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Upload and save your brand colors, fonts and logo to your Brand Kit. Add your branding to any of our templates with one click. Don't like how your brand colors look in a template? Toggle through the options to get a variety of combinations. You can also use My Brand Kit to set title, subtitle and body font styles and sizes. The result?

Designs that are uniform and consistent every time thanks to Venngage's business plan creator. Make your data easily understandable and engaging by using creative graphs and charts. Need a pie chart to show how the market is segmented, a line graph to explain the potential growth or a simple map to break down your customer demographics? Import your data from an Excel file or Google Sheet, customize with a few clicks and you're done. With Venngage's Business Plan Builder, it's simple to turn complicated data into accessible, beautiful visualizations.

Do you want to create collaboratively with your team? Venngage makes it easy to work with everyone on your team to produce something phenomenal, on a single dashboard. Multiple team members can edit, design and share their ideas. Our online business plan maker allows your team members to collaborative anywhere, at any time.

Or share a public link for free from our business plan generator. Don't worry. You can go back and edit your business plan at any time. Anyone can make a business plan for free and share a link to their work. Create your business plan in real time with your team, leave comments or share private links using our Business or Enterprise Plans. It's free to share a public link. Toggle navigation. Launch a profitable business with a visually engaging business plan Not all businesses, or business plans, are created equally.

Get Started Now. Create a winning business plan with Venngage in 5 steps: Create a free Venngage account using your email, Google or Facebook profiles. Select the perfect business plan template from our library of professionally-designed templates. Use our online Business Plan Builder to add your information, data and more to your business plan template.

Change the text, fonts, colors and backgrounds with a few clicks. We offer expedited services if you are in a rush. We subscribe to the lean business planning method so we try to keep your plan short and to the point. Depending on the complexity of your business, your finished plan can end up being anywhere from pages.

We are a small team of well educated business planning experts. Each writers' background varies but they all have financial or business education as well as years, small business management or consulting and business plan writing experience. They are all well vetted and really good at what they do, which is write plans that help you get funded. You'll have the opportunity to review and leave feedback after each draft. We recommend taking the time to be thorough and thoughtful in your feedback as that is your chance to help mold your plan into something that really resonates with you.

Thank you for your interest in our business plan consulting services. Learn More. We write business plans that can help win you funding Save time and boost your chances of raising capital by hiring a LivePlan business plan writer. Work with a writer who will build a custom business plan for your industry Get free access to LivePlan software, which makes it easier to share and update your plan Our unique plan format has helped over 1 million businesses Get a Quote for Your Plan featured in:. The best decision I could have made to launch my business in the right direction.

I definitely recommend these services to entrepreneurs and future small business owners. Melinda Holden Elite Liason Consulting. My plan writer was responsive, and understood my vision from our first communication. I now have a living document that I can use and manipulate as needed going forward. Investor-grade business plan. Strategic business plan. What makes us different? Our plan format has helped companies raise millions Our writers use a business plan structure that has been tested and refined over the past 20 years.

LivePlan is used by:. Trusted by top business schools across the U. Get matched with a writer who knows your industry Our writers are experienced professionals who have written hundreds of business plans. How the process works: 1. Research and discovery We first gain an in-depth understanding of your business. Plan writing Once our research is complete, we'll write the body of your business plan and provide you with a draft to review.

Financial modeling We'll turn your financial assumptions into forecasts that include everything lenders and investors need to see. Design and review You'll get a polished business plan with a design that matches your brand. Frequently Asked Questions How much does this service cost? Do you offer a la carte services?

Do you offer a review service? Will you review my plan and make changes? What if I already started writing my plan? Do you do market research? What does that include? What is included with the full plan writing service? Can you guarantee that my business will get funded? Is my plan writer an expert in my industry? Will you share my information?

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One of our business planning experts can review your plan and financials line by line and give you critical and constructive feedback to help improve your plan and increase your confidence when it comes time to deliver. Our review-only service just includes feedback, but if you decide you'd like to engage in our full plan writing service after participating in a review, we'll give you a discount. If you have a partially completed plan, we can work with that.

In fact, it helps the plan writing process go faster because we'll have to ask fewer questions, but you'll want to choose the full business plan writing service. Yes, we do market research. We have access to industry reports for most industries and we will use them to lend more credibility to your plan and validate the assumptions we are making in your financials.

When it's all said and done, you'll have a full, lender or investor ready business plan, a one page pitch, and a free year of LivePlan so you can make changes to your plan as well as use our cash flow and business management tools to stay on track.

There are a lot of factors that go into the decision making process for lending that are beyond our control, like your personal credit. What we can say is that it is very difficult to get funding without a solid business plan and we make solid business plans. Our business plan writers are experts specifically in business plan writing. We've worked with every industry imaginable so the likelihood that they have some familiarity with your industry is high, but if you are looking for a business consultant this may not be a good fit.

The average plan plan completes in weeks, depending on your responsiveness to your writer and our work load. We offer expedited services if you are in a rush. We subscribe to the lean business planning method so we try to keep your plan short and to the point.

Depending on the complexity of your business, your finished plan can end up being anywhere from pages. We are a small team of well educated business planning experts. Each writers' background varies but they all have financial or business education as well as years, small business management or consulting and business plan writing experience.

They are all well vetted and really good at what they do, which is write plans that help you get funded. You'll have the opportunity to review and leave feedback after each draft. We recommend taking the time to be thorough and thoughtful in your feedback as that is your chance to help mold your plan into something that really resonates with you.

Thank you for your interest in our business plan consulting services. Learn More. We write business plans that can help win you funding Save time and boost your chances of raising capital by hiring a LivePlan business plan writer. Work with a writer who will build a custom business plan for your industry Get free access to LivePlan software, which makes it easier to share and update your plan Our unique plan format has helped over 1 million businesses Get a Quote for Your Plan featured in:.

The best decision I could have made to launch my business in the right direction. I definitely recommend these services to entrepreneurs and future small business owners. Melinda Holden Elite Liason Consulting. My plan writer was responsive, and understood my vision from our first communication. I now have a living document that I can use and manipulate as needed going forward. Investor-grade business plan. Strategic business plan. What makes us different? Our plan format has helped companies raise millions Our writers use a business plan structure that has been tested and refined over the past 20 years.

LivePlan is used by:. Trusted by top business schools across the U. Get matched with a writer who knows your industry Our writers are experienced professionals who have written hundreds of business plans. How the process works: 1. Research and discovery We first gain an in-depth understanding of your business. Plan writing Once our research is complete, we'll write the body of your business plan and provide you with a draft to review.

Financial modeling We'll turn your financial assumptions into forecasts that include everything lenders and investors need to see. Product development? Acquiring the right location? Creating strategic partnerships? Once your Summary is complete, you can use it as an outline for the rest of your plan. Simply flesh out the highlights with more detail.

Then work to accomplish your secondary objective by focusing on your readers. Even though you may be creating a business plan solely for your own purposes, at some point you may decide to seek financing or to bring on other investors, so make sure your Summary meets their needs as well. Work hard to set the stage for the rest of the plan. Let your excitement for your idea and your business shine through.

In short, make readers want to turn the page and keep reading. Just make sure your sizzle meets your steak by providing clear, factual descriptions. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will offer road and mountain bike rentals in a strategic location directly adjacent to an entrance to the George Washington National Forest.

Our primary strategy is to develop Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals as the most convenient and cost-effective rental alternative for the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year. Once underway, we will expand our scope and take advantage of high-margin new equipment sales and leverage our existing labor force to sell and service those products. Within three years we intend to create the area's premier destination for cycling enthusiasts. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will be located at Mountain Drive, a location providing extremely high visibility as well as direct entry and exit from a primary national park access road.

The owner of the company, Marty Cycle, has over 20 years experience in the bicycle business, having served as a product manager for Acme Cycles as well as the general manager of Epic Cycling. Because of his extensive industry contacts, initial equipment inventory will be purchased at significant discounts from OEM suppliers as well by sourcing excess inventory from shops around the country.

Because of the somewhat seasonal nature of the business, part-time employees will be hired to handle spikes in demand. Those employees will be attracted through competitive wages as well as discounts products and services. While the outdoor tourism industry as a whole is flat, the park expects its number of visitors to grow over the next few years. The market potential inherent in those visitors is substantial. According to third-party research data, approximately 30 percent of all cyclists would rather rent than transport their own bicycles, especially those who are visiting the area for reasons other than cycling.

The cycling shops located in Harrisonburg, VA, are direct and established competitors. Our two primary competitive advantages will be location and lower costs. Our location is also a key disadvantage where non-park rentals are concerned. We will overcome that issue by establishing a satellite location in Harrisonburg for enthusiasts who wish to rent bicycles to use in town or on other local trails. We will also use online tools to better engage customers, allowing them to reserve and pay online as well as create individual profiles regarding sizes, preferences, and special needs.

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals expects to earn a modest profit by year two based on projected sales. Our projections are based on the following key assumptions:. Direct cost of sales is projected to average 60 percent of gross sales, including 50 percent for the purchase of equipment and 10 percent for the purchase of ancillary items. Keep in mind this is just a made-up example of how your Summary might read. Also keep in mind this example focused on the rental business, so a description of products was not included.

They'll show up later. If your business will manufacture or sell products, or provide a variety of services, then be sure to include a Products and Services section in your Summary. In this case the products and services are obvious, so including a specific section would be redundant. Bottom line: Provide some sizzle in your Executive Summary, but make sure you show a reasonable look at the steak, too.

Providing an overview of your business can be tricky, especially when you're still in the planning stages. If you already own an existing business, summarizing your current operation should be relatively easy; it can be a lot harder to explain what you plan to become. Think about what products and services you will provide, how you will provide those items, what you need to have in order to provide those items, exactly who will provide those items, and most important, whom you will provide those items to.

Consider our bicycle rental business example. It's serves retail customers. It has an online component, but the core of the business is based on face-to-face transactions for bike rentals and support. So you'll need a physical location, bikes, racks and tools and supporting equipment, and other brick-and-mortar related items.

You'll need employees with a very particular set of skills to serve those customers, and you'll need an operating plan to guide your everyday activities. In our example, defining the above is fairly simple. You know what you will provide to meet your customer's needs. You will of course need a certain quantity of bikes to service demand, but you will not need a number of different types of bikes.

You need a retail location, furnished to meet the demands of your business. You need semi-skilled employees capable of sizing, customizing, and repairing bikes. In other businesses and industries, answering the above questions can be more difficult. If you open a restaurant, what you plan to serve will in some ways determine your labor needs, the location you choose, the equipment you need to purchase. And, most important, it will help define your customer.

Changing any one element may change other elements; if you cannot afford to purchase expensive kitchen equipment, you may need to adapt your menu accordingly. If you hope to attract an upscale clientele, you may need to invest more in purchasing a prime location and creating an appealing ambience. Once you work through this list you will probably end up with a lot more detail than is necessary for your business plan. That is not a problem: Start summarizing the main points.

For example, your Business Overview and Objectives section could start something like this:. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals is a new retail venture that will be located at Mountain Drive, directly adjacent to an extremely popular cycling destination.

Our initial goal is to become the premier provider for bicycle rentals. We will then leverage our customer base and position in the market to offer new equipment sales as well as comprehensive maintenance and service, custom equipment fittings, and expert trail advice. You could certainly include more detail in each section; this is simply a quick guide. And if you plan to develop a product or service, you should thoroughly describe the development process as well as the end result. The key is to describe what you will do for your customers--if you can't, you won't have any customers.

In the Products and Services section of your business plan, you will clearly describe--yep--the products and services your business will provide. Keep in mind that highly detailed or technical descriptions are not necessary and definitely not recommended. Use simple terms and avoid industry buzzwords. On the other hand, describing how the company's products and services will differ from the competition is critical.

So is describing why your products and services are needed if no market currently exists. For example, before there was Federal Express, overnight delivery was a niche business served by small companies. FedEx had to define the opportunity for a new, large-scale service and justify why customers needed--and would actually use --that service. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks you own or have applied for should also be listed in this section.

Depending on the nature of your business, your Products and Services section could be very long or relatively short. If your business is product-focused, you will want to spend more time describing those products. If you plan to sell a commodity item and the key to your success lies in, say, competitive pricing, you probably don't need to provide significant product detail.

Or if you plan to sell a commodity readily available in a variety of outlets, the key to your business may not be the commodity itself but your ability to market in a more cost-effective way than your competition. But if you're creating a new product or service , make sure you thoroughly explain the nature of the product, its uses, and its value, etc. In the cycling rental business example we've been using, products and services could be a relatively simple section to complete or it could be fairly involved.

It depends on the nature of the products the company plans to rent to customers. If Blue Mountain Cycling Rentals plans to market itself as a provider of high-end bikes, describing those bikes--and the sources for those bikes--is important, since "high-end cycling rentals" is intended to be a market differentiation.

If the company plans to be the low-cost provider, then describing specific brands of equipment is probably not necessary. Also, keep in mind that if a supplier runs out of capacity--or goes out of business altogether--you may not have a sufficient supply to meet your demand. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships, and describe those relationships fully. Remember, the primary goal of your business plan is to convince you that the business is viable--and to create a road map for you to follow.

The Products and Services section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will provide a comprehensive line of bicycles and cycling equipment for all ages and levels of ability. Since the typical customer seeks medium-quality equipment and excellent services at competitive prices, we will focus on providing brands like Trek bikes, Shimano footwear, and Giro helmets. These manufacturers have a widespread reputation as mid- to high-level quality, unlike equipment typically found in the rental market.

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will have clear advantages over its primary competitors, the bike shops located in Harrisonburg, VA:. Expansion will allow us to move product offerings into new equipment sales. We will also explore maintenance and fitting services, leveraging our existing maintenance staff to provide value-added services at a premium price. When you draft your Products and Services section, think of your reader as a person who knows little to nothing about your business.

Be clear and to the point. Think of it this way: The Products and Services section answers the "what" question for your business. Make sure you fully understand the "what" factor; you may run the business, but your products and services are its lifeblood. Market research is critical to business success. A good business plan analyzes and evaluates customer demographics, purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services.

The process starts with understanding your market and the opportunities inherent in that market. And that means you'll need to do a little research. Before you start a business you must be sure there is a viable market for what you plan to offer. That process requires asking, and more importantly answering, a number of questions. The more thoroughly you answer the following questions, the better you will understand your market. Start by evaluating the market at a relatively high level, answering some high-level questions about your market and your industry:.

Fortunately, you've already done some of the legwork. You've already defined and mapped out your products and services. The Market Opportunities section provides a sense-check of that analysis, which is particularly important since choosing the right products and services is such a critical factor in business success. But your analysis should go further: Great products are great, but there still must be a market for those products.

Ferraris are awesome, but you're unlikely to sell many where I live. So let's dig deeper and quantify your market. Your goal is to thoroughly understand the characteristics and purchasing ability of potential customers in your market. A little Googling can yield a tremendous amount of data. The key is to understand the market in general terms and then to dig deeper to understand whether there are specific segments within that market--the segments you plan to target--that can become customers and support the growth of your business.

Also keep in mind that if you plan to sell products online the global marketplace is incredibly crowded and competitive. Any business can sell a product online and ship that product around the world. On the other hand, if you live in an area with 50, people and there's only one bicycle shop, you may be able to enter that market and attract a major portion of bicycle customers in your area. After you complete your research you may feel a little overwhelmed.

While data is good, and more data is great, sifting through and making sense of too much data can be daunting. For the purposes of your business plan, narrow your focus and focus on answering these main questions:. The Market Opportunities section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. While we expect sales to rise, for the purposes of performing a conservative analysis we have projected a zero growth rate for the next three years.

In those states 2,, people visited a national forest last year. Our target market includes customers visiting the Shenandoah National Forest; last year , people visited the area during spring, summer, and fall months.

Over time, however, we do expect equipment rentals and sales to increase as the popularity of cycling continues to rise. In particular we forecast a spike in demand in since the national road racing championships will be held in Richmond, VA. According to the latest studies, recreation spending in our target market has grown by 14 percent per year for the past three years. In addition, we anticipate greater than industry-norm growth rates for cycling in the area due to the increase in popularity of cycling events like the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.

Out target market has one basic need: The availability to source bicycle rentals at a competitive price. Our only other competition are the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA, and our location will give us a competitive advantage over those and other companies who try to serve our market. For example, you might decide to provide information about Market Segments.

In our case, the cycling rental business does not require much segmentation. Rentals are typically not broken down into segments like "inexpensive," "midrange," and "high-end. Although you'll notice in our Products and Services section, we decided to provide "high-end" rentals. But say you decide to open a clothing store. You could focus on high fashion, or children's clothes, or outdoor wear, or casual--you could segment the market in a number of ways.

If that's the case, provide detail on segmentation that supports your plan. Providing great products and services is wonderful, but customers must actually know those products and services exist. That's why marketing plans and strategies are critical to business success. Duh, right? But keep in mind marketing is not just advertising.

Marketing--whether advertising, public relations, promotional literature, etc. Like any other investment you would make, money spent on marketing must generate a return. Otherwise why make the investment? While that return could simply be greater cash flow, good marketing plans result in higher sales and profits. So don't simply plan to spend money on a variety of advertising efforts. Do your homework and create a smart marketing program. The Sales and Marketing section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:.

While customers in the counties surrounding the George Washington National Forest make up 35 percent of our potential customer base, much of our market travels from outside that geographic area. We will not be the low-cost provider for our target market. Our goal is to provide mid- to high-end equipment. However, we will create web-based loyalty programs to incent customers to set up online profiles and reserve and renew equipment rentals online, and provide discounts for those who do.

Over time we will be able to market specifically to those customers. Just as in the Market Opportunity section, you may want to include a few more categories. For example, if your business involves a commission-compensated sales force, describe your Sales Programs and incentives. If you distribute products to other companies or suppliers and those distribution efforts will impact your overall marketing plans, lay out your Distribution Strategy.

The key is to show you understand your market and you understand how you will reach your market. Marketing and promotions must result in customers--your goal is to thoroughly describe how you will acquire and keep your customers.

Also keep in mind you may want to include examples of marketing materials you have already prepared, like website descriptions, print ads, web-based advertising programs, etc. While you don't need to include samples, taking the time to create actual marketing materials might help you better understand and communicate your marketing plans and objectives.

Make sure your Sales and Marketing section answers the "How will I reach my customers? The Competitive Analysis section of your business plan is devoted to analyzing your competition--both your current competition and potential competitors who might enter your market.

Every business has competition. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition--or potential competition--is critical to making sure your business survives and grows. While you don't need to hire a private detective, you do need to thoroughly assess your competition on a regular basis even if you plan to run only a small business.

In fact, small businesses can be especially vulnerable to competition, especially when new companies enter a marketplace. Competitive analysis can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. Here is a simple process you can follow to identify, analyze, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.

First, develop a basic profile of each of your current competition. For example, if you plan to open an office supply store, you may have three competing stores in your market. Online retailers will also provide competition, but thoroughly analyzing those companies will be less valuable unless you also decide you want to sell office supplies online. Although it's also possible that they--or, say, Amazon--are your real competition.

Only you can determine that. To make the process easier, stick to analyzing companies you will directly compete with. If you plan to set up an accounting firm, you will compete with other accounting firms in your area. If you plan to open a clothing store, you will compete with other clothing retailers in your area. Again, if you run a clothing store, you also compete with online retailers, but there is relatively little you can do about that type of competition other than to work hard to distinguish yourself in other ways: great service, friendly salespeople, convenient hours, truly understanding your customers, etc.

Once you identify your main competitors, answer these questions about each one. And be objective. It's easy to identify weaknesses in your competition, but less easy and a lot less fun to recognize how they may be able to outperform you:. While these questions may seem like a lot of work to answer, in reality the process should be fairly easy.

You should already have a feel for the competition's strengths and weaknesses--if you know your market and your industry. Keep in mind competitive analysis does more than help you understand your competition. Competitive analysis can also help you identify changes you should make to your business strategies. Learn from competitor strengths, take advantage of competitor's weaknesses, and apply the same analysis to your own business plan.

It can be tough to predict when and where new competitors may pop up. For starters, regularly search for news on your industry, your products, your services, and your target market. But there are other ways to predict when competition may follow you into a market.

Other people may see the same opportunity you see. Think about your business and your industry, and if the following conditions exist, you may face competition does the road:. In general terms, if serving your market seems easy you can safely assume competitors will enter your market. A good business plan anticipates and accounts for new competitors. The Competitive Analysis section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:.

Our nearest and only competition is the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA. Our next closest competitor is located over miles away. The in-town bike shops will be strong competitors. They are established businesses with excellent reputations. On the other hand, they offer inferior-quality equipment and their location is significantly less convenient.

We do not plan to sell bicycles for at least the first two years of operation. However, sellers of new equipment do indirectly compete with our business since a customer who buys equipment no longer needs to rent equipment. Later, when we add new equipment sales to our operation, we will face competition from online retailers. We will compete with new equipment retailers through personalized service and targeted marketing to our existing customer base, especially through online initiatives.

And so on While your business plan is primarily intended to convince you that your business makes sense, keep in mind most investors look closely at your competitive analysis. A common mistake made by entrepreneurs is assuming they will simply "do it better" than any competition.

Experienced businesspeople know you will face stiff competition: showing you understand your competition, understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to that competition, and that you understand you will have to adapt and change based on that competition is critical. And, even if you do not ever plan to seek financing or bring in investors, you absolutely must know your competition.

The next step in creating your business plan is to develop an Operations Plan that will serve your customers, keep your operating costs in line, and ensure profitability. Your ops plan should detail strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory--all the stuff involved in operating your business on a day-to-day basis.

Fortunately, most entrepreneurs have a better handle on their operations plan than on any other aspect of their business. After all, while it may not seem natural to analyze your market or your competition, most budding entrepreneurs tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how they will run their businesses. Operations plans should be highly specific to your industry, your market sector, and your customers.

Instead of providing an example like I've done with other sections, use the following to determine the key areas your plan should address:. You should think through and create a detailed plan for each category, but you won't need to share the results with the people who read your business plan. Think of Operations as the "implementation" section of your business plan. What do you need to do? How will you get it done?

Then create an overview of that plan to make sure your milestones and timeline make sense. Many investors and lenders feel the quality and experience of the management team is one of the most important factors used to evaluate the potential of a new business. But putting work into the Management Team section will not only benefit people who may read your plan. It will also help you evaluate the skills, experiences, and resources your management team will need.

Addressing your company's needs during implementation will make a major impact on your chances for success. The Management Team section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. Joe has over 20 years experience in the cycling business. He served for 10 years as a product manager for Acme Bikes. After that he was the operations manager of Single Track Cycles, a full-service bike shop located in Bend, Oregon.

A complete resume for Mr. Rouleur can be found in the Appendix. Mary was the U. Mountain Biking National Champion. She worked in product development for High Tec frames, creating custom frames and frame modifications for professional cyclists. She also has extensive customer service and sales experience, having worked for four years as the online manager of Pro Parts Unlimited, an online retailer of high-end cycling equipment and accessories.

For example, if you manufacture a product or provide a service and will hire a key skilled employee, describe that employee's credentials. Otherwise, include staffing plans in the Operations section. One key note: Don't be tempted to add a "name" to your management team in hopes of attracting investors.

Celebrity management team members may attract the attention of your readers, but experienced lenders and investors will immediately ask what role that person will actually play in the running of the business--and in most cases those individuals won't play any meaningful role.

If you don't have a lot of experience--but are willing to work hard to overcome that lack of experience--don't be tempted to include people in your plan who will not actually work in the business. If you can't survive without help, that's okay. In fact, that's expected; no one does anything worthwhile on their own. Just make plans to get help from the right people. Finally, when you create your Management section, focus on credentials but pay extra attention to what each person actually will do.

Experience and reputation are great, but action is everything. Financial projections and estimates help entrepreneurs, lenders, and investors or lenders objectively evaluate a company's potential for success. If a business seeks outside funding, providing comprehensive financial reports and analysis is critical. But most important, financial projections tell you whether your business has a chance of being viable--and if not let you know you have more work to do. It's easy to find examples of all of the above.

Even the most basic accounting software packages include templates and samples. You can also find templates in Excel and Google Docs. A quick search like "google docs profit and loss statement" yields plenty of examples. Or you can work with an accountant to create the necessary financial projections and documents. Certainly feel free to do so, but first play around with the reports yourself.

While you don't need to be an accountant to run a business, you do need to understand your numbers, and the best way to understand your numbers is usually to actually work with your numbers. But ultimately the tools you use to develop your numbers are not as important as whether those numbers are as accurate as possible--and whether those numbers help you decide whether to take the next step and put your business plan into action.

Then Financial Analysis can help you answer the most important business question: "Can we make a profit? Some business plans include less essential but potentially important information in an Appendix section. You may decide to include, as backup or additional information:. Keep in mind creating an Appendix is usually only necessary if you're seeking financing or hoping to bring in partners or investors.

Initially the people reading your business plan don't wish to plow through reams and reams of charts, numbers, and backup information. If one does want to dig deeper, fine--he or she can check out the documents in the Appendix. While you may use your business plan to attract investors, partners, suppliers, etc.

Because ultimately it's your time, your money, and your effort on the line. Top Stories. Top Videos. So first let's gain a little perspective on why you need a business plan. Be as objective and logical as possible. What may have seemed like a good idea for a business can, after some thought and analysis, prove not viable because of heavy competition, insufficient funding, or a nonexistent market.

Sometimes even the best ideas are simply ahead of their time. Serve as a guide to the business's operations for the first months and sometimes years, creating a blueprint for company leaders to follow. Communicate the company's purpose and vision, describe management responsibilities, detail personnel requirements, provide an overview of marketing plans, and evaluate current and future competition in the marketplace.

Create the foundation of a financing proposal for investors and lenders to use to evaluate the company. Who must your business plan convince? And if you're not convinced, fine: Take a step back and refine your ideas and your plans. Who can your business plan convince? As you map out your plan, you may discover issues or challenges you had not anticipated.

Now let's look at the first section of your business plan: The Executive Summary. A brief description of products and services A summary of objectives A solid description of the market A high-level justification for viability including a quick look at your competition and your competitive advantage A snapshot of growth potential An overview of funding requirements.

Your Summary can serve as a guide to writing the rest of your plan. The following is how an Executive Summary for a bicycle rental store might read. The economic outlook indicates fewer VA, WV, NC, and MD cycling enthusiasts will travel outside the region The park has added a camping and lodging facilities that should attract an increased number of visitors The park has opened up additional areas for trail exploration and construction, ensuring a greater number of single-track options and therefore a greater number of visitors.

Initial growth will be moderate as we establish awareness in the market Initial equipment purchases will stay in service for an average of three to four years; after two years we will begin investing in "new" equipment to replace damaged or obsolete equipment Marketing costs will not exceed 14 percent of sales Residual profits will be reinvested in expanding the product and service line. What you will provide What you need to run your business Who will service your customers, and Who your customers are.

Identify your industry. Retail, wholesale, service, manufacturing, etc. Clearly define your type of business. Identify your customer. You cannot market and sell to customers until you know who they are. Explain the problem you solve.

Successful businesses create customer value by solving problems. In our rental example, one problem is cycling enthusiasts who don't--or can't--travel with bikes. Another problem is casual cyclists who can't--or choose not to--spend significant sums on their own bikes. The rental shop will solve that problem by offering a lower-cost and convenient alternative. Show how you will solve that problem.

Our rental shop will offer better prices and enhanced services like remote deliveries, off-hours equipment returns, and online reservations. If you are still stuck, try answering these questions. Some may pertain to you; others may not.

Who is my average customer? Who am I targeting? Unless you plan to open a grocery store, you should be unlikely to answer, "Everyone!

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If you are considering establishing a business of your own, or if you are already in business and thinking of expanding and growing your business, it is important to understand the key benefits to having a business plan.

This type of plan is a document that is strategic in nature and explains the current status of a proposed business endeavor. It then outlines the future expectations of that venture by carefully outlining the financial endeavors, basic operational functions, marketing endeavors and tactics, and other techniques that will enable that particular business to achieve certain goals.

If you are in the developmental stages of your endeavor, this plan can be an essential component to the achievement of the goals that you have for your new venture. The business plan has been noted by successful entrepreneurs as one of the single most important aspects of their success.

Without having directions, goals, and a detailed plan on how to go in the right direction and achieve those goals, it is quite likely that it will fail. By developing an effective plan you will be able to know exactly what it is that you need to do in order to get to where you want to go. If you fail to integrate this very important outline into your endeavors it is very easy to get off track and lose your way altogether.

The second key benefit to having a business plan is the fact that it can assist you in acquiring the necessary financing that is required in order to achieve your goals or to fuel the start up of the company. When seeking assistance for the financial means to start your new endeavor, you will find those lenders and various types of investors that may be in a position to provide you with the money that you need, will ask to see a detailed description of your business as well as the outlook of it.

This plan can serve this purpose and can be quite effective in winning the approval from those that have the financial backing to assist you and your new endeavors. Get started. Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. You can also start with a free business plan template and use it to inform the structure of your plan.

This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for. To define your values, think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors.

As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge. Once you know your values, you can pen a mission statement. Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise. Finally, your company overview should include both short- and long-term goals.

Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure all your goals are S. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale. This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.

The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:. Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry. A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed? These breakdowns often are presented as a grid, with bullet points in each section breaking down the most relevant information—so you can probably skip writing full paragraphs here.

Strengths and weaknesses—both internal company factors—are listed first, with opportunities and threats following in the next row. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.

Use this free PDF to future-proof your business by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems your product solves. Detail the legal structure of your business. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.

If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines; if you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. Excited about starting a business, but not sure where to start? This free, comprehensive guide will teach you how to find great, newly trending products with high sales potential.

Your ideal customer, also known as your target market, is the foundation of your marketing plan, if not your business plan as a whole. To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:. For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a year old executive at a Fortune company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.

Your marketing efforts are directly informed by your ideal customer. Your plan should outline your current decisions and your future strategy, with a focus on how your ideas are a fit for that ideal customer. Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.

If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending. No matter how great your idea is, and regardless of the effort, time, and money you invest, a business lives or dies based on its financial health. At the end of the day, people want to work with a business they expect to be viable for the foreseeable future. It also may be appropriate to include financial projections.

You can edit it to reflect projections if needed. Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets what you own , and on the other side, all your liabilities what you owe.

Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid. When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative.

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