The 7 Sections of a Business Plan Template
Creating a business plan can be a time-consuming process, yet you can’t skip it. Business plans let you define your goals and show potential investors that your company is serious. However, as you create the plan, you want to make sure you don’t miss any crucial parts.
This is where a free business plan template can come in handy (not to be confused with a business proposal template). It will streamline the process of creating the plan while also ensuring you don’t forget any steps.
Not only does creating a business plan help you attract investors, but it enables you to focus on your goals and create a clear picture of your company’s past, present, and future; hence, why a business plan can increase your chance of growth by 30%.
What is a business plan?
Think of your business plan as the written document that outlines the essential information about your business. It not only defines your goals but provides information on how you plan to achieve them. Your business plan provides a roadmap from financial, operational, and marketing standpoints.
As mentioned, one of the purposes of your business plan is to attract investors. People are more likely to invest in your company if you have taken the time to plan the future. Your plan also encourages them to invest by showing them your financial position and other concrete figures that inspire confidence.
Your business plan also helps your company internally. It helps solidify your internal strategy to start and run the business. It lets you see what steps you have to take and reminds you of your main goals. Note, do not be confused with the difference between a business plan template and a proposal template.
The process of writing a business plan
The process of writing a business plan is relatively straightforward. You start by thinking about your business and then work through the business plan template section by section.
As you write your business plan, stop and think about the long-term goals of your company. Don’t rush through the plan. It should be well-thought-out and that you do not want to have to adjust in the future.
Choose between traditional and lean startup business plans.
One important thing you will have to do before you start is to choose the business plan format you want to use. There are two main categories, the traditional business plan, and the lean startup business plan.
The first of these is much more common. It is typically dozens of pages in length and is incredibly detailed. If you opt for a traditional business plan, you want to be as detailed as you can.
By contrast, a lean startup business plan follows the same structure. The difference is that instead of going into detail, you stick to the main points. Your goal is usually to fit everything on one page. These are also much quicker, sometimes taking only an hour.
The good news is you can use the free business plan template outline below whether you opt for a lean startup or traditional business plan. Your choice will just affect how much detail you go into.
What are the 7 sections of a business plan template?
Depending on the template you choose to use, your business plan can have a slight variation in how many sections you will include. However, there are seven core sections that you always want to feature in the plan.
1. Executive summary
Think of the executive summary as your elevator pitch that introduces your company and the contents of the plan. Most companies find it much easier to write this section last, and it should not be more than a few pages.
Depending on your business plan’s length, you should include a table of contents in this section. Be sure to include a mission statement, which is a brief summary of your company and goals.
You also want overviews and highlights of your company’s background, market opportunity, management, competitive advantages, and financial highlights.
2. Business description or business structure
The next part of a business plan template will be the business description. In this section, you describe the structure and function of your business. Let the reader know your products or services. This section should also include information about strategic partnerships or relationships, expenses, your company’s legal structure, administration, and intellectual property ownership.
One of the key elements of this section is that you should highlight how you have an advantage over competitors.
In the case of products, tell readers how you manufacture them. Include information on material availability, logistics of filling orders and maintaining your inventory, and any other relevant operational details.
In the case of services, explain how they provide value to your customers.
3. Goods and services
This portion of a business plan template goes into more detail about the products or services that you offer.
Reiterate how your products appeal to consumers and how they are unique from the current offerings available.
4. Market research
Start this section by showing the market analysis you completed. This will likely include a look at some key competitors, the market saturation, and the demand within the market. Consider using graphs or charts to illustrate this section.
The following image highlights some important aspects to include in this section:
Some business plan templates combine this section with the following one, so market research and marketing strategies go together. Keeping them separate allows for greater organization within your plan.
5. Marketing strategy
Include your marketing strategy in this section. It should include advertising methods, sales forecasts, public relations, and deadlines. Be as specific as you can. Include your marketing budget. Mention the specific strategies you plan to use, both online and offline.
If your company already has customers, provide figures on past sales as well as customer testimonials.
6. Personnel and management
Use this section to show the reader of your business plan that your team is qualified. Include bios of the leadership, including management and executives. Be sure to include their expertise and how that is relevant.
This section’s main goal is to show potential investors that there is a low risk of investing in your company.
This section should also provide the overall organizational structure of your company. Let investors know how many owners there are, who is responsible for operations, how many managers you have, and any other relevant information.
7. Financial documents
Companies and individuals are only going to invest in your business if they think they can profit from doing so. The best way to show this is via figures.
The financial documents show the detail behind the figures you mentioned in the marketing and organizational sections. You should also have projections for future profit and loss statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets for at least three years.
For the best results, turn this data into charts and graphs to provide a visual representation.
How do I create a small business plan template?
Assuming all of the above information and template guidance is for commercial and enterprise-sized businesses, how do you create a small business plan template?
The good news is that everything mentioned in this article, and our business plan template, works for businesses of any size. You can simply adapt any section of the plan to fit the needs of your business.
For example, small businesses will likely have less existing data to work with, such as in the marketing sections. If there is less data, focus more on customer testimonials than figures.
Another example is that the section on personnel and management for small businesses is likely to feature fewer people. Make up for this by going into more detail about why each person is highly qualified for the role and can contribute to the company’s future success.
You can also adapt our business plan template in other ways depending on how you plan to use it. This lets you easily turn it into an internal, strategic, operations, or feasibility business plan.
Why you should care about a business plan template
Having a strong business plan will help your company attract investors, as you will show them that your company has thought through everything and has a clear plan. Solidified plans will minimize the risk in their eyes, encouraging them to invest. Your business plan can also help your company keep organized and motivated.
Using a business plan template makes creating the plan significantly easier. You don’t have to struggle to think about which sections to include, as everything is already outlined for you.
With a business plan template sample on hand, you will set your clients up for success. Set them up for success in other areas, including promotion, sales, and communication, by joining our Podium Partner Program.