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10 Need-to-Know Small Business Regulations
A lot of planning and preparation go into starting a business, and it’s important to know about some laws that can have an effect on your plans. Whether you know about the laws or not, as a small business owner, you can still be held aCC0untable if you don’t follow them. These regulations may vary by location, so check with authorities in your area to see if they apply to your entrepreneurial efforts.
If you live inside city limits, check with the city’s administration to find out if zoning allows you set up your business in the location you’ve chosen. If you’re in a rural area, check with personnel from the county to determine if there are any zoning regulations in place that would impact your business location.
Business Naming Regulations
When you’re choosing a business name, it’s important to make sure your favorite name isn’t already being used by another company. The Secretary of State (SOS) where you’re setting up shop is the place to check. Many states allow entrepreneurs to look up the names of registered businesses online, so a trip to the SOS office isn’t usually necessary.
You’re required to choose a business structure for tax purposes when setting up a business. A sole proprietorship is the easiest to establish and puts one owner in complete control. It also puts full liability on the owner if anything goes wrong and the business is sued. Partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships, but with more than one owner and liability being divided between the partners. An LLC provides the benefits of the other structures while providing some protection for the owner’s personal assets.
State Tax Licensing
Register with the Department of Taxation in your state to stay in compliance with tax laws. This is where you get your vendor’s license and instructions on filing commercial activity tax (or CAT) and sales tax. Other taxes you can set up to pay through the state’s Department of Taxation include municipal taxes, worker’s compensation and unemployment compensation if you’re hiring workers and your employer withholding taxes.
There are Federal regulations in place for certain industries that can cause trouble for you if you don’t follow the laws, as noted by the SBA. To get specific details about the Federal regulations that affect your business, review the regulations through the agency that oversees your industry.
Get a Federal Tax ID Number
You’ll need a Federal tax ID number called an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when you get ready to file your taxes. This number is generated through the IRS website. You can fill out the online form, and the number is provided immediately after you finish submitting your business information to the IRS.
Know the Different Employee Types
When you hire an employee, there are tax implications you need to understand. There’s a difference between 1099 employee who work as independent contractors and W-2 employees who you take out taxes for and also match a certain percentage. Knowing the difference before hiring and managing the paperwork aCC0rdingly can save confusion and legal troubles later.
Truth in Advertising
There are regulations in place requiring marketing and advertising to be accurate and truthful. Be sure you have the proof on hand to back up any claims you make about your product or service and what it can do for customers. Your business advertising can’t be deceptive, or it puts your company at risk of a lawsuit.
Health Care for Employees
The Health Care Tax Credit rewards small businesses that hire employees and provide health insurance for them by paying at least half the insurance premium for workers. When your business offers health coverage through the SHOP marketplace and meets several other key criteria, you’re business is eligible for this incentive program.
Privacy regulations dictate that your business protect the private information about your employees and your customers. It’s important to have a plan for managing the secure handling of all documents that contain personal information. Data must be stored securely, and you can’t ask for information you don’t have a legitimate need to possess.
MORE FROM QUESTIONSANSWERED.NET
- 11.4 The Business Plan
- 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
- 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
- 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
- Review Questions
- Discussion Questions
- Case Questions
- Suggested Resources
- 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
- 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
- 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
- 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
- 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
- 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
- 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
- 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
- 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
- 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
- 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
- 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
- 5.3 Competitive Analysis
- 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
- 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
- 6.3 Design Thinking
- 6.4 Lean Processes
- 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
- 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
- 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
- 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
- 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
- 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
- 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
- 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
- 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
- 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
- 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
- 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
- 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
- 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
- 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
- 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
- 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
- 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
- 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
- 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
- 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
- 11.2 Designing the Business Model
- 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
- 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
- 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
- 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
- 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
- 13.2 Corporations
- 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
- 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
- 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
- 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
- 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
- 14.1 Types of Resources
- 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
- 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
- 15.1 Launching Your Venture
- 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
- 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
- 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
- 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
- A | Suggested Resources
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the different purposes of a business plan
- Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
- Describe and develop the components of a full business plan
Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.
Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.
As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.
Business Plan Overview
Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.
Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.
The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.
Purposes of a Business Plan
A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.
Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.
A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.
You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.
Link to Learning
Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.
If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.
Types of Business Plans
The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.
Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary
As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.
A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.
In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.
Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.
The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.
Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .
Are You Ready?
Create a brief business plan.
Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.
- These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
- Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?
Full Business Plan
Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.
The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.
Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.
This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.
Industry Analysis and Market Strategies
Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.
The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.
Operations and Management Plan
In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.
Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.
Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.
A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.
Entrepreneur In Action
Laughing man coffee.
Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.
A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.
Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.
- You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
- Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
- What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?
What Can You Do?
Textbooks for change.
Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?
Work It Out
Franchisee set out.
A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.
- What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
- Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?
This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.
- 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
- 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” Foundr.com . July 12, 2015. https://foundr.com/4-startup-case-studies-failure/
- 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2017/02/15/inventor-of-the-cut-buddy-paid-youtubers-to-spark-sales-he-wasnt-ready-for-a-video-to-go-viral/#3eb540ce798a
- 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6902-business-plan-competitions-entrepreneurs.html
- 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf
- 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2019-RBPC-Competition-Rules%20-Format.pdf
- 54 Foodstart. http://foodstart.com
- 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018. https://givingcompass.org/article/hugh-jackman-journey-to-starting-a-social-enterprise-coffee-company/
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Business Development > Starting a Business > Feasibility & Business Plans
Updated July, 2020 File C5-68
Writing a business plan.
Every business needs to have a written business plan, whether creating or expanding a business. Formulating a business plan should be one of the first things done when starting a new business , because the primary goal of most business plans is to raise outside-investor capital. The business plan is the tool to convince others their investment is worthy.
Although a comprehensive and well thought out business plan is important to the success of your business venture, many people drag their feet when it comes to preparing one. The major reason people don’t want to write a business plan is that it is extra work that they don’t find enjoyable. But if you are serious about creating a successful business, you need to be serious about creating a good business plan.
Reasons for Writing a Business Plan
Before you start writing your business determine the purpose of your plan. That means you need to identify why you are writing it and how to prepare it properly. Below are eight reasons for writing a business plan. Identify which ones are relevant in your situation.
1. Putting the pieces together - Determine the purpose of your plan. Until you prepare your business plan, you won’t know if the internal logic of your proposal is consistent. In other words, do the pieces fit together? Writing the business plan will lead you to well-researched and insightful answers ahead of time to identify holes in your project and force you to critically think through various aspects of your plan that you previously had not identified. Building a business plan allows you to proactively determine the most tangible answers to some of the most critical business decisions. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions anytime there’s an absence (because odds-are you won’t make every decision yourself).
2. Creating a blueprint for action - The business plan provides you with a "blueprint" or "action plan" for creating your business or business expansion. The more specific your business plan, the easier it is to implement the plan and build your business. Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, while business planning tends to make benchmarks more intentional and consequential.
Business planning is a 2-stage process. The first stage is creating the plan and the second is implementing the plan. A great business plan is worthless if it is not properly implemented. This is why it is critical that you are intimately involved in writing the business plan. If you are not involved in writing the business plan, how can you implement it?
3. Focusing founders/management team - During this stage of business development, the founders often become weary from the relentless onslaught of issues facing them. The business plan helps to focus their activities and presents issues in an organized manner. It tends to bring structure and organization to a process that may be become chaotic.
Many small businesses employ contractors or freelance professionals, e.g. accounting, marketing, legal assistance, etc. With a business plan in place, the pertinent sections can get to the right support staff, while keeping everyone on the same page. Writing a business plan can go a long way in better understanding the competition and the market by more broadly illuminating consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions, or other pitfalls that aren’t plainly visible.
4. Obtaining financing - Business plans are often used to obtain financing from venture capitalists and banks. These capital sources will likely need a business plan and many times business plans are the most-effective way of proving business viability. In this sense the business plan is a promotional piece to present and describe your business venture, how you will put it together and why it will be successful. The basic premise is to show that you know what you are doing and why your business will be successful.
Look upon lenders as partners. They can point out shortcomings and deficiencies of the plan. Lender concerns about financing your business should be looked upon as opportunities to strengthen your project and increase its chances of success. However, understand the lenders role in your project. It is not the lender’s responsibility to be the financial manager of your business and make it successful. The lenders purpose is to generate returns for the lending institution while protecting their investment in your business.
Business plans can be used to attract equity investors to your business. A business plan forms the basis of the offering presentation to potential investors. The business plan is the tool you’ll use to convince people that working with you (investing in your company) is a smart choice. Your attorney will use the business plan in the creation of your offering documents.
5. Attracting key managers and employees - An important element of creating a successful business is your ability to attract key managers and employees. These individuals will want to be assured that you know what you are doing and that your business concept is viable. A well designed business plan is essential in this process. If a general manager has already been selected, the business plan should describe why this person is capable of achieving success.
6. Obtaining contracts – Entrepreneurship is a risky business. That risk becomes more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. The success of many businesses is based on their ability to have commitments or contracts in place from users. However, potential users need to be assured that you can actually deliver on the commitment. Once again, a well-designed business plan is essential for these commitments.
7. Creating joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions – Create a company profile, including history of the organization, your product or service offerings, target market and audience, what makes your business unique, etc. These profiles, found best in the first written parts of your plan, can be used to attract customers and talent.
Many rural businesses focus on moving up the supply chain to take advantage of profit opportunities closer to the consumer. To achieve this, it is common for businesses to create relationships with existing business in the supply chain through joint ventures, mergers or acquisitions. One of the purposes of this strategy is to take advantage of skills and experience of these businesses. Once again, a well-designed business plan is essential for creating these relationships.
8. Avoiding the big mistake - About half of small businesses are not around to see their 5th anniversary. While there are many reasons for failure many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans: no market need; lack of capital; inadequate managerial team; stiff competition; or pricing.
Research, research, research! Consider spending twice as much time researching, evaluating and thinking as actually spent writing the plan.
How to Write the Plan
Business plans help to run your business, determined viable from the feasibility study! A good plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing. The business plan should be written in plain, easy-to-read language. Use short simple sentences and easy to understand terms. Avoid jargon and terms that are unfamiliar to people outside of your industry.
There is no right or wrong way to writing a business plan. What is important is picking the format where the plan meets your needs. Determine what you want to cover in your business plan and make headings for each of the items. Begin each major section on a new page with the appropriate title (e.g. Marketing Plan). Make sure your business plan covers all of the relevant topics. To help you organize your business plan use Information File C5-69, Create Your Own Business Plan .
Fine tune your business plan. It is extremely rare to achieve the finished version of a plan in the first draft. It may need to be re-written several times. So, review, revise and rewrite.
The purpose of rewriting the plan is to fill in gaps, solidify the logic and make the plan easier to understand by the reader. It is not to add extraneous materials. So if you find the length of the plan expanding greatly after each rewrite, your efforts are probably counterproductive. At some point in time you need to declare the plan finished - for now - remembering that the plan will need to be updated as conditions change.
The business plan is a promotional document. So, in addition to your own purposes, consider the viewpoint of others you are writing the plan for (banker, investor, customer, etc.). The business plan may be used as a sales document. The content and quality of the plan should be representative of your company. Represent your company’s image and convince the reader you understand all aspects of the business.
Be honest. Do not be overly optimistic or try to hide limitations or weaknesses. Be sure to support the goals and the claims you make in the business plan. Include supporting evidence. This includes statistics, studies and other research support.
It is usually a good idea to have someone proofread your business plan who is not involved in the project. He/she can help you identify aspects of your business plan that may need additional clarification and explanation.
A great business plan will always have a strategic and aggressive marketing plan, including marketing objectives like:
- Introducing new products
- Extending or regaining market for existing products
- Entering new territories
- Boosting sales in a particular product, market or price range
- Cross-selling or bundling
- Entering into long-term contracts with desirable clients
- Raising prices
- Refining a product
- Having a content marketing strategy
- Enhancing manufacturing or product delivery
Proofread your plan for the following:
- Poor organization
- Vague statements
- Errors in logic
- Gaps in the plan
- Repetitive statements
- Misspelled words
- Poor grammar
- Incomplete sentences
- Mathematical errors
Questions to Answer in Writing the Plan
There are certain elements that are critical for a business plan. Below are eight questions your business plan should answer. The quality of your business plan will depend on how well you can answer them. You can use these as a “checklist” of the completeness of your plan.
1. Who are we? 2. What do we do? 3. What do we have to offer? 4. Why will someone pay for our product or service? 5. What resources do we have? 6. Why will we be successful? 7. Why would someone participate/invest? 8. How will we measure performance?
Who Should Write the Plan
Involvement in creating the business plan is critical. Although it is common and often preferable to have someone help you write the business plan, the founders are ultimately responsible for creating the ideas and content of the business plan. Stated simply, if you are not intimately involved in writing the business plan, you will not know what it contains. If you don’t know what the business plan contains, how can you implement the plan? If you cannot implement the plan, how can you create a successful business?
So, the primary responsibility for writing the business plan is with you, the founders. You can hire someone (consultant) to help prepare the plan. He/she can challenge and question assumptions and conclusions. But you are responsible for the content of the plan. The role of consultants or professional writers is only to assist you in this important process.
Place one person in charge of preparing the plan. You may divide the responsibility of preparing and/or writing various sections of the plan among the founders, or you may hire a consultant to assist you in preparing the plan. However, one person needs to be responsible for moving the process forward and integrating the various sections.
How Long Should It Be
Focus on the quality of your business plan, not its length. The length of the business plan should be the shortest version needed to adequately cover the topic. The business plan should properly and succinctly tell your story. Does it address the relevant issues? Anything more is not a sign of depth or completeness. Rather, it will dissuade people from reading the plan because of its length. Remember, focus on content - not length.
How is Your Business Unique
Rural agriculture includes many types of businesses. Businesses range from a few producers marketing products directly to local consumers to large-scale integrated processing/manufacturing businesses. So, a business plan is a unique document. The actual content of the business plan will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the business, the stage of development and the type of financing needed. Likewise, the individuals whom you are writing the business plan for can vary substantially.
The plan must fit the needs of the business. For example, the marketing needs of a commodity processing business like ethanol are much different than those of a niche food business. The financial needs of a processing business are much greater than those of a direct marketing business. So the focus on investors and lenders is much greater. In addition, the need for risk management strategies is much greater due to the capital intensive nature of the business and the volatility of commodity markets. Conversely, the management needs of both types of businesses are substantial, although of a different type.
Because your business is unique, the role of developing a strategy to achieve success is important.
1. Where are we now? 2. Where do we want to be? 3. How do we get there?
Although all three questions are relevant, it is essential the business plan answers the question “how do we get there?”.
Who are the Readers of Your Plan
Make your business plan adaptable based upon your audience. Although this is a diverse group, it is a finite one. Strive for versions directed at a particular audience, by including the specific reader’s interest (lender, supplier, etc.).
Most businesses have several types of stakeholders. A stakeholder is someone who has a stake or interest in the outcome of the business. In addition to the business founders, stakeholders include equity investors, bankers, key employees and others. Different stakeholders have different priorities. These priorities need to be balanced in the business plan.
Table 1 shows issues to emphasize or deemphasize depending on whom the plan is written for. For example, bankers are usually looking for cash-flow while investors may be looking for growth. This is not to say that the content and direction of the business plan should be altered. However, it does mean that the focus of the plan may shift.
This means that you may have more than one version of the business plan. This works well, as long as the same story is told - just with different emphasis.
Implementing the Business Plan
Preparing a business plan is only one step in creating a viable business. Writing a great business plan is meaningless unless you properly implement the plan. Many start-up business ventures fail because they do not focus their efforts on properly implementing the plan. Essentially this is a plan for implementing the plan. A portion of the business plan should focus on the steps required to implement the plan. It should include a timeline and milestones for when various aspect of the plan are accomplished.
Extension farm management specialist 712-223-1574 view more from this author, don hofstrand, retired extension value added agriculture specialist view more from this author.
What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
Published: June 07, 2023
In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.
Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?
In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.
What is a business plan?
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. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.
The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.
What is a business plan used for?
The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.
Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]
Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.
Purposes of a Business Plan
Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Securing financing from investors.
Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.
All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.
Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.
2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.
A business plan should leave no stone unturned.
Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.
To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.
These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.
Free Business Plan Template
The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.
- Outline your idea.
- Pitch to investors.
- Secure funding.
- Get to work!
You're all set!
Click this link to access this resource at any time.
Free Business Plan [Template]
Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..
Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.
A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.
As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.
It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.
4. Getting an A in your business class.
Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.
If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?
What does a business plan need to include?
- Business Plan Subtitle
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- The Business Opportunity
- Competitive Analysis
- Target Market
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Summary
- Funding Requirements
1. Business Plan Subtitle
Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.
2. Executive Summary
Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.
3. Company Description
This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.
4. The Business Opportunity
The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.
5. Competitive Analysis
Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.
6. Target Market
Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.
7. Marketing Plan
Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.
Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.
8. Financial Summary
Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.
So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.
10. Funding Requirements
Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.
Types of Business Plans
- Startup Business Plan
- Feasibility Business Plan
- Internal Business Plan
- Strategic Business Plan
- Business Acquisition Plan
- Business Repositioning Plan
- Expansion or Growth Business Plan
There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.
For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .
1. Startup Business Plan
As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.
The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.
Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.
For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.
2. Feasibility Business Plan
This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:
- A detailed product description
- Market analysis
- Technology needs
- Production needs
- Financial sources
- Production operations
According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.
Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.
3. Internal Business Plan
Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.
Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:
- Department-specific budgets
- Target demographic analysis
- Market size and share of voice analysis
- Action plans
- Sustainability plans
Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.
4. Strategic Business Plan
Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.
These types of business plans may include:
- Relevant data and analysis
- Assessments of company resources
- Vision and mission statements
It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.
5. Business Acquisition Plan
Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.
A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.
A business plan for an existing company will explain:
- How an acquisition will change its operating model
- What will stay the same under new ownership
- Why things will change or stay the same
- Acquisition planning documentation
- Timelines for acquisition
Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.
For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:
- What the new owner will do to turn the business around
- Historic business metrics
- Sales projections after the acquisition
- Justification for those projections
6. Business Repositioning Plan
When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.
This plan will:
- Acknowledge the current state of the company.
- State a vision for the future of the company.
- Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
- Outline a process for how the company will adjust.
Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.
For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.
7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan
When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.
For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.
This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:
- SWOT analysis
- Growth opportunity studies
- Financial goals and plans
- Marketing plans
- Capability planning
These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.
Getting Started With Your Business Plan
At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.
When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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How to Develop and Use a Business Plan
Digital library > building and inspiring an organization > business plans, "how to develop and use a business plan".
A well-prepared business plan is more than a necessary tool to seek funding. It should also be a functional road map for your growth strategyI
Reaching the decision-makers, franchising your business, goal setters go farther, don’t break your promises.
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Writing a business plan
A business plan documents your objectives and the strategies and structures you have in place for achieving them.
Your business plan should explain how you will manage all the important aspects of your business, from products and services to operational plans and finances.
Video: Writing a business plan
Watch our video on why you should write a business plan for your new or current business.
- why it's important to create and review a business plan
- the information to include in your business plan
- using a business plan to achieve your business goals
- downloading and completing our business plan template.
Use a business plan to:
- help you start a new business
- help you improve the performance of an existing business
- attract funding for an investment
- communicate business progress to stakeholders
- communicate business goals and objectives to internal staff members
- attract potential buyers for the business.
A business plan is a 'living' document, so it should evolve and change—think of it as an operating guide for your business throughout the start-up, operations and succession phases.
Download and write a full business plan
Download our free full business plan template and use the guidelines below to write a plan for your business.
There are also other templates available that may better meet your needs—visit business.gov.au .
You should customise your chosen template to suit your business and industry.
We explain below how you can start with a 1-page business plan to ease you into the process of completing the full business plan.
Business plan elements
The elements of your business plan will vary depending on:
- what phase your business is in (starting, running, selling)
- the industry your business is in
- how you choose to use the plan (e.g. for internal development purposes).
Every business plan will be different, but they will generally include similar elements. The sections of our business plan template are listed below—use these as a guide when completing it or as a reference when creating your own.
At the start of your business plan, include the following business details:
- business name
- date registered
- Australian Business Number (ABN)
- Australian Company Number (ACN) – if applicable
- tax file number (TFN)
- business address
- contact details
- website details
- social media details.
Read about choosing a business structure and getting the right licences and registrations .
This section provides an overview of the business concept. It should be attention-grabbing and succinct—the content will be covered in more detail in future sections.
While this is the first section of the plan, it can often help to write it last after the other sections have been finalised.
This helps to ensure that the executive summary covers all the key information within the plan.
It should define:
- what your business vision is
- what your legal structure is
- what products and services you offer
- who your customers are
- what sets you apart from your competitors
- how you will create a market for your products and services
- how you will operate
- what your financial projections are
- how your business or industry will evolve
- who owns or manages your business
- what your short-term and long-term goals are.
Refer to the corresponding sections in our free business plan template:
- 2.1 Products and services
- 2.2 Market analysis
- 2.3 Industry description and outlook
- 2.4 SWOT analysis
In this section, you should highlight your business products and services and describe what makes them unique, such as their:
- cost and sale price.
You can also include details of any plans your business has to introduce new products and services.
Your market analysis should describe your target market (e.g. local, international) and target customers.
Add in the research you have done about your industry and the market trends.
In this section, you will also complete a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
Find out more about researching your market:
- planning and conducting market and customer research
- market research kit .
- 3.1 Current situation
- 3.2 Marketing objectives
- 3.3 Target segments
- 3.4 Competitor analysis
- 3.5 Brand positioning
- 3.6 Marketing programs
- 3.7 Marketing tactics
- 3.8 Key actions
- 3.9 Business controls
A business plan should include a high-level summary of your market research and analysis.
Starting with your current situation, complete your marketing objectives and analysis around your target market and your competitiveness.
Complete your customer and competitor profiles and develop a 1-page brand strategy .
These will help you prepare your marketing plan in section 3 of the template.
Your plan will include marketing tactics and an action plan. You will identify how you will set KPIs and report on your marketing effectiveness.
- branding your business
- writing a marketing strategy and plan .
- 4.1 Sales strategies
- 4.2 Sales analysis and forecast
- 4.3 Customer management
Explain your sales forecasts and targets in this section, and how you will manage customer records and payments. You should understand what sales strategies will work for you and the best channels to market your products or services .
You will also need to know what your current sales, volume and market share are and what you expect them to be for the next 2 years.
Learn about cash flow, invoices and payments and how to collect and store customer information for help with managing customers.
Regardless of your business or industry, you will need to prepare for operating some of your business online.
Note your digital and customer and data-protection strategies in your business plan. You could also include:
- the digital tools and resources that will be used in your business
- the people responsible for overseeing the digital strategy within the business
- details of any security considerations.
Complete a digital health check and learn how to create a digital strategy for your business .
- 6.1 Business structure
- 6.2 Contracts, licences and agreements
- 6.3 Intellectual property
- 6.4 Insurance
- 6.6 Employees
- 6.7 Financial
- 6.8 Legal and ethical trading
- 6.9 Risk management
- 6.10 Business continuity
In this section, record the legal and risk management considerations for your business.
Describe your business structure and the contracts you have now or could have in the future.
If you have a lease or are considering leasing premises, add the terms and conditions of the lease and any actions you need to take to your plan.
To complete the other legal section, learn about:
- legal requirements for businesses
- selecting the right business location
- business insurance
- intellectual property: the basics
- legal and ethical selling
- your responsibilities as an employer .
Search the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) if you need information about licences that relate to your business.
To identify the risks to your business, your business plan should also:
- outline and demonstrate that you have considered the risks to your business (a business risk analysis) and the possible consequences
- summarise the plans you have in place for overcoming these risks.
A risk matrix tool or risk management plan can be developed to help you analyse your business risks—read more about identifying and managing business risk .
You will also need to consider business continuity planning to prepare for unexpected situations.
- 7.1 Location
- 7.2 Production
- 7.3 Current performance
- 7.4 Plant and equipment
- 7.6 List of major suppliers
- 7.7 Stock and inventory
This section will cover all you know about how you do things in your business—for example, your standard operating procedures and how to ensure the quality of your products and services.
To better understand your business operations, read about:
- business processes, procedures and standards
- choosing the right business location
- stock control: the basics .
- 8.1 Management and key personnel
- 8.3 Training
- 8.4 Recruitment
- 8.5 Succession planning
This section helps you note your current workforce structure and plan for the workforce you will have in the future as you grow, and for potentially passing the business to a successor.
Your business plan will detail your business's organisational structure (proposed or actual)—this is often shown as a diagram representing the business hierarchy, different roles within the business and how they relate to one another.
You should also consider succession planning, even if you haven't thought about how you would sell or pass on the business.
- workforce planning for small business
- training and developing staff
- passing a business to a successor .
- 9.1 Start-up costs
- 9.2 Profit and loss forecast
- 9.3 Cash flow forecast
- 9.4 Balance sheet
- 9.5 Financial ratios
Your business plan should include your business finance details—there is a separate business finance template you can also complete.
Summarise your key financial details, including:
- costs for establishing or operating the business
- sales needed to break even
- projected cash flow
- funding arrangements
- payment plans.
You can assess the financial performance of your business using financial ratios .
- 10.1 Review and update business goals
- 10.2 Make a schedule to review your actions
The final section of the business plan should include a set of actions to take before you review your business plan next, and check your progress. This should be over a 6–12 month period, based on the business goals outlined in your plan.
Set a regular review date for the actions and the business plan. Assess which actions have been completed, which remain outstanding and which require updating to help your business plan remain relevant.
Read about skills for running a business to consider ways to improve your time management and leadership.
Optional business plan elements
While not essential, the following can supplement your business plan.
Business vision statement and business values
A comprehensive business vision statement defines what your business does and why it is important.
This could be added in more detail in your business plan and referred to in your executive summary. Find out how to create a business vision .
Business values are the principles, beliefs, and standards of behaviour that guide your business. Including this in your plan will better reflect your goals for the business.
Customer journey strategy
This section could include details of your business's key customer service strategies.
Consider mapping out the intended customer journey—the intended path customers will follow when interacting with your business.
Start with a short business plan
A 1-page business plan can be a good place to start your business planning.
It can cover only high-level information about your business value proposition (i.e. why a customer would want to buy your products and services) and business model.
A one-page plan can include details about:
- your business vision and values
- projected income and expenses
- identified business risks
- the customer segments you intend to target
- the value proposition of your business
- channels that could be used to reach your target customers (e.g. direct or online marketing)
- your customer service plan
- how you will receive payment for products and services
- the activities needed to achieve your outcomes
- the resources you will need
- details of any partners you will use to provide goods and services
- the cost structure for your products and services (based on all items as listed in the plan).
You can search online for tools that can help you create this plan—for example, a value proposition canvas or business model canvas .
Once you are satisfied with this short business plan, you can use it as the basis for your full business plan.
Communicating your business plan
Communicating your business plan to your staff and stakeholders is essential for implementing it and achieving your business goals, even when starting out with a small team.
Some practical tips for communicating the plan include:
- being mindful of your audience—different communication styles will suit different audiences (e.g. you may be able to communicate more informally with your staff than with your stakeholders, board members or investors)
- choosing an appropriate format, time and place—you could hold a staff meeting, schedule a business plan review session and invite all staff and stakeholders to attend, or create an online presentation
- using clear, concise and simple language
- making time to get feedback from your staff and stakeholders.
Read about skills for running a business for tips on developing your communication skills.
Learn about managing people through change .
Review and update your business plan
You will need to regularly review your business plan to ensure that it is relevant, achievable and up to date with any changes in your business.
Consider reviewing your business plan:
- at regular intervals (e.g. quarterly or annually)
- after a business SWOT analysis has been completed
- when raising capital (e.g. approaching the bank for a loan or pitching to an investor)
- before implementing growth strategies or new products
- when new staff members are added to the team
- when implementing a new organisational structure
- before changes in the industry or to legislation
- when preparing to sell the business .
To help you review your own plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- What will the review schedule be?
- Is the plan up to date?
- Have the business goals changed?
- Is the plan still matched to the business goals?
- Are market trends changing?
- Have there been major political, environmental, social or technological changes that affect your business?
- Have there been significant changes in your finances or need for capital?
- Is the plan still 'fit for purpose'?
Business planning resources and tools
The following planning resources and tools below can help you compile and update your business plan to ensure your business is on track to meet its goals.
- Small business planning webinar recording
- Writing a marketing strategy and plan
- Identifying and managing business risk
- Business processes, procedures and standards
- Plan your business finances
- Market and customer research
- Choosing and working with business advisers
- Networking in business
- Ask a mentor – business planning
Learn more about business planning with free, online courses .
Resources for finding licences, permits and codes of conduct
Use the Business Launchpad to discover all your licensing needs, compiled in your own customised guide.
You can also search for licences, permits and codes of practice using the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS).
Learn about codes of conduct and codes of practices from:
- the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- WorkCover Queensland .
- Last reviewed: 8 Dec 2022
- Last updated: 1 Jun 2023