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Thinking about starting a business? One of the first steps you’ll need to take is to write a business plan. A business plan can help guide you through your financial planning, marketing strategy, unique selling point and more.
Making sure you start your new business off on the right foot is key, and we’re here to help. We’ve put together this guide to help you write your first business plan. Or, you can skip the guide and dive right into a business plan template.
Ready to get started?
A business plan is a document that helps potential new business owners flesh out their business idea and put together a bird’s eye view of their business. Writing a business plan is an essential step in any startup’s ideation process.
Business plans help determine demographics, market analysis, competitive analysis, financial projections, new products or services, and so much more.
Each of these bits of information are important to have on hand when you’re trying to start a business or pitching investors for funds.
Here’s an example of a business plan that you can customize to incorporate your own business information.
We’re going to walk you through some of the most important parts of your business plan as well as how to write your own business plan in 8 easy steps.
If you’re in the beginning stages of starting a business, you might be wondering if it’s really worth your time to write out your business plan.
We’re here to tell you that it is.
A business plan is important for a number of reasons, but mostly because it helps to set you up for success right from the start.
Here are four reasons to prove to you why you need to start your business off on the right foot with a plan.
Putting together a business plan helps you to set your objectives for growth and make realistic goals while you begin your business.
By laying out each of the steps you need to take in order to build a successful business, you’re able to be more reasonable about what your timeline is for achieving everything as well as what your financial projections are.
The best way to set goals is using the SMART goals guidelines, outlined below.
Having a business plan helps you be more organized and strategic, improving the overall performance of your business as you start out. In fact, one study found that businesses with a plan grow 30% faster than businesses that don’t.
Doesn’t that sound reason enough alone to start out your business venture with a solidified plan? We thought so too, but we’ve still got two more reasons.
Starting a new business is uncharted territory. However, when you start with a roadmap for your journey, it makes it easier to see success and minimize the risks that come with startups.
Minimize risk and maximize profitability by documenting the most important parts of your business planning.
And finally, our last reason that business plans are so important is that if you plan to pitch investors for funding for your new venture, they’re almost always going to want to see a detailed business plan before deciding whether or not to invest.
You can easily create your business plan and investor pitch deck right here with Visme. Just sign up for a free account below to get started.
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The executive summary is a brief overview of your entire business plan, giving anyone who reads through your document a quick understanding of what they’re going to learn about your business idea.
However, you need to remember that some of the people who are going to read your business plan don’t want to or have time to read the entire thing. So your executive summary needs to incorporate all of the most important aspects of your plan.
Here’s an example of an executive summary from a business plan template you can customize and turn into your own.
Your executive summary should include:
One thing to note is that you should actually write your executive summary after the rest of your business plan so that you can properly summarize everything you’ve already created.
So at this point, simply leave a page blank for your executive summary so you can come back to it at the end of your business plan.
The next step is to write out a full description of your business and its core offerings. This section of your business plan should include your mission statement and objectives, along with your company history or overview.
In this section, you may also briefly describe your business formation details from a legal perspective.
Don’t spend too much time trying to craft this. Your mission statement is a simple “why” you started this business. What are you trying to achieve? Or what does your business solve?
This can be anything from one single quote or a paragraph, but it doesn’t need to be much longer than that. In fact, this could be very similar to your value proposition.
What are your goals? What do you plan to achieve in the first 90 days or one year of your business? What kind of impact do you hope to make on the market?
These are all good points to include in your objectives section so anyone reading your business plan knows upfront what you hope to achieve.
If you’re not launching a brand new business or if you’ve previously worked on another iteration of this business, let potential investors know the history of your company.
If not, simply provide an overview of your business, sharing what it does or what it will do.
Your third step is to conduct a market analysis so you know how your business will fit into its target market. This page in your business plan is simply meant to summarize your findings. Most of your time should be spent actually doing the research.
Your market analysis needs to look at things like:
Put together a summary of your market analysis and industry research in a 1-2 page format, like we see below.
Your next step is to conduct a competitive analysis. While you likely touched on this briefly during your market analysis, now is the time to do a deep dive so that you have a good grasp on what your competitors are doing and how they are generating customers.
Start by creating a profile of all your existing competitors, or at the very least, your closest competitors – the ones who are offering very similar products or services to you, or are in a similar vicinity (if you’re opening a brick and mortar store).
Focus on their strengths and what they’re doing really well so that you can emulate their best qualities in your own way. Then, look at their weaknesses and what your business can do better.
Take note of their current marketing strategy, including the outlets you see a presence, whether it’s on social media, you hear a radio ad, you see a TV ad, etc. You won’t always find all of their marketing channels, but see what you can find online and on their website.
After this, take a minute to identify potential competitors based on markets you might try out in the future, products or services you plan to add to your offerings, and more.
Then put together a page or two in your business plan that highlights your competitive advantage and how you’ll be successful breaking into the market.
Step five is to dedicate a page to the products or services that your business plans to offer.
Put together a quick list and explanation of what each of the initial product or service offerings will be, but steer clear of industry jargon or buzzwords. This should be written in plain language so anyone reading has a full understanding of what your business will do.
You can have a simple list like we see in the sample page above, or you can dive a little deeper. Depending on your type of business, it might be a good idea to provide additional information about what each product or service entails.
The next step is to work on the financial data of your new business. What will your overhead be? How will your business make money? What are your estimated expenses and profits over the first few months to a year?
There is so much that goes into your financial plan for a new business, so this is going to take some time to compile. Especially because this section of your business plan helps potential cofounders or investors understand if the idea is even viable.
Your financial plan should include at least five major sections:
While these are the most common financial statements, you may discover that there are other sections that you want to include or that lenders may want to see from you.
The next step is coming up with a successful marketing plan so that you can actually get the word out about your business.
Throughout your business plan, you’ve already researched your competitors and your target market, both of which are major components of a good marketing strategy. You need to know who you’re marketing to, and you want to do it better than your competition.
On this page or throughout this section of your business plan, you need to focus on your chosen marketing channels and the types of marketing content you plan to create.
Start by taking a look at the channels that your competitors are on and make sure you have a good understanding of the demographics of each channel as well. You don’t want to waste time on a marketing channel that your target audience doesn’t use.
Then, create a list of each of your planned marketing avenues. It might look something like:
Depending on the type of business you’re starting, this list could change quite a bit — and that’s okay. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, and you need to find the one that brings in the highest number of potential customers.
Your last section will be all about your leadership and management team members. Showcasing that you have a solid team right from the start can make potential investors feel better about funding your venture.
You can easily put together an organizational chart like the one below, with the founder/CEO at the top and each of your team leaders underneath alongside the department they’re in charge of.
Simply add an organizational chart like this as a page into your overall business plan and make sure it matches the rest of your design to create a cohesive document.
If you want to create a good business plan that sets your new business up for success and attracts new investors, it’s a good idea to start with a template.
We’ve got 14 options below from a variety of different industries for you to choose from. You can customize every aspect of each template to fit your business branding and design preferences.
This feminine and minimalistic business plan template is perfect for getting started with any kind of creative business. Utilize this template to help outline the step-by-step process of getting your new business idea up and running.
Looking for a more modern business plan design? This template is perfect for plainly laying out each of your business plans in an easy-to-understand format. Adjust the red accents with your business’s colors to personalize this template.
Creating a business and marketing plan for your nonprofit is still an essential step when you’re just starting out. You need to get the word out to increase donations and awareness for your cause.
If your business plan needs to rely heavily on showcasing photos of your products (like food), this template is perfect for you. Get potential investors salivating at the sight of your business plan, and they’re sure to provide the capital you need.
Serifs are in. Utilize this template with stunning serif as all the headers to create a contemporary and trendy business plan design that fits your business. Adjust the colors to match your brand and easily input your own content.
Creating a more kid-friendly or playful business? This business plan template has bold colors and design elements that will perfectly represent your business and its mission.
Use the pages you need, and remove any that you don’t. You can also duplicate pages and move the elements around to add even more content to your business plan.
This classic business plan template is perfect for a consulting business that wants to use a stunning visual design to talk about its services.
Customize this coffee shop business plan template to match your own business idea. Adjust the colors to fit your brand or industry, replace photos with your own photography or stock photos that represent your business, and insert your own logo, fonts and colors throughout.
A SaaS or service-based company also needs a solid business plan that lays out its financials, list of services, target market and more. This template is the perfect starting point.
Every startup or small business needs to start out with a strong business plan in order to start off on the right foot and set yourself up for success. This template is an excellent starting point for any small business.
An ecommerce business plan is ideal for planning out your pricing strategy of all of your online products, as well as the site you plan to use for setting up your store, whether WordPress, Shopify or something else.
This is another generic business plan template for any type of startup to customize. Switch out the content, fonts and colors to match your startup branding and increase brand equity.
Want just a quick business plan to get your idea going before you bite the bullet and map out your entire plan? This one-page template is perfect for those just starting to flesh out a new business idea.
This salon business plan template is easy on the design and utilizes a light color scheme to put more focus on the actual content. You can use the design as is or keep it as a basis for your own design elements.
Ready to write your business plan? Once you’ve created all of the most important sections, get started with a business plan template to really wow your investors and organize your startup plan.
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