A business plan is the secret to starting a business successfully.
The easiest way to simplify the work of writing a business plan is to start with a business plan template.
You’re already investing time and energy in refining your business model and planning your launch—there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to formatting your plan. Instead, to help build a complete and effective plan, lean on time-tested structures created by entrepreneurs and startups who have come before you.
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What our business plan template includes
This template is designed to ensure you’re thinking through all of the important facets of starting a new business. It’s intended to help new business owners and entrepreneurs consider the full scope of running a business and identify functional areas they may not have considered or where they may need to level up their skills as they grow.
That said, it may not include the specific details or structure preferred by a potential investor or lender. If your goal with a business plan is to secure funding, check with your target organizations—typically banks or investors—to see if they have business plan templates you can follow to maximize your chances of success.
Our free business plan template includes seven key elements typically found in the traditional business plan format:
- Executive summary: This is a one-page summary of your whole plan, typically written after the rest of the plan is completed. The description section of your executive summary will also cover your management team, business objectives and strategy, and other background information about the brand. You may consider including a mission statement here.
- Market analysis: A well researched business plan should also analyze the market you hope to reach with your business idea. This section includes everything from estimated market size to your target markets and competitive advantage. It’ll include a competitive analysis of your industry to address competitors strengths and weaknesses.
- Products and services: What you sell and the most important features of your products or services. It’ll also include any plans for intellectual property, like patent filings or copyright. If you do market research for new product lines, it’ll show up in this section of your business plan.
- Marketing plan: How you intend to get the word out about your business, and what strategic decisions you’ve made about things like your pricing strategy. It also covers potential customers’ demographics, sales plan, and your metrics and milestones for success.
- Logistics and operations plan: Everything that needs to happen to turn your raw materials into products and get them into the hands of your customers.
- Financial plan: It’s important to include a look at your financial projections, including both revenue and expense projections. This section includes templates for three key financial statements: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. You can also include whether or not you need a business loan and how much it’ll be.
In our business plan template, each section includes an overview of the most important information to cover and guidelines on how to approach writing and researching each one.
Free: Business Plan Template
Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.
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Professional business plan example
We’ve filled out a sample business plan as a companion to our template, featuring a fictional ecommerce business. We’ve noted where—and how—an entrepreneur could add more details to expand on their business plans, depending on their goals.
Our fictional business creates custom greeting cards with your pet’s paw prints on them, and the founder of the business is writing a plan to help understand the target market, as well as the logistics and costs involved, to give themselves the best chance of success before they launch.
The sample is set up to help you get a sense of each section and understand how they apply to the planning and evaluation stages of a business plan. If you’re looking for funding, this example won’t be a complete or formal look at a business plan, but it will give you a great place to start and notes about where to expand.
Before you write your own, read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own planning.
Download the business plan example (.doc)
Lean business plan example
A lean business plan format is a shortened version of your more detailed business plan. It’s helpful when modifying your plan for a specific audience, like investors or new hires.
Also known as a one-page business plan, it includes only the most important, need-to-know information, such as:
- Company description
- Key members of your team
- Customer segments
- Marketing plan
Want to create a lean business plan? Read Trimming It Down: How to Create a Lean Business Plan.
A good business plan helps you operate successfully
It’s tempting to dive right into execution when you’re excited about a new business or side project, but taking the time to write a solid business plan and get your thoughts on paper allows you to do a number of beneficial things:
- Test the viability of business ideas. Whether you’ve got one business idea or many, business plans can make an idea more tangible, helping you see if it’s truly viable.
- Plan for your next phase. Whether your goal is to start a new business or scale an existing business to the next level, a business plan can help you understand what needs to happen and identify gaps to address.
- Clarify marketing strategy, goals, and tactics. Writing a business plan can show you the actionable next steps to take on a big, abstract idea. It can also help you narrow your strategy and identify clear-cut tactics that will support it.
- Scope the necessary work. Without a concrete plan, cost overruns and delays are all but certain. A business plan can help you see the full scope of work to be done and adjust your investment of time and money accordingly.
- Hire and build partnerships. When you need buy-in from potential employees and business partners, especially in the early stages of your business, a clearly written business plan is one of the best tools at your disposal. A business plan provides a refined look at your goals for the business, letting partners judge for themselves whether or not they agree with your vision.
- Secure funds. Seeking financing for your business—whether from venture capital, financial institutions, or Shopify Capital—is one of the most common reasons to create a business plan.
Should you use a template for a business plan?
A business plan can be as informal or formal as your situation calls for, but even if you’re a fan of the back-of-the-napkin approach to planning, there are some key benefits to starting your plan from an existing outline or template.
- No blank-page paralysis. A blank page can be intimidating to even the most seasoned writers. Using an established business planning process and template can help you get past the inertia of starting your business plan, and it allows you to skip the work of building an outline from scratch. You can always adjust a template to suit your needs.
- Guidance on what to include in each section. If you’ve never sat through a business class, you might never have created a SWOT analysis or financial projections before. Templates that offer guidance—in plain language—about how to fill in each section can help you navigate sometimes-daunting business jargon and create a complete and effective plan.
- Knowing you’ve considered every section. In some cases, you may not need to complete every section of a startup business plan template, but its initial structure shows you you’re choosing to omit a section as opposed to forgetting to include it in the first place.
Tips for creating a successful business plan
There are some high-level strategic guidelines beyond the advice included in this free business plan template that can help you write an effective, complete plan while minimizing busywork.
- If you’re writing a business plan for yourself in order to get clarity on your ideas and your industry as a whole, you may not need to include the same level of detail or polish you would with a business plan you want to send to potential investors. Knowing who will read your plan will help you decide how much time to spend on it.
- Know your goals. Understanding the goals of your plan can help you set the right scope. If your goal is to use the plan as a roadmap for growth, you may invest more time in it than if your goal is to understand the competitive landscape of a new industry.
- Take it step by step. Writing a 10- to 15-page document can feel daunting, so try to tackle one section at a time. Select a couple of sections you feel most confident writing and start there—you can start on the next few sections once those are complete. Jot down bullet-point notes in each section before you start writing to organize your thoughts and streamline the writing process.
Once you’ve done the strategic work, it’s time to put it into action and write your plan. Download the business plan template and review our guide on writing a business plan for additional information.
Maximizing your business planning efforts
Planning is key to the financial success of any type of business, whether you’re a startup, non-profit, or corporation.
To make sure your efforts are focused on the highest-value parts of your own business planning, like clarifying your goals, setting a strategy, and understanding the target market and competitive landscape, lean on a business plan outline to handle the structure and format for you. Even if you eventually omit sections, you’ll save yourself time and energy by starting with a framework already in place.
Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall
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Business plan template FAQ
What is the purpose of a business plan?
How do I write a simple business plan?
- Choose a business plan format, such as traditional or a one-page business plan.
- Find a business plan template.
- Read through a business plan sample.
- Fill in the sections of your business plan.
What are the 7 sections of a business plan?
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Products and services
- Marketing strategy
- Logistics and operations plan
- Financial statements and projections
What is the best business plan template?
What are the 5 essential parts of a business plan?
- Executive Summary: This is a brief overview of the business plan, summarizing the key points and highlighting the main points of the plan
- Business Description: This section outlines the business concept and how it will be executed
- Market Analysis: This section provides an in-depth look at the target market and how the business will compete in the marketplace
- Financial Plan: This section details the financial projections for the business, including sales forecasts, capital requirements, and a break-even analysis
- Management and Organization: This section describes the management team and the organizational structure of the business
How do you write a business plan?
- Executive Summary: Provide a concise overview of your business, products/services, goals, and plans for achieving those goals
- Company Description: Explain the type of business you are in, where you are located, and what you offer
- Market Analysis: Research your industry, target market, and competitors to gain insight into the opportunities and threats that may affect your business
- Organization and Management: Describe the organizational structure of your business, including management, employees, and advisors
- Service or Product Line: Explain what products or services you offer, how they are unique, and how they will meet the needs of your customers
- Marketing and Sales: Describe how you plan to market and sell your products/services, including pricing strategy, advertising and promotions
- Funding Request: Explain the capital you need to start or expand your business, how you plan to use it, and how you plan to pay it back
- Financial Projections: Provide an estimate of your anticipated income and expenses over the next three to five years
- Appendix: Include any additional information that will support your business plan, such as resumes, leases, contracts, and product samples