers what problem your business aims to solve.
Think of what drove you to start the business in the first place. Relate it to your target market, what they’re looking for, and how you satisfy their needs.
Consider evoking an emotional response from your mission statement.
Use Google as an example. Their mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
If you want to generate some ideas that could put a creative twist on your company’s introduction, try using the AI-powered Zyro slogan generator.
Though it comes first, it’s recommended to work on this section last since it’s an overview of your entire plan, which will help decide whether your business plan is worth reading.
This section should be brief, attractive, and comprehensive.
Step 2: Company and business overview
Now, you’ll describe your company, business, and the field you’re in.
Mention the key company members and their qualifications. If applicable, include your shareholders as well.
Next, explain what the business is about.
Discuss what it does, who and where it targets, what you sell, and how it’s performing. Include some achievements if necessary.
Describe how you view the company in relation to the field, community, or industry it’s a part of. Are you leading the market? What kind of role do you hope to fulfill?
Define your current company goals.
Make sure they are tangible and realistic and set a deadline for each of them. You will detail how to achieve your goals in step six, which covers the execution.
Step 3: Product and service description
In this part, you’ll elaborate on the products and/or services your company offers.
To start, illustrate how the product or service was developed – from its early stages until the final form.
Describe how it’s made, how the quality is maintained, how much it costs, and so on. Use visual aids to assist readers.
Finally, explain how the product or service works and how long it lasts. Highlight its features and elaborate on how it benefits customers. Mention what aspects you hope to improve in the future.
If you’ve sold some units already, include some key customer feedback.
Step 4: Market research and analysis
This section aims to explain your advantage against other companies by showing your understanding of your target audience and competition.
First, define your ideal target audience.
Specify their age, gender, profession, and other demographic indicators. Explain why they might be interested in purchasing your offers.
For your competitors, mention companies involved in the same industry and market. Research their audience and the reasons people choose them.
Explain their product or service, reviews, customer service, and other relevant aspects. Present a side-by-side comparison between competitors and your company to highlight the differences.
Make sure to describe things competitors don’t offer the market that you can. Establish the opportunities and strengths you have against them. This will be your competitive advantage.
For this section, it’s better to use visual data to picture your research. That way you’ll easier to understand and have a better chance of persuading potential investors.
Step 5: Sales and marketing strategies
In this section, discuss how you’ll attract and retain customers.
Explain the chosen sales and marketing strategies. This may include pricing, branding, advertising, packaging, distribution, and other related aspects.
Always remember your ideal buyer persona when coming up with a marketing plan.
Include digital marketing strategies. You can outline how you’ll maximize your website’s SEO and ads on search engines and social media.
Try visualizing the customer experience. Show how buyers might find your business and be prompted to purchase.
To end the section, write down your sales and marketing budget.
Step 6: Execution plan
The execution plan is a list of milestones to complete along the way to reaching your company’s goals from step two.
Say your goal is to expand your clothing business. To do that, you plan to add new products. The milestones could be completing designs, testing prototypes, creating the final version, and selling it to buyers.
For new entrepreneurs, milestones can be tasks for setting up the company – such as dealing with legal documents, renting office space, or recruiting employees.
How many milestones to include will depend on your goals. Don’t forget to explain what you need to complete each action – such as the equipment, facilities, and the team members involved.
Describe your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats while reaching the milestones.
Step 7: Financial plan
The financial plan discusses every aspect of your business’s finances.
It covers the budget, expenses, and income, which will be useful for showing financial projections.
Overall, the plan should demonstrate your company’s growth opportunities and profitability.
For new businesses, you can use the budget, pricing, and previous market research to make your financial projections.
Existing companies can utilize past data to create forecasts for the next three years.
Generally, you need to include:
- Income statements – data on your revenues and expenses.
- Cash flow report – a summary of how much cash or cash equivalents come in and out of your business.
- Balance sheets – a report on the amount your company possesses and has yet to pay.
- Breakeven analysis – a calculation that shows when your business generates profits.
Write down your funding request if you want to show your plan to investors or lenders. Include the funding amount, purpose, and terms.
If you’re asking for equity, specify the percentage investors will own. If you want to get a loan, explain how you’ll repay them.
Be specific and realistic when writing a financial plan. Make sure to not overestimate your projections.
Step 8: Appendix
The appendix encompasses further information that readers might need to understand your business.
Use this to include supplementary data from earlier sections, like detailed statistics of your research or images of your marketing materials, like different versions of your logo.
If you don’t have a logo, try out Zyro’s free logo maker – it’s an intuitive and easy to use tool that helps create a professional logo.
Insert copies of important documents related to the business, such as legal documents. Add some information about the business owners as well, like resumes and credit histories.
This might help investors get to know you better and make their decision.
What is a business plan and why do you need one?
A business plan is a document that sets up an actionable roadmap for building your company.
It contains important aspects to consider when reaching your goals.
This document allows you to identify potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your company and the industry it’s in. This way, your business is prepared to tackle any risks or issues that come up.
New and existing business owners can benefit from this document.
As your company gets bigger, you can reread it to see if you’ve achieved your goals. If you have, you can change the plan and define new objectives to keep the business growing.
Additionally, business plans help investors and lenders understand your company better. They can decide whether your business is worth funding based on the plan you offer them.
If you don’t know what a business plan looks like, you can download templates online. Some companies even provide a free business plan customization service, like Law Depot.
There are also premium programs designed for writing business plans, like BizPlan.
Paid software usually provides more customization options and resources to assist you.
Business plan template recap
All entrepreneurs can benefit from a well-built business plan. It helps guide the process of achieving company goals.
Despite the fact business plan templates are available online, consider making your own when these options aren’t sufficient.
Your business plan template should include:
- Management summary and mission statement – brief descriptions of your entire business plan.
- Business and company overview – any information that describes your company, business, and the field you’re in.
- Product and service description – details about your offers, including its development, features, and benefits.
- Market research analysis – studies that demonstrate your competitive advantage.
- Sales and marketing strategies – tactics for attracting new and existing customers.
- Execution plan – the milestones that indicate your progress.
- Financial plan – any data that demonstrates your financial projections, like the budget, expenses, and income.
- Appendix – additional information that supports your business plan.
As you can see, writing a business plan template is not difficult when you know what to include and how to do it best.