Business Plan Templates

We're continuing our business plan template discussion with the 7 elements most commonly found (with some variations) in the majority of plans.      

Each of these pieces to the business plan is important on it's own and then contributes to the whole. 

Let's take a look at how each section one works with the whole and what information you'll want to gather as you're doing your business planning. 

For discussion purposes and the actually formatting of the plan, we're discussing these elements in this order.  

When you're working on your business plan, you may find it easier to work on the sections is a different order than the way they are put together in their final form (per the pic above!) When I'm working on mine, I find it helps to work on my plan by thinking and writing about the sections in the order indicated on the Business Plan Steps diagram on the previous page.    

The reason for following this particular process is because the sections build upon one another and you'll need information from the SWOT Analysis in your Marketing Plan, the Operations/Management portions will be required in your Financial Plan.  

And finally the Executive Summary is a succinct "finish" to the whole plan and will eventually briefly introduce your company with a powerful, attention-grabbing start!

Read Business Plan Templates - Steps 1 - 4

Business Plan Templates - Steps 5 - 7

5.      Operational Plan

This section of a business plan template focuses specifically how your business will function.  Have you considered how your business will operate?  Have you identified processes/procedures to make you efficient in your business? If so, are these documented to make it easy to operate your business. 

Here’s where we’re also going to identify whether we plan to produce our own product/service or are you going to sub-contract part of the business and manage the sales/customer service? 

  • How will you handle inventory and suppliers? 
  • Do you need a location or can you work out of your home? 
  • Are there any licensing requirements, bonding requirements, permits, special regulations you’ll need to be in compliant with?
  • Will there be special insurance requirements for your business? 
  • Are you planning to hire employees initially when you start your business?  Or will you be the sole person working your business?  
  • How will you handle payments from your customers? 
  • Will you accept credit cards?  If so, what service will you use to accept the card payments? Or will you accept Accounts Receivables and bill your customers? 
  • Do you have a Cash Management Plan? 

Again, don't be intimidated if you don't have experience in all these areas.  I didn't either when I started my first business.

6.      Management and Organization

Our business plan template needs to address the general management and organization functions of the business.

  • Are you going to be a one person show or will you have employees? 
  • What are the key positions you will hire for the business?
  • What will be the organization structure?
  • Who will be mentoring/advising you in the course of your business operations?
  • Will you outsource certain functions?
  • How much will you pay each employee you plan to hire?
  • How much will you pay yourself?
  • Who will be running the day to day activities of the business?
  • Will you defer salary for a period of time? 

Include position descriptions in your business plan for key employees in the organization.

7.      Financial Plan

The final section (but probably one of the most important!) of a business plan template, will identify the proposed income and expenses required to start your business. It will also identify your break even -- the point there your income and expense "equal" and you begin to make money after crossing this line positively. See the Break Even diagram below. 

This section of the business plan template is extremely important to YOU

Make sure to look at this section with a critical eye.  While you may love your business idea and the thought of being in business, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you need to increase your prices? And will the market support higher prices?
  2. What resources are required up-front to get started in this business?
  3. Do you have access to these resources?
  4. Are there ways to minimize your start-up costs and still have a professional business?
  5. How will you pay your employees?
  6. When do your investors require payment?
  7. When can you begin making money?  
  8. Or can you make money? 
  9. Can you make enough money to meet your person
  10. Does it make financial sense?

This is also the portion of the plan that will be heavily critiqued by any investors, banks, or other financial institutions you are requesting funds from to start your business.  They want to see that you’ve thought through the financials realistically, you've done your homework with regards to pricing/market share, and you've retained enough funds to cover contingencies you'll require. 

If you don’t plan to seek outside funding, but plan to fund your business out of your pocket (e.g. savings, current job, investments, etc.), this section is often not completed.  However, I’d suggest you proceed with the Pro Forma in the same manner as the person seeking external funding because this exercise is extremely beneficial in helping you steer your business and manage your cash flow as you build your business.     

Sufficient Cash Flow is the

Number 1

Reason Small Businesses Fail . . .  :-)

Include any money you plan to invest in the business and make projection for funds required to get the start-up company off on firm footing. 

You'll also want to think about what share the profits you are willing to split with an investor or partner?  They may only be willing to invest for a piece of the profits.  So how much are you willing to share?  New business owners don’t always county on sharing, but a portion of something is better than nothing.  

Your Financial Plant should also include the Pro Forma.  So you ask, “What is a Pro Forma?”

The Pro Form is where the “rubber meets the road”.  

It is the financial projection of how the business will perform over a 12-60 month period.  This is the portion of the business plan that projects cash flow requirements for the business. 

Cash flow is crucial for a business and you will be referring back to this portion of your business plan template frequently to see how your business is performing and if you’re on track financially. It's even a good idea to track the projections vs. the actual performance of your business to determine if you're on track or if you need to made adjustments to your plan over time.  

Read Steps 1 - 4 . . .

N2 - Niche Notes

Niche Notes!!

Here are some business plan template options for your business.   

I definitely recommend the use of a more in-depth business plan template (20+ pages) when 1) you'll be requesting bank/investor funding, 2) you're working with the Small Business Administration for a loan, 3) you want to patent a product, and/or 4) when your enterprise is mid- to large- company or is capital intensive. A one-page plan will not capture everything you need for your business.

In order to minimize start-up costs, it may help to use a free business planning tool.   Here are a few different options:    

1.   SCORE Start-Up Business Plan -- this is a plan which provides suggestions for emphasizing certain areas of the plan depending upon business type.  

2.  Small Business Administration (SBA) -- Build Your Business Plan. This free online tool allows you to fill-in the information regarding your business and creates a business plan in either PDF or a WORD document so you can edit the plan so it has the look you want.     

3.  Microsoft WORD Templates -- if you have access to Microsoft WORD, there a a few business plan templates provided in the software.  There's little direction, but the formats can be modified for your use.  

4.  One-page Business Plan.  This is my own one-page template. I love this easy-to-use plan for developing a simple roadmap for small or home based businesses who don't have a need for a lengthy plan.  Since it's simple to complete, it's a great way to get your planning done very efficiently and document next action steps!

5.  Business Plan Checklist.   Here's a quick tool to use for asking yourself some of the different questions which may be pertinent to planning for your success.   Go down the list and check them off after you've incorporated them into your plan.

6.  Small Business Plan Template.   Here's a small business template that I've developed which may be suited for business ideas which require a bit longer plan.  It's multi-page plan --

7.  Visual Business Plan.  Another favorite of mine.  This can work for anyone who is visual --   :)

Remember, a good business plan template methodically walks you through your business idea, helps you to determine what the supply and demand for your product/services are, allow you to identify your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, identify your specific marketing strategies, and finally determine the best method of management/operations for your particular business.  

This one document can be the difference between success and failure of your new business. The hardest part, is actually thinking through what is logical and makes sense.  Don’t’ be tempted to just slap together a plan that makes you money overnight.  Generally, this is unrealistic and will set you up for failure. 

The planning process does take time and effort, but the time you spend on the planning will pay off in significant ways in the long run.  Take it from my experiences!! 

Note:   The business plan is a roadmap – it is not an event! 

It’s o.k. to plan and change course if things change. This should be a working document! Don’t get caught up in trying to make your plan so perfect you fail to finish it or make it useful to your business growth.  

I’ve know many business people who refuse to plan because they don't know how to make it “perfect”. Perfection can be your downfall.

You'll want to make your best educated decision and go with it when planning. 

There is a rule in success -- whatever you write down, the mind will find a way to make it happen!  But don't make these puny, whimpy goals so you know they'll happen. Think about some "stretch" goals.  Things that make you want to get up in the morning . . .   :)

This will be a positive good road map for your business journey!  

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