Business Plan Template for Entrepreneurs [2020 Updated]

This business plan template and guide is the result of 20 years of research into the types of business plans that help entrepreneurs and executives raise funding and build thriving companies. It’s primarily for those who have never created a business plan, but there’s plenty of advice for those who […]

Business Plan Template

This business plan template and guide is the result of 20 years of research into the types of business plans that help entrepreneurs and executives raise funding and build thriving companies.

It’s primarily for those who have never created a business plan, but there’s plenty of advice for those who have written one or many plans before.

I wrote this guide because, even in 2020, much of the online advice on business planning is misleading or flat-out wrong. I can’t blame bloggers for it because many of the facts herein are not widely known. It required me and my company to spend 20+ years writing thousands of business plans to really know what works.

Below you’ll learn how to develop the best business plan with information including:

  • What are the keys to a great business plan
  • How to create your financial projections
  • What to do if you’re writing a business plan for funding

You’ll also be able to download multiple business plan templates and see sample business plans.

Inspired? Good. Keep reading below and soon enough, you’ll be printing out a professional business plan for your company!

Quick Access/Popular Links on this Page:



Table of Contents




How to Write Your Business Plan Section-by-Section

A business plan has 10 sections that detail your business concept and growth plan. These 10 sections are depicted in the image below and then are explained in detail thereafter.

The Ten Sections of Your Business Plan
Some of the business plan sections have sub-sections. Below is a complete business plan outline.

I. Executive Summary

Business Overview
Success Factors
Financial Plan

II. Company Overview

III. Industry Analysis

Market Overview
Relevant Market Size

IV. Customer Analysis

Target Customers
Customer Needs

V. Competitive Analysis

Direct Competitors
Indirect Competitors
Competitive Advantages

VI. Marketing Plan

Products, Services & Pricing
Promotions Plan
Distribution Plan

VII. Operations Plan

Key Operational Processes

VIII. Management Team

Management Team Members
Management Team Gaps
Board Members

IX. Financial Plan

Revenue Model
Financial Highlights
Funding Requirements/Use of Funds
Exit Strategy

X. Business Plan Appendix

Exactly what belongs in each of these business plan sections and sub-sections is explained below.


Business Plan Template Sections


I. Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Why This is Important

The Executive Summary is the most important part of your business plan. It gives the reader an overview of your business and the opportunity to get involved in it.

If they’re not impressed or excited, the reader won’t make it any further in your plan. In fact, most readers never get beyond the first page of your Executive Summary so, spend time making it great.

What to Include

Your Executive Summary should include 3 parts: Business Overview, Success Factors and Financial Plan

Business Overview

The business overview tells the reader what type of business you’re in. Are you a restaurant, a software company, a dry-cleaning business, etc.?

Importantly, don’t start your business overview with a long story. Rather, clearly and concisely state what your company does. For example, “We are an organic restaurant located in Miami, FL” or “We operate a social networking website for working mothers” are good, concise overviews.


Success Factors

Your Success Factors are the most important part of your business plan. And unfortunately, every other business plan template I’ve seen ignores this (that’s because, unlike Growthink, they haven’t gotten feedback from literally thousands of investors on plans we’ve written).

Your success factors are simply the reasons why your company is uniquely qualified to succeed. Conversely, if you have no unique qualifications, you will fail.

It’s important to think about and figure out your success factors. Is there anything about your products and services that are unique? For example, maybe you have patents or a unique distribution partnership that allows you and only you to offer a certain product. Is there anything unique about your management team? For example, maybe you have more experience, or special relationships with vendors or customers?

There are many reasons why your organization could be unique. Spend time identifying these reasons and documenting them in this section of your plan.


Financial Plan

In this section of your Executive Summary, you should show an overview of your expected financial performance over the next five years.

This “overview” includes your Revenues, Direct Expenses, Gross Profit, Other Expenses, EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization), and Net Income projections for the next five years.


II. Company Overview

Company Analysis

Why This is Important

In this section of your plan, you need to give a snapshot of your company’s structure and history.

This is important since readers need to know, for example, if you are a new company or an existing one. And they need to understand what your company has accomplished to date.

As mentioned earlier, the greatest predictor of future success is past accomplishments.


What to Include

In the Company Overview section of your business plan, start by stating when your company was formed and where you are located.

Location is very important since most investors like to invest in companies that are local to them.

Next, mention your legal structure. The most common options here are: C Corporation, S Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Sole Proprietorship, Non-Profit Organization, or Not Yet Incorporated.

Finally, specify what your company has achieved to date. These achievements or milestones might include:

  • Sales (e.g., reached $100,000 in sales on [enter date])
  • Number of customers served
  • Prototypes or products built
  • Location built out and/or lease secured
  • Employees hired



III. Industry Analysis

Business Plan Industry Analysis

Why This is Important

The Industry Analysis section of your business plan tells the reader about your industry/marketplace. It is important since readers want to know a) that you are an expert in your market and b) that the market is large enough to support your company and industry trends are working in your favor.

What to Include

The Industry Analysis section has two sub-sections: Market Overview and Relevant Market Size.

Market Overview

Here you will discuss the characteristics of your market. How big is it in units and/or revenues? Is the market growing? What are the trends facing your market?

As much as possible, cite established organizations to lend validity to your research. For example, you can say that according to XYZ Research firm or the National Restaurant Association, restaurant sales were $X billion last year and are expected to grow to $Y billion next year.

Importantly, show how the research supports your success. For example, a growing market size clearly supports you. But for example, if research shows customer needs are shifting in a way that makes them more likely to buy from your company, this is something you want to highlight.

Relevant Market Size

Your relevant market size is the annual revenue that your company could attain if we owned 100% market share.

The formula is simple.

First, enter the number of customers who might be interested in purchasing your products and/or services each year.

Then enter the monetary amount these customers might be willing to spend, on an annual basis, on your products and/or services.

The product of these two figures is your relevant market size. Calculate this figure here so your readers understand the size of your market opportunity and can confirm it’s big enough (particularly if you are seeking debt or equity capital).



IV. Customer Analysis

Business Planning Customer Analysis

Why This is Important

In this section, you will describe your target customers and their core needs. It is important since readers want to be sure you 1) precisely know who your target customers are and what they want, and 2) your strategy (products/services, promotions strategy, etc.) aligns with your customers’ preferences.

What to Include

The Customer Analysis section has two sub-sections: Target Customers and Customer Needs.

Target Customers

In the Target Customers section of your plan, you should provide a profile of your target customers.

For instance, how old are they? Are they married? Where do they live/work?

Below are several demographic (e.g., age) and psychographic (e.g., values) variables you can use to describe your target customers. Some are for B2C (business to consumer) and others are for B2B (business to business) companies:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Marital Status
  • Family size
  • Occupation
  • Language
  • Education
  • Values/Beliefs
  • Activities Engaged In
  • Business Size


Customer Needs

Here you will profile the needs of your target customers. Do they care most about speed? Price? Comfort?

Below are several reasons why customers might want or need your products and/or services:

  • Speed
  • Quality
  • Location
  • Reliability
  • Comfort
  • Price
  • Value
  • Customer service
  • Convenience
  • Ease of use

Identify which of these (or other) reasons are relevant and then explain them further. For example, you can discuss that customers dislike the fact that getting gasoline takes so long (driving to the station and waiting on line) and how your solution saves them time.


V. Competitive Analysis

Business Plan Template Competitive Analysis

Why This is Important

In this section of your plan, you need to provide an overview of your competitors.

This is important since readers want to know 1) you understand your competitive environment, and 2) have competitive advantages that will allow you to succeed.

Importantly, when entrepreneurs tell investors they have no competition, it often raises a red flag. This is because if there’s no competition, it signals that a market does not exist. Sometimes competition is indirect (as detailed below, this is when a different solution solves the customer’s needs than yours). For instance, when washing machines were invented, while there were no direct competitors (other washing machine brands), there was indirect competition (consumers manually washing their clothing).

What to Include

The Competitive Analysis section of your plan has three sub-sections: Direct Competitors, Indirect Competitors and Competitive Advantages.

Direct Competitors

Direct competitors are companies that fill the same customer need you do with the same or a similar solution. For example, direct competitors of a pizza shop would be other local pizza shops.

Detail your direct competitors here. What products/services do they offer? At what price points?

Below is the information checklist to include for each competitor:

  1. Competitor’s Name
  2. Overview of Competitor (where are they located; how long have they been operating)
  3. Products/services offered
  4. Pricing
  5. Revenues
  6. Location(s)
  7. Customer segments/geographies served
  8. Competitor’s key strengths
  9. Competitor’s key weaknesses


Indirect Competitors

Direct competitors are companies that fill the same customer need you do with a different solution. For example, a supermarket that sells frozen pizzas would be an indirect competitor to a pizza shop.

Detail your indirect competitors in this section. What products/services do they offer? At what price points? Use the same 9-point checklist mentioned above for direct competitors.

Competitive Advantages

In this section of your plan, you need to detail the reasons your company is positioned to outperform both direct and indirect competitors.

Below is a list of areas in which you might have competitive advantage. Review each and expand upon the relevant ones:

  • Products and/or Services
  • Human Resources
  • Location
  • Operational Systems
  • Intellectual Property
  • Customers
  • Marketing

For instance, you could say that your [enter any of the bullets from above] is better than your competitors because [insert reason].



VI. Marketing Plan Marketing Plan

Why This is Important

Your marketing plan details your products and/or services, pricing and promotions plans.

It is important since ideally it proves you 1) have a solid plan for reaching new customers, and 2) can attain new customers profitably (i.e., the customer acquisition cost is significantly less than the customer lifetime value).

What to Include

The Marketing Plan section of your plan has three sub-sections: Products, Services & Pricing, Promotions Plan and Distribution Plan.

Products, Services & Pricing

Here you should list each of your key products, detail their features and benefits and discuss their pricing (are they priced competitively or are they high-priced (premium) or low-priced (discount).

If your product/service is a restaurant or cafe, provide details on your menu items.

Promotions Plan

Here you should discuss which of the promotional tactics you will use to attract new customers and how.

For example, if radio advertising is a tactic you will employ, detail the radio shows on which you will have ads. Likewise, if you plan to advertise in trade journals, detail which ones you will target.

Distribution Plan

If you operate a retail store and/or an online store, and your storefront is the only way in which customers can buy from you, you do not have to complete this section of your plan.

However, if customers can buy from you via other methods (e.g., other retailers, distributors, etc.), detail these methods here. In such cases, you have two customers (your distribution partners and your end-customers/users) and you need to be sure you can satisfy the needs of both.


VII. Operations Plan

Operations Plan

Why This is Important

Your Operations Plan must detail 1) the key day-to-day processes that your business performs to serve customers and 2) the key business milestones that your company expects to accomplish as you grow.

Anyone can have lofty goals (e.g., we will reach $X million in revenue in year X). The Operations Plan proves to the reader that you have thought through and devised a plan to achieve your goals.

What to Include

The Operations Plan section of your plan has two sub-sections: Key Operational Processes and Milestones.

Key Operational Processes

Detail the key day-to-day processes that your business performs to serve customers such as marketing, product development, etc.

Below are key operational functions that your business may need to fulfill. In your plan, identify each of these areas that are relevant to your business and what the role of that function is. For example, our Customer Service team will ensure our customers are satisfied. We will provide 24/7 customer service and post product updates on social media each week.

  • Product Development
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Customer Service
  • Manufacturing
  • Administration
  • Accounting/Payroll
  • Human Resources
  • Legal
  • Purchasing



Here you will detail the key business milestones that your company expects to accomplish as you grow and when you expect to accomplish them.

Sample milestones include:

  • New products and services introductions
  • Store opening date
  • Revenue milestones (date when sales exceed $X, when sales exceed $Y, etc.)
  • Key partnerships executed
  • Key customer contracts secured
  • Key financial events (future funding rounds, IPO, etc.)
  • Key employee hires



VIII. Management Team Business Plan Management Team

Why This is Important

The Management Team section of your plan details your team members.

This section is critical since the best plans in the world will not be executed if the team is incapable. By proving you have a strong team, you are signaling to investors that you can in fact achieve the plans and milestones included in your plan.

What to Include

The Management Team section of your plan has three sub-sections: Management Team Members, Management Team Gaps and Board Members.

Management Team Members

For each team member, detail their name, title and background. Their backgrounds are most important. Detail what positions they’ve held and what they accomplished in those positions. For example, by saying Jane Smith was the former Vice President of Manufacturing for XYZ company where she scaled manufacturing from 1,000 to 10 million products per month would be very impressive if your company was a startup manufacturer.

Management Team Gaps

If your management team has gaps (key people you expect to hire in the future), detail what position(s) is/are missing and who will fill the positions.

This could read like a job description. For instance, you might say that we will soon hire a VP of Sales. This person will have 10 years’ experience selling to big box retailers and has managed at least 100 sales representatives at a time in their career.

Board Members

If you have a Board of Directors or Board of Advisors, include the bios of your Board members here.



IX. Financial Plan Financial Plan

Why This is Important

The Financial Plan section of your plan details the financial implications of running your business.

It is absolutely critical to investors and lenders since it indicates whether you will be able to repay your loans and/or provide a nice Return on Investment upon exit.

For your own use, your financial plan helps you understand how much outside funding is required, when your levels of cash might fall low, and what sales and other goals you need to hit to become financially viable.

What to Include

The Financial Plan section has four sub-sections: Revenue Model, Financial Highlights, Funding Requirements/Use of Funds and Exit Strategy.

Revenue Model

Here you will detail how your company generates revenues. Oftentimes this is very straightforward, for instance, if you sell products. Other times, your answer might be more complex, such as if you’re selling subscriptions (particularly at different price/service levels) or if you are selling multiple products and services.

Financial Highlights

In developing your plan, you need to create a full financial forecast including a 5-year Projected Income Statement, Projected Balance Sheet, and Projected Cash Flow Statement.

While your full financial projections will go in your Appendix, highlights of your projections will go in your Financial Plan section.

These highlights include your Revenues, Direct Expenses, Gross Profit, Other Expenses, EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization), and Net Income projections. Also include key assumptions used in creating these projections such as revenue and cost growth rates.

Funding Requirements/Use of Funds

In this section, you will detail how much outside funding you require, if any, and the core uses of these funds.

For example, detail how much of the funding you need for:

  • Product Development
  • Marketing
  • Product Manufacturing
  • Staffing
  • Rent or Office/Building Build-Out
  • Etc.


Exit Strategy

If you are seeking equity capital, you need to explain your “exit strategy” here or how investors will “cash out” from their investment.

To add credibility to your exit strategy, conduct market research. Specifically, find other companies in your market who have exited in the past few years. Mention how they exited and the amounts of the exit (e.g., XYZ Corp. bought ABC Corp. for $Y).



X. Appendix


Why This is Important

The Appendix is used to support and give more credibility to the rest of the business plan.

What to Include

Your Appendix should include any information that supports the claims in your plan such as patents, store designs, customer lists/contracts, partnership agreements, employee contracts, etc.

In addition, your Appendix must include your full financial forecasts (Projected Income Statements, Projected Balance Sheet, Projected Cash Flow Statements).

Be sure to document all the assumptions used in creating your financial projections.

For instance, for product/service revenues and gross profit, you need to specify assumptions including:

  • What is your expected sales growth rate?
  • What is the average price you will charge per product/service unit sold?
  • How much do you expect to raise your prices each year?
  • How much does it cost you to produce or deliver each unit sold?
  • How much (if at all), do you expect your direct product costs to grow each year?

For company costs, specify assumptions including:

  • Your salary (assuming you’re the owner/president/CEO) and annual growth rate in your salary
  • Salaries for your team members and growth rates
  • Monthly marketing expense and growth rates
  • Rent and utilities expenses
  • Insurance expense
  • Office supplies expense
  • Other expenses





Business Plan Template Frequently Asked Questions

As you may recall, we have written thousands of business plans for clients for over 20+ years. I say this not to brag, but to assure you that much information online about business plans is false.

Below you will find the correct answers to the most common business planning questions.

Why do you need a business plan?

A business plan is important in that it serves two core purposes; it provides 1) financial validation and 2) serves as a roadmap.

Financial Validation: With regard to financial validation, your business plan gives a strong indication, to both you and outside funding sources, as to whether your venture will be financially successful. Your financial projections, if completed properly (more on this below), allow financing sources to calculate whether you’ll be able to repay your loan or provide an appropriate Return on Investment.

Importantly, the written sections of your business plan support your financial projections. For instance, the Industry Analysis section must prove that your market size is large enough to support your success. And, your Marketing Plan section must show that you’ll be employing promotional tactics that allow you to attract customers at a reasonable cost.

Serves as a Roadmap: In particular, the Operations Plan section of your plan lays out your action plan. It details the key accomplishments and milestones you have established and when you expect to complete this.

The roadmap gives you and your team a clear path to follow. It keeps you focused and improves your odds of reaching the goals you’ve set.

When do you need to create your plan?

When you are conceiving a new business or new product or service, you should at least create a basic business plan (see our simple business plan template below). This plan should cover the basics of your plan. For instance, it should include the reasons you think the business, product or service will be successful. It should prove that the market is big enough to support your business. And, it must validate that financially it makes sense. For example, while you might be able to get a million people to pay you $20 for a new computer, if you can’t manufacture the computers for significantly less than $20, the business isn’t viable.

If you are seeking outside funding or are looking to grow your business to the next level, it is also time to create a plan.

What are the types of business plans?

There are several types of business plans, but they are all similar.

For example, there are 3 types of business plans depending on the goal of your plan. These three types are for funding, for strategy, and for both.

A plan for strategy focuses on ensuring you have the right strategy (marketing strategy, operations strategy, HR strategy, etc.) to grow a successful company. When you add the need for funding to this, you must also spend time convincing funding sources why your company will succeed.

There are also 2 types of plans based on the level of comprehensiveness. One is a simple business plan, as previously mentioned, that covers just the basic items to give a preliminary assessment regarding whether or not the company is viable. On the other hand, a full or standard business plan includes all of the key 10 business planning sections.

There are also 2 types of plans based on the company’s stage of growth. There are startup business plans for companies that are just forming, and there are established plans for those that are already operating.

In addition, there are 2 plan types based on the company’s size. There are small business plans that generally cover companies up to 50 employees. Medium and large company plans are usually for companies with 51-250 employees and 250+ employees respectively.

Finally, there are hundreds of business plan types based on the sector in which the business is operating. For instance, you may need a nonprofit business plan, a salon business plan, a catering business plan, a coffee shop business plan, a bar business plan, a record label business plan, an app business plan, or many other plans depending on your industry.

Importantly, each of these plans are essentially the same: they must prove the financial viability of the business and provide a roadmap for success.

What is a business plan template?

A business plan template is a template for a business plan; specifically it’s a document that is already formatted for your business plan needs. It lays out the key sections and sub-sections to include in your plan, and for each, poses the questions you must answer.

If you are using the best business plan template, you are essentially typing in your answers to questions, and then your plan is done. That’s not to say it’s quick and easy. Some questions (e.g., what trends are affecting your market?) will require research to be conducted. While others (e.g., what promotional tactics will you use to acquire customers inexpensively?) will force you to think and come up with optimal strategies.



Who is a business plan written for?

Your business plan may have one or many audiences.

In many cases, your plan will be written for outside funding sources including banks, alternative lenders, angel investors, venture capitalists or private equity firms.

Sometimes your plan is only written for yourself to confirm the venture is worth investing your time and/or money.

And finally, there are often other constituents to which you’ll want to show your plan. These include potential:

  • Employees: who will want to see it before joining
  • Landlords: who often want to see a plan to feel comfortable you’ll be able to pay your lease long-term
  • Vendors: who want to confirm it’s worth selling to your company
  • Partners: who need to assess whether or not a partnership could be profitable
  • Customers: who want to see your plan before leaving their current product/service provider


Is a business plan a legal document?

No, a business plan is not a legal document.

Unfortunately, there are several websites that promote their “legal plan template” and say you can use it to create an easy business plan.

It is important to note that a business plan is NOT considered a legal document in the United States. And there are no state laws with regards to business plans.

How do I share my plan with someone without letting him copy the whole idea?

The best practice when sharing your plan is to ask the reader to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). As the name indicates, an NDA is a document that prevents the reader from disclosing, or sharing, the information included in the document.

This being said, most investors and lenders will not sign an NDA. They simply see too many plans, many of which are quite similar, and doing so would disrupt their businesses. For such investors, we suggest sending a “teaser email” (an email with just basic information on the company) to confirm they are interested before sending your full plan.

What are the 10 components of a business plan?

The 10 components of a business plan are as follows:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Overview
  3. Industry Analysis
  4. Customer Analysis
  5. Competitive Analysis
  6. Marketing Plan
  7. Operations Plan
  8. Management Team
  9. Financial Plan
  10. Appendix

Each of these components are discussed in detail below.


What are the most important parts of a business plan?

By far, the most important part of your plan is your Executive Summary. This is what people read first, and if they are not impressed or excited after literally just 30 seconds, they often won’t read any further.

Within the Executive Summary, the keys are to 1) concisely explain what your business does, 2) explain your Unique Success Factors (detailed later on this page), 3) and provide a summary of your financial projections (also detailed later on this page).

These three items are the most important to readers, particularly investors and lenders.

What should you include on the cover page of your plan?

Your business plan cover page should include your company’s name and contact information including your name, address, email address and phone number.

Your cover page should graphically look nice, as you want to set the tone that you and your company are professional.

How long should your plan be?

Entrepreneurs, business owners and executives often ask me how long should a business plan be.

The answer is that your plan must be long enough to answer all the key questions you and/or investors have in determining whether you company is a viable investment opportunity or not. And it must be short enough that people will actually read it (since clearly, no one’s going to be psyched to read a 100-page document).

This being said, we’ve found that 15-25 pages is the ideal length for a business plan. In this amount of space, you can convey your business’ story in a digestible format for readers.

What is the difference between a business proposal and plan?

In the United States and most countries, a business plan is a document in which you present your company’s growth plan for the next five years. Oftentimes the plan is created to present to funding sources to raise outside capital.

In some countries, business people use the term “business proposal” synonymously with “business plan.” However, in the United States the term “business proposal” simply means a business offer. Most “business proposals” are offers to buy a product or service, partner with a firm, work for a company, etc. In the US, the term “business proposal” rarely relates specially to an offer to invest money in a business. Rather, the term “business plan” is used for the document seeking others to invest money in a business.

What are the characteristics of a good business plan?

A good plan has the following characteristics.

First, the plan is professional. Investors often think if a company can’t even put together a professional business plan, how could they possibly build a professional and successful company. Professional business plans are ones that visually look good, are concise and easy to read, and are free of typos.

The second characteristic of a good business plan is that it clearly explains why the company is uniquely qualified to succeed. It shows past accomplishments the company has achieved and why it is likely to attain the milestones laid out in the plan.

The third quality of a solid plan is that it is backed up by third-party research. This research should cover your industry, competitors and customers and show that the market supports the type of business you have.

The final quality of great business plan is that it includes realistic growth and financial projections that show, as accurately as possible, how the company might progress in the coming years.

What is the biggest mistake seen in business plans?

The biggest mistake is that most writers don’t understand that their business plan is a marketing document. That is, your plan should convince others to invest in and/or otherwise get involved in your company.

That’s not to say that your plan shouldn’t include hard facts and figures, a step-by-step growth plan, and realistic financial projections. It should. But it should also, if you are using your plan to seek outside funding, present your company in the best possible light. It should NOT read like a boring document. Rather, it should inspire and excite readers.

What must you avoid doing in business planning?

Most investors and lenders are skeptical when reading business plans. Since, if they’ve been doing their jobs for a while, they’ve seen thousands upon thousands of growth claims that were never realized.

Two ways to combat seeming overzealous are to limit or avoid superlatives and make reasonable financial growth projections. With regards to superlatives, if you say we are the “best” management team, for example, you need to back that up with facts and figures. Using phrases like best, world class and disruptive are great if they are true and can be backed up. If not, avoid using them since readers most likely will have been burned by such false claims in past plans they’ve funded.

In regard to reasonable financial growth projections, if, for example, no company has ever grown to $1 billion in revenues in 2 years, the likelihood that your company is going to do it is very small. As such, temper your financial assumptions.  As much as possible, base your assumptions on actual fast-growth companies that have come before you. In doing so, they will have much more credibility in the eyes of readers.

How does a startup business plan differ from a plan for an established company?

Both startup business plans and plans for established companies must include the same sections and sub-sections outlined below.

The key difference is that, since they have longer operating histories, established companies should have more milestones/accomplishments to document. Since the best indicator of future success is past success, it is critical to document such accomplishments in your plan.

Startups should also document the milestones they’ve achieved to date, but this list clearly is going to be shorter than a company that’s been operating for several years.

Is there anyone that can help me write my business plan?

Yes, there are firms that specialize in writing business plans. Our company, Growthink, has been a business plan consultant for over 20 years.

We specialize in writing business plans that ensure our clients have the best growth strategies and can help them raise funding if needed.

Click to learn more about Growthink’s business plan writing services.


How can a business plan help raise funding?

The two core tools used by entrepreneurs to raise funding are business plans and business or “pitch” presentations.

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will send the Executive Summary portion of their plan to investors first. If the investor is interested, they will then set up a meeting to discuss. During that meeting, the entrepreneur will give a presentation to the investor.

After the presentation, if interested, the investor will generally request the full business plan from the entrepreneur. This is so they can share the plan with their partners and fully vet it.


Does my plan differ if I’m seeking business funding?

Business plans that seek funding have three additional requirements that others do not. These are as follows:

  1. Clearly explain how much funding they are seeking and for what purposes
  2. Present realistic financial projections that show loan interest and principle can easily be repaid (if the funding source is loan)
  3. Present a reasonable exit plan for equity investors. An exit plan details how the company will exit (e.g., IPO, sale to another company). This is important as exits are how and when equity investors earn their returns.


What is best to attract investors, a business plan or a pitch deck?

To attract investors, you need BOTH a business plan and a pitch desk.

As mentioned above, most commonly entrepreneurs submit the Executive Summary of their plan to get initial investor interest.

Then, the investor meets with the entrepreneur, during which the entrepreneur presents their pitch deck.

If still interested, the investor commonly requests the full plan so they can review it in detail themselves and with their partners (who may not have been able to attend the pitch meeting).


What is the difference between a plan to show angel/seed/venture capital investors versus banks?

Both business plans to show equity investors (which include angel, seed and venture capital investors) and plans to show banks must prove the viability of the company to grow and earn profits.

The key difference between the two is that banks care that the company will be able to successfully make interest payments and eventually pay off the principle.

Equity investors, on the other hand are interested in the company exiting (IPO, selling the company) since this is how they get paid on their investment.

As such, these investors want you to show likely exit opportunities (e.g., listing other companies in your industry who have been acquired and at what multiples of revenues or earning). Such facts help paint the picture that your company will eventually exit, and they will earn a high Return on Investment on you.


How do I start creating my business plan? What do I need? What do I do first?

After downloading our template below, follow these steps to create your business plan:

  1. Assemble all the key constituents (this is usually a business partner or other executive team members if applicable).
  2. Set aside time to conduct market research. Specifically, you will need to conduct research with regards to your Industry (market size, market trends), Competition (who your competitors are and their strengths, weaknesses and positioning), and Customers (who your customers are and their wants/needs).
  3. Carve out time to develop your financial projections
  4. Schedule time to enter your research and financial projections into your business plan, answer the other key questions, and edit your plan so it is professional, concise and compelling.




Business Plan Templates to Download


Simple Business Plan Template

A simple business plan template might be more appropriate for you if you are merely deciding whether your venture is viable or not. A simple template would not be appropriate to show investors.

An outline for your simple template is below, and as you will see, it only has 7 sections. Feel free to copy/paste this to your favorite word processing software (e.g., Microsoft word, google documents) and then answer the questions included.

I. Executive Summary

Business Overview: What type of business are you operating it (e.g., a software company, a bakery, etc.)?

Success Factors: What is it about your company that makes it (or will make it) uniquely qualified to succeed?

II. Industry Analysis

Market Overview: In what market are you competing (e.g., the fast food market, the running shoe market)? How big is the market and is that size big enough? Are there positive or negative trends affecting the market (e.g., is it growing/shrinking, is government regulation on the horizon that could change the market)?

III. Customer Analysis

Target Customers: Who are you target customers and what are their primary needs when choosing a product/service provider such as your company?

IV. Competitive Analysis

Competitive Advantages: With whom will your company compete and how will your company better serve customer needs than your competitors? How else will you “beat” your competition?

V. Marketing Plan

What key products/services will you offer and what promotions methods (e.g., radio advertising, pay-per-click ads) will you use to attract customers?

VI. Management Team

Who is on your management team? What experiences/relationships/other do they possess that will help your venture succeed? Who must you hire in the future to improve your company’s odds of success?

VII. Financial Plan

Financial Plan: What are the main financial implications of your company. How much outside funding (if any) do you need? How much revenue can you realistically generate each year over the next five years? Are the profit margins high enough to sustain the business?


Free Business Plan Template PDF Download

Click here to download the pdf version of our simple business plan template.

The business plan template pdf allows you to see the key sections to complete in your business plan and the key questions that each must answer. The business plan pdf will definitely get you started in the right direction.

We do offer a low-price paid business plan template. Click here to learn more about it. The paid version includes numerous features that allow you to create a professional business plan in very little time. Its most touted feature is its financial model template. This allows you to simply enter some figures (such as your estimate sales and growth rates), and it then automatically calculates your complete five-year financial projections including your Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. Here’s the link again to our premium/paid business plan template.


Free Business Plan Template Word Download

Click here for a simple word business plan template you can download.

The Word business plan download includes an outline of each of the 10 key plan sections. Unlike the premium/paid version, it does not include all the key sub-sections, the questions that walk you through step-by-step, the professional designs, nor the financial projections template that allows you to create professional financial statements in minutes versus weeks if creating them from scratch.

Click here to learn more about our paid/premium business plan template which is the world’s #1 best-selling business plan template.


Sample Business Plans

Would it be helpful to see some completed sample business plans?

If so, please review the samples below.

Remember, the most important part of your plan is to explain why your business is uniquely qualified to succeed, so resist the urge to copy a sample business plan completely.

Restaurant Business Plan

Hotel Business Plan

Record Label Business Plan

Bakery Business Plan


Additional Business Plan Template & Entrepreneurship Resources

The video below tells you 4 critical questions you need to answer in your plan.
Be sure to watch it and include them in your plan.

Watch additional Growthink business planning videos on our YouTube channel here.
Helpful Links:

Business Plan Template: What to Include [Forbes]
Growthink Blog
Growthink Business Plan Help Center
Small Business Administration
Kauffman Foundation
National Venture Capital Association



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