• Search Search Please fill out this field.

What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

a business plan should include

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

  • How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide and Essential Steps 1 of 25
  • How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 2 of 25
  • Marketing Strategy: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Create One 3 of 25
  • Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 4 of 25
  • What Is a Marketing Plan? Types and How to Write One 5 of 25
  • Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 6 of 25
  • Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 7 of 25
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC): Meaning, Types, Impact 8 of 25
  • How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan 9 of 25
  • Business Startup Costs: It’s in the Details 10 of 25
  • Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 11 of 25
  • Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 25
  • Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 25
  • Starting a Business with No Money: How to Begin 14 of 25
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Establishing Business Credit 15 of 25
  • Equity Financing: What It Is, How It Works, Pros and Cons 16 of 25
  • Best Startup Business Loans 17 of 25
  • Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros and Cons, and Differences From an LLC 18 of 25
  • Partnership: Definition, How It Works, Taxation, and Types 19 of 25
  • What Is an LLC? Limited Liability Company Structure and Benefits Defined 20 of 25
  • Corporation: What It Is and How to Form One 21 of 25
  • Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide 22 of 25
  • Starting an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide 23 of 25
  • How to Start Your Own Bookkeeping Business: Essential Tips 24 of 25
  • How to Start a Successful Dropshipping Business: A Comprehensive Guide 25 of 25

a business plan should include

  • Terms of Service
  • Editorial Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your Privacy Choices
  • Credit cards
  • View all credit cards
  • Banking guide
  • Loans guide
  • Insurance guide
  • Personal finance
  • View all personal finance
  • Small business
  • Small business guide
  • View all taxes

You’re our first priority. Every time.

We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free.

So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Here is a list of our partners .

How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

a business plan should include

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

On a similar note...

Find small-business financing

Compare multiple lenders that fit your business

One blue credit card on a flat surface with coins on both sides.

  • Auto Insurance Best Car Insurance Cheapest Car Insurance Compare Car Insurance Quotes Best Car Insurance For Young Drivers Best Auto & Home Bundles Cheapest Cars To Insure
  • Home Insurance Best Home Insurance Best Renters Insurance Cheapest Homeowners Insurance Types Of Homeowners Insurance
  • Life Insurance Best Life Insurance Best Term Life Insurance Best Senior Life Insurance Best Whole Life Insurance Best No Exam Life Insurance
  • Pet Insurance Best Pet Insurance Cheap Pet Insurance Pet Insurance Costs Compare Pet Insurance Quotes
  • Travel Insurance Best Travel Insurance Cancel For Any Reason Travel Insurance Best Cruise Travel Insurance Best Senior Travel Insurance
  • Health Insurance Best Health Insurance Plans Best Affordable Health Insurance Best Dental Insurance Best Vision Insurance Best Disability Insurance
  • Credit Cards Best Credit Cards 2024 Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards Best Rewards Credit Cards Best Cash Back Credit Cards Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards Best 0% APR Credit Cards Best Business Credit Cards Best Credit Cards for Startups Best Credit Cards For Bad Credit Best Cards for Students without Credit
  • Credit Card Reviews Chase Sapphire Preferred Wells Fargo Active Cash® Chase Sapphire Reserve Citi Double Cash Citi Diamond Preferred Chase Ink Business Unlimited American Express Blue Business Plus
  • Credit Card by Issuer Best Chase Credit Cards Best American Express Credit Cards Best Bank of America Credit Cards Best Visa Credit Cards
  • Credit Score Best Credit Monitoring Services Best Identity Theft Protection
  • CDs Best CD Rates Best No Penalty CDs Best Jumbo CD Rates Best 3 Month CD Rates Best 6 Month CD Rates Best 9 Month CD Rates Best 1 Year CD Rates Best 2 Year CD Rates Best 5 Year CD Rates
  • Checking Best High-Yield Checking Accounts Best Checking Accounts Best No Fee Checking Accounts Best Teen Checking Accounts Best Student Checking Accounts Best Joint Checking Accounts Best Business Checking Accounts Best Free Checking Accounts
  • Savings Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Best Free No-Fee Savings Accounts Simple Savings Calculator Monthly Budget Calculator: 50/30/20
  • Mortgages Best Mortgage Lenders Best Online Mortgage Lenders Current Mortgage Rates Best HELOC Rates Best Mortgage Refinance Lenders Best Home Equity Loan Lenders Best VA Mortgage Lenders Mortgage Refinance Rates Mortgage Interest Rate Forecast
  • Personal Loans Best Personal Loans Best Debt Consolidation Loans Best Emergency Loans Best Home Improvement Loans Best Bad Credit Loans Best Installment Loans For Bad Credit Best Personal Loans For Fair Credit Best Low Interest Personal Loans
  • Student Loans Best Student Loans Best Student Loan Refinance Best Student Loans for Bad or No Credit Best Low-Interest Student Loans
  • Business Loans Best Business Loans Best Business Lines of Credit Apply For A Business Loan Business Loan vs. Business Line Of Credit What Is An SBA Loan?
  • Investing Best Online Brokers Top 10 Cryptocurrencies Best Low-Risk Investments Best Cheap Stocks To Buy Now Best S&P 500 Index Funds Best Stocks For Beginners How To Make Money From Investing In Stocks
  • Retirement Best Gold IRAs Best Investments for a Roth IRA Best Bitcoin IRAs Protecting Your 401(k) In a Recession Types of IRAs Roth vs Traditional IRA How To Open A Roth IRA
  • Business Formation Best LLC Services Best Registered Agent Services How To Start An LLC How To Start A Business
  • Web Design & Hosting Best Website Builders Best E-commerce Platforms Best Domain Registrar
  • HR & Payroll Best Payroll Software Best HR Software Best HRIS Systems Best Recruiting Software Best Applicant Tracking Systems
  • Payment Processing Best Credit Card Processing Companies Best POS Systems Best Merchant Services Best Credit Card Readers How To Accept Credit Cards
  • More Business Solutions Best VPNs Best VoIP Services Best Project Management Software Best CRM Software Best Accounting Software
  • Manage Topics
  • Investigations
  • Visual Explainers
  • Newsletters
  • Abortion news
  • Coronavirus
  • Climate Change
  • Vertical Storytelling
  • Corrections Policy
  • College Football
  • High School Sports
  • H.S. Sports Awards
  • Sports Betting
  • College Basketball (M)
  • College Basketball (W)
  • For The Win
  • Sports Pulse
  • Weekly Pulse
  • Buy Tickets
  • Sports Seriously
  • Sports+ States
  • Celebrities
  • Entertainment This!
  • Celebrity Deaths
  • American Influencer Awards
  • Women of the Century
  • Problem Solved
  • Personal Finance
  • Small Business
  • Consumer Recalls
  • Video Games
  • Product Reviews
  • Destinations
  • Airline News
  • Experience America
  • Today's Debate
  • Suzette Hackney
  • Policing the USA
  • Meet the Editorial Board
  • How to Submit Content
  • Hidden Common Ground
  • Race in America

Personal Loans

Best Personal Loans

Auto Insurance

Best Auto Insurance

Best High-Yields Savings Accounts

CREDIT CARDS

Best Credit Cards

Advertiser Disclosure

Blueprint is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service focused on helping readers make smarter decisions. We receive compensation from the companies that advertise on Blueprint which may impact how and where products appear on this site. The compensation we receive from advertisers does not influence the recommendations or advice our editorial team provides in our articles or otherwise impact any of the editorial content on Blueprint. Blueprint does not include all companies, products or offers that may be available to you within the market. A list of selected affiliate partners is available here .

How to write a business plan in 9 steps

Robert Bruce

Bryce Colburn

Bryce Colburn

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 7:54 a.m. UTC Jan. 2, 2024

  • path]:fill-[#49619B]" alt="Facebook" width="18" height="18" viewBox="0 0 18 18" fill="none" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">
  • path]:fill-[#202020]" alt="Email" width="19" height="14" viewBox="0 0 19 14" fill="none" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">

Editorial Note: Blueprint may earn a commission from affiliate partner links featured here on our site. This commission does not influence our editors' opinions or evaluations. Please view our full advertiser disclosure policy .

Featured Image

andresr, Getty Images

Starting a business is a risky venture. 

Even the smartest of entrepreneurs have many questions to consider as they develop and execute their business idea. One of the best outlets for creating a successful company is having a business plan in place before you launch on day one. 

A solid business plan will provide a game plan for your company, both now and in the future. It should guide all of your decisions and allow you to navigate difficult times by providing a resource by which you operate and strategize. 

A business plan is a vital part of any successful company. 

Featured registered agent service offers

Zenbusiness.

a business plan should include

Via ZenBusiness’ website

$199 annually

Same-day document delivery

Phone support

a business plan should include

Via LegalZoom’s website

Northwest Registered Agent

a business plan should include

Via Northwest Registered Agent’s website

What is a business plan?

A business plan is simply an outline of a company’s future goals and how it plans to achieve those goals. A solid business plan will guide a company’s strategy and decision-making and help it navigate through any unforeseen obstacles. 

Companies of all sizes can benefit from a business plan. Smaller-sized companies can use this plan to develop a strategy for growth, development and investor strategy. Larger, more established companies can use a business plan to expand, explore other profit possibilities and stay on track with its original vision. 

Business plans are also important when it comes to funding, as many investors will want to see your plan before funding your project or company. 

How to write a business plan

One of the most important parts of writing a business plan is the realization you need one in the first place. If that’s you, congratulations on overcoming that initial obstacle. 

Now that you understand why a business plan is important let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow to create a successful one. 

1. Write an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as a Cliffs Notes for your business plan. This summary will condense the entire business plan that follows into one easy-to-follow package. It should contain all the highlights while giving a solid overview of the entire plan. 

The plan should also briefly offer key company information, such as business goals and vision, product descriptions, marketing strategy and current financials — as well as other relevant information like leadership, employees and location.

In addition to offering a brief overview of your business strategy, the executive summary is a useful tool to give to potential investors who might not have the time to read the entire plan. 

2. Draft a company description

This section simply covers the basics of your company — what you do, how you separate yourself in your industry, what makes the services and/or products you provide worthwhile and why your company would be a smart investment. 

You should also include information like your business’s mission statement, its structure, short- and long-term goals, business history and other similar facts. This is also a good place to list your company’s core values. 

A lot of these issues should be well thought out before you draft a company description or business plan. By this point, you should be able to easily articulate all of this. If not, take a breath and meet with your team to go back through this to make sure you have all your bases covered.  

3. Include a description of your products and services

This is where you outline what you sell and why your target market should care. You should outline key specs like price, size and material quality. If you provide a service, you should offer information about availability, quality and durability. 

Give a brief overview of the multiple products you offer, as well as those that are a part of your future plans. 

4. Consider your company goals and objectives

You’ve already briefly mentioned your goals and objectives in prior sections, but this section allows you to go a little more in-depth. 

Here, expand on your mission statement and why it’s important to your company. You might talk about the thought process behind the statement and how it came to be. Who was involved in crafting it, and what were the important elements they wanted to include?

Then, begin going more in-depth on your specific business goals — both short-term and long-term. What are some of your priorities for the next year? Five years? Decade? Listing out these objectives shows you not only have a good grasp of your company’s current situation but also of where it is headed. 

5. Perform market research and competitor analysis

Performing market research and competitive analysis is an extremely important part of your business plan. Getting familiar with other businesses in your market will help you see what works and what doesn’t. 

You should be able to list out the size of your market and who might be interested in your products or services, how you fit into that market and what other competitors are doing. Along those lines, what is your brand’s differentiation with that market — what sets you apart?

Knowing your market and how you approach it strategically can make or break your business. 

6. Create a marketing plan

Who is your ideal customer? And, strategically, how do you plan on reaching them? This is the foundation of your marketing plan. 

How much money and effort do you plan on putting into marketing, or will you rely more heavily on sales? With your marketing, this is where you’ll outline the platforms you plan on using to reach your audience — whether that’s through social media, online ads, television or radio commercials.

Ultimately, this section will provide the details on your product or service, how much it will cost, how you plan to promote it and where you plan on selling it. 

7. Define your operating procedures

This section explains the framework of your organization and how you operate. 

You’ll outline your leadership structure with an organizational chart if you have one. Explain some of the key members of your team and how they make your business run successfully. You might consider including resumes or CVs. 

This is where you’ll lay out the legal structure of your company as well. Do you plan on incorporating, or are you a limited liability company (LLC) or sole proprietor ?

In terms of operations, outline who your suppliers will be, how your production process will work, which facilities and equipment you’ll use to develop your products, how you plan on shipping and the amount of inventory you’ll keep on hand. 

8. Create a financial plan

Obviously, your financials are the backbone of your business. With a solid financial plan, your company will thrive. Without one, it may whither. The basics of your financial plan will include a balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement. 

The balance sheet shows your total assets and liabilities. The income statement will show your revenue and expenses — the two main factors that ultimately reveal your business’s profit or loss. The cash-flow statement shows how much cash your business will have available at any given time — based on when you pay your bills and deposit revenue.

9. Set a timeline for progress and goals

In this section, you’ll set the timeline for your company’s progress. You’ll break down different milestones and when you expect to reach them, as well as what progress will look like for your business. 

Be specific. List out the exact amount of profit you hope to have over a certain time frame. This should be as detailed as possible. So when writing out your goals, don’t use generalized phrases like “increase revenue.” Instead, go into the specifics of those goals. 

Additional business planning resources

In addition to a business plan, you definitely want to make sure you have other aspects of your business covered. Some business planning topics to think about include:

  • Business structures: Starting out, will you form your business structure as a limited liability company (LLC), which protects you from your company’s debts and liabilities in the event of a lawsuit? Or are you forming a partnership or sole proprietorship ? 
  • Business licenses: Most businesses will require a business license , which may be needed at the county, state and federal level, depending on the type of business you operate.
  • Business taxes: The type of business you have will dictate how you pay taxes. You may be required to pay income tax, payroll tax, self-employment tax, employment taxes and excise tax. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You don’t necessarily need a business plan to start your business, but creating one will put you at a great advantage. 

A business plan communicates your vision and mission to your company as well as potential investors. It also allows you to get buy-in from your current employees and how you plan to build your business into the future.

A solid business plan will include the following:

  • Executive summary: A quick overview of the entire business plan. 
  • Company description: A description of your company and what it does.
  • Products and services description: A description of the products and services your company offers.
  • Company goals and objectives: An outline of your company’s future goals. 
  • Market research: Who are your competitors and how do you fit into the industry?
  • Marketing plan: Details about how you plan to reach your ideal customer. 
  • Operating procedures: Outline the framework of your organization and how it operates. 
  • Financial plan: Provide details about your balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement.
  • Progress and goals: A breakdown of company milestones and your timeline for reaching them. 

A business plan allows you to precisely define the basic information and values of your company, as well as its viability, vision, mission, marketing strategy and future goals. A solid plan will outline all the above while explaining, in detail, how you plan to make these ideas a reality.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce has been a full-time writer for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured in US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, The Penny Hoarder, The Money Manual, WGN Chicago, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, among others.

Bryce Colburn is a USA TODAY Blueprint small business editor with a history of helping startups and small firms nationwide grow their business. He has worked as a freelance writer, digital marketing professional and business-to-business (B2B) editor at U.S. News and World Report, gaining a strong understanding of the challenges businesses face. Bryce is enthusiastic about helping businesses make the best decisions for their company and specializes in reviewing business software and services. His expertise includes topics such as credit card processing companies, payroll software, company formation services and virtual private networks (VPNs).

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated March 4, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. 

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

Brought to you by

LivePlan Logo

Create a professional business plan

Using ai and step-by-step instructions.

Secure funding

Validate ideas

Build a strategy

What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

If you’re stuck, start with a one-page business plan and check out our collection of over 550 business plan examples for inspiration. They’re broken out over dozens of industries—you can even copy and paste sections into your plan and rewrite them with information specific to your business.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

a business plan should include

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

Related Articles

a business plan should include

1 Min. Read

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Business Plan Writer

a business plan should include

8 Min. Read

How to Forecast Personnel Costs in 3 Steps

a business plan should include

6 Min. Read

Do This One Thing Before You Write Your Business Plan

a business plan should include

16 Min. Read

How to Write a Mission Statement + 10 Great Examples

The Bplans Newsletter

The Bplans Weekly

Subscribe now for weekly advice and free downloadable resources to help start and grow your business.

We care about your privacy. See our privacy policy .

Garrett's Bike Shop

The quickest way to turn a business idea into a business plan

Fill-in-the-blanks and automatic financials make it easy.

No thanks, I prefer writing 40-page documents.

LivePlan pitch example

Discover the world’s #1 plan building software

a business plan should include

  • Starting a Business
  • Growing a Business
  • Small Business Guide
  • Business News
  • Science & Technology
  • Money & Finance
  • Subscribers For Subscribers
  • ELN Write for Entrepreneur
  • Store Entrepreneur Store
  • Spotlight Spotlight
  • United States
  • Asia Pacific
  • Middle East
  • South Africa

Copyright © 2024 Entrepreneur Media, LLC All rights reserved. Entrepreneur® and its related marks are registered trademarks of Entrepreneur Media LLC

What to Include in Your Business Plan Here's what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and what it should look like.

By The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. • Dec 9, 2014

In their book Write Your Business Plan , the staff of Entrepreneur Media offer an in-depth understanding of what's essential to any business plan, what's appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors briefly describe just what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and how to know if it's time to write it.

A business plan is a written description of the future of your business. It's a document that tells the story of what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

But there are some generally accepted conventions about what a full-blown business plan should include and how it should be presented. A plan should cover all the important matters that will contribute to making your business a success. These include the following:

1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.

2. Your strategy and the specific actions you plan to take to implement it. What goals do you have for your business? When and how will you reach your goals?

3. Your products and services and their competitive advantages. Here's your chance to dazzle the readers with good, solid information about your products or services and why customers will want to purchase your products and services and not those of your competitors.

4. The markets you'll pursue. Now you have to lay out your marketing plan. Who will your customers be? What is your demographic audience? How will you attract and retain enough customers to make a profit? What methods will you use to capture your audience? What sets your business apart from the competition?

5. The background of your management team and key employees. Having information about key personnel is an important but often misrepresented portion of a business plan. It's not a long and detailed biography of each person involved but an accurate account of what they've done and what they bring to the table for this specific business opportunity.

6. Your financing needs. These will be based on your projected financial statements. These statements provide a model of how your ideas about the company, its markets and its strategies will play out.

As you write your business plan, stick to facts instead of feelings, projections instead of hopes, and realistic expectations of profit instead of unrealistic dreams of wealth. Facts—checkable, demonstrable facts—will invest your plan with the most important component of all: credibility.

How long should your plan be?

A useful business plan can be any length, from that scrawl on the back of an envelope to more than 100 pages for an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise. A typical business plan runs 15 to 25 pages.

Miniplans of five to 10 pages are the popular concise models that may stand on their own for smaller businesses. Larger businesses seeking major funding will often have miniplans as well, but the full business plan will be waiting in the wings. It's to your advantage to run long when creating your plan, then narrow it down for presentation purposes.

The size of the plan will also depend on the nature of your business and your reason for writing it. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you're looking for millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you'll usually (although not always) have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you already have relationships with potential investors, they may simply want a miniplan. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version may suffice.

Many business plan presentations are made with PowerPoint decks, using 10 to 12 slides to tell your story. That's a great starting point, but you should have at least a miniplan available, especially if you're seeking millions of dollars.

When should you write it?

Still not sure if it's time to write a business plan? Here are a few clues that it's time to start writing:

  • A business plan is a good way to explore the feasibility of a new business without actually having to start it and run it. A good plan can help you see serious flaws in your business concept. You may uncover tough competition when researching the market section, or you may find that your financial projections simply aren't realistic.
  • Any venture that faces major changes (and that means almost all businesses) needs a business plan. If the demographics of your market are rapidly changing, strong new competitive products challenge your profitability, you expect your business to grow or shrink dramatically, or the economic climate is improving or slipping rapidly, you'll need a business plan. This will allow you to make changes accordingly.
  • If you're contemplating buying or selling a business, your business plan can provide you with a handy tool to establish a value—and to support that value if challenged.
  • You'll need a business plan if you're seeking financing. Your business plan is the backbone of your financing proposal. Bankers, venture capitalists and other financiers rarely provide money without seeing a plan. Less sophisticated investors or friends and family may not require a business plan, but they deserve one. Even if you're funding the business with your own savings, you owe it to yourself to plan how you'll expend the resources you're committing.

Entrepreneur Staff

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick Red Arrow

  • 'The IRS is Coming in Hot': Jason Tartick Says All Business Owners Should Do This 1 Thing Before Filing Taxes — Or Risk a Potentially Pricey Audit
  • Lock What Is a 'Dry Promotion' — and Has It Happened to You? Employees in This Specific Group May Be the Most Likely Victims .
  • I Was a 25-Year-Old Nurse When I Started a Side Hustle to Combat Anxiety. It Made $1 Million in 7 Months — Then Sold for a Life-Changing Amount.
  • Lock 2 Phrases I Learned From a Senior CIA Officer That Changed My Leadership Style
  • The U.S. Justice Department Is Suing Apple in a Groundbreaking iPhone Monopoly Lawsuit — Here's Why
  • Lock I Built My Company to 23 Profitable Stores. Here's My Advice to Small Business Owners Who Want to Grow Their Retail Presence.

Most Popular Red Arrow

Karlie kloss, josh kushner announce plans to relaunch life magazine, 16 years after its last print issue.

Kloss is the CEO of Bedford Media.

'Wildly Inappropriate': Woman Says She Was Denied a Job Because She Didn't Wear Makeup During the Interview

Melissa Weaver was applying for a VP of HR job at a tech company via video.

Popular Appetite Suppressant Ozempic Can Be Made For Less Than $5 a Month, New Research Suggests

The $5 includes a profit margin.

From Tom Brady to Kevin O'Leary – See Who Lost Big in the Wake of the FTX Crypto Collapse

The crash exposed an $8 billion hole in FTX's accounts, leaving investors and customers scrambling to recoup their funds.

Kevin O'Leary Says 'Do Not' Merge Finances, Bank Accounts With Your Spouse: 'I Forbid It in My Own Family'

The "Shark Tank" star stressed the importance of keeping your "own financial identity" in a relationship.

This Highly-Debated Piece of Cinematic History Just Sold For Over $700,000 at Auction

The wood panel from "Titanic" is often mistaken as a door. Either way, he couldn't have fit. (Sorry.)

Successfully copied link

comscore

We use essential cookies to make Venngage work. By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Manage Cookies

Cookies and similar technologies collect certain information about how you’re using our website. Some of them are essential, and without them you wouldn’t be able to use Venngage. But others are optional, and you get to choose whether we use them or not.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are always on, as they’re essential for making Venngage work, and making it safe. Without these cookies, services you’ve asked for can’t be provided.

Show cookie providers

  • Google Login

Functionality Cookies

These cookies help us provide enhanced functionality and personalisation, and remember your settings. They may be set by us or by third party providers.

Performance Cookies

These cookies help us analyze how many people are using Venngage, where they come from and how they're using it. If you opt out of these cookies, we can’t get feedback to make Venngage better for you and all our users.

  • Google Analytics

Targeting Cookies

These cookies are set by our advertising partners to track your activity and show you relevant Venngage ads on other sites as you browse the internet.

  • Google Tag Manager
  • Infographics
  • Daily Infographics
  • Graphic Design
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Data Visualization
  • Human Resources
  • Training and Development
  • Beginner Guides

Blog Business

How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates] 

By Letícia Fonseca , Aug 11, 2023

business plan outline

When venturing into crafting a business plan, the initial hurdle often lies in taking that first step.

So, how can you evade those prolonged hours of staring at a blank page? Initiate your journey with the aid of a business plan outline.

As with any endeavor, an outline serves as the beacon of clarity, illuminating the path to confront even the most formidable tasks. This holds particularly true when composing pivotal documents vital to your triumph, much like a business plan.

Nonetheless, I understand the enormity of a business plan’s scope, which might make the task of outlining it seem daunting. This is precisely why I’ve compiled all the requisite information to facilitate the creation of a business plan outline. No need to break a sweat!

And if you’re seeking further assistance, a business plan maker and readily available business plan templates can offer valuable support in shaping your comprehensive plan.

Read on for answers to all your business plan outline questions or jump ahead for some handy templates. 

Click to jump ahead:

What is a business plan outline (and why do you need one), what format should you choose for your business plan outline, what are the key components of a business plan outline.

  • Business plan template examples
  • Writing tips to ace your outline 

A business plan outline is the backbone of your business plan. It contains all the most important information you’ll want to expand on in your full-length plan. 

Think of it this way: your outline is a frame for your plan. It provides a high-level idea of what the final plan should look like, what it will include and how all the information will be organized. 

Why would you do this extra step? Beyond saving you from blank page syndrome, an outline ensures you don’t leave any essential information out of your plan — you can see all the most important points at a glance and quickly identify any content gaps. 

It also serves as a writing guide. Once you know all the sections you want in your plan, you just need to expand on them. Suddenly, you’re “filling in the blanks” as opposed to writing a plan from scratch!

Incidentally, using a business plan template like this one gives you a running head start, too: 

business plan outline

Perhaps most importantly, a business plan outline keeps you focused on the essential parts of your document. (Not to mention what matters most to stakeholders and investors.)  With an outline, you’ll spend less time worrying about structure or organization and more time perfecting the actual content of your document. 

If you’re looking for more general advice, you can read about  how to create a business plan here . But if you’re working on outlining your plan, stick with me.

Return to Table of Contents

Most business plans fit into one of two formats. 

The format you choose largely depends on three factors: (1) the stage of your business, (2) if you’re presenting the plan to investors and (3) what you want to achieve with your business plan. 

Let’s have a closer look at these two formats and why you might choose one over the other.

Traditional format

Traditional business plans  are typically long, detailed documents. In many cases, they take up to 50-60 pages, but it’s not uncommon to see plans spanning 100+ pages. 

Traditional plans are long because they cover  every aspect  of your business. They leave nothing out. You’ll find a traditional business plan template with sections like executive summary, company description, target market, market analysis, marketing plan, financial plan, and more. Basically: the more information the merrier.

This business plan template isn’t of a traditional format, but you could expand it into one by duplicating pages:

business plan outline

Due to their high level of detail, traditional formats are the best way to sell your business. They show you’re reliable and have a clear vision for your business’s future. 

If you’re planning on presenting your plan to investors and stakeholders, you’ll want to go with a traditional plan format. The more information you include, the fewer doubts and questions you’ll get when you present your plan, so don’t hold back. 

Traditional business plans require more detailed outlines before drafting since there’s a lot of information to cover. You’ll want to list all the sections and include bullet points describing what each section should cover. 

It’s also a good idea to include all external resources and visuals in your outline, so you don’t have to gather them later. 

Lean format

Lean business plan formats are high level and quick to write. They’re often only one or two pages. Similar to a  business plan infographic , they’re scannable and quick to digest, like this template: 

business plan outline

This format is often referred to as a “startup” format due to (you guessed it!) many startups using it. 

Lean business plans require less detailed outlines. You can include high-level sections and a few lines in each section covering the basics. Since the final plan will only be a page or two, you don’t need to over prepare. Nor will you need a ton of external resources. 

Lean plans don’t answer all the questions investors and stakeholders may ask, so if you go this route, make sure it’s the right choice for your business . Companies not yet ready to present to investors will typically use a lean/startup business plan format to get their rough plan on paper and share it internally with their management team. 

Here’s another example of a lean business plan format in the form of a financial plan: 

business plan outline

Your business plan outline should include all the following sections. The level of detail you choose to go into will depend on your intentions for your plan (sharing with stakeholders vs. internal use), but you’ll want every section to be clear and to the point. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary gives a high-level description of your company, product or service. This section should include a mission statement, your company description, your business’s primary goal, and the problem it aims to solve. You’ll want to state how your business can solve the problem and briefly explain what makes you stand out (your competitive advantage).

Having an executive summary is essential to selling your business to stakeholders , so it should be as clear and concise as possible. Summarize your business in a few sentences in a way that will hook the reader (or audience) and get them invested in what you have to say next. In other words, this is your elevator pitch.

business plan outline

2. Product and services description

This is where you should go into more detail about your product or service. Your product is the heart of your business, so it’s essential this section is easy to grasp. After all, if people don’t know what you’re selling, you’ll have a hard time keeping them engaged!

Expand on your description in the executive summary, going into detail about the problem your customers face and how your product/service will solve it. If you have various products or services, go through all of them in equal detail. 

business plan outline

3. Target market and/or Market analysis

A market analysis is crucial for placing your business in a larger context and showing investors you know your industry. This section should include market research on your prospective customer demographic including location, age range, goals and motivations. 

You can even  include detailed customer personas  as a visual aid — these are especially useful if you have several target demographics. You want to showcase your knowledge of your customer, who exactly you’re selling to and how you can fulfill their needs.

Be sure to include information on the overall target market for your product, including direct and indirect competitors and how your industry is performing. If your competitors have strengths you want to mimic or weaknesses you want to exploit, this is the place to record that information. 

business plan outline

4. Organization and management

You can think of this as a “meet the team” section — this is where you should go into depth on your business’s structure from management to legal and HR. If there are people bringing unique skills or experience to the table (I’m sure there are!), you should highlight them in this section. 

The goal here is to showcase why your team is the best to run your business. Investors want to know you’re unified, organized and reliable. This is also a potential opportunity to bring more humanity to your business plan and showcase the faces behind the ideas and product. 

business plan outline

5. Marketing and sales

Now that you’ve introduced your product and team, you need to explain how you’re going to sell it. Give a detailed explanation of your sales and marketing strategy, including pricing, timelines for launching your product and advertising.

This is a major section of your plan and can even live as a separate document for your marketing and sales teams. Here are some  marketing plan templates to help you get started .

Make sure you have research or analysis to back up your decisions — if you want to do paid ads on LinkedIn to advertise your product, include a brief explanation as to why that is the best channel for your business. 

business plan outline

6. Financial projections and funding request

The end of your plan is where you’ll look to the future and how you think your business will perform financially. Your financial plan should include results from your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow projections. 

State your funding requirements and what you need to realize the business. Be extremely clear about how you plan to use the funding and when you expect investors will see returns.

If you aren’t presenting to potential investors, you can skip this part, but it’s something to keep in mind should you seek funding in the future. Covering financial projections and the previous five components is essential at the stage of business formation to ensure everything goes smoothly moving forward.

business plan outline

7. Appendix

Any extra visual aids, receipts, paperwork or charts will live here. Anything that may be relevant to your plan should be included as reference e.g. your cash flow statement (or other financial statements). You can format your appendix in whatever way you think is best — as long as it’s easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, you’ve done your job!

Typically, the best way to start your outline is to list all these high-level sections. Then, you can add bullet points outlining what will go in each section and the resources you’ll need to write them. This should give you a solid starting point for your full-length plan.

Business plan outline templates

Looking for a shortcut? Our  business plan templates  are basically outlines in a box! 

While your outline likely won’t go into as much detail, these templates are great examples of how to organize your sections.

Traditional format templates

A strong template can turn your long, dense business plan into an engaging, easy-to-read document. There are lots to choose from, but here are just a few ideas to inspire you… 

You can duplicate pages and use these styles for a traditional outline, or start with a lean outline as you build your business plan out over time:

business plan outline

Lean format templates

For lean format outlines, a simpler ‘ mind map ’ style is a good bet. With this style, you can get ideas down fast and quickly turn them into one or two-page plans. Plus, because they’re shorter, they’re easy to share with your team.

business plan outline

Writing tips to ace your business plan outline

Business plans are complex documents, so if you’re still not sure how to write your outline, don’t worry! Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when drafting your business plan outline:

  • Ask yourself why you’re writing an outline. Having a clear goal for your outline can help keep you on track as you write. Everything you include in your plan should contribute to your goal. If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be in there.
  • Keep it clear and concise. Whether you’re writing a traditional or lean format business plan, your outline should be easy to understand. Choose your words wisely and avoid unnecessary preambles or padding language. The faster you get to the point, the easier your plan will be to read.
  • Add visual aids. No one likes reading huge walls of text! Make room in your outline for visuals, data and charts. This keeps your audience engaged and helps those who are more visual learners. Psst,  infographics  are great for this.
  • Make it collaborative. Have someone (or several someones) look it over before finalizing your outline. If you have an established marketing / sales / finance team, have them look it over too. Getting feedback at the outline stage can help you avoid rewrites and wasted time down the line.

If this is your first time writing a business plan outline, don’t be too hard on yourself. You might not get it 100% right on the first try, but with these tips and the key components listed above, you’ll have a strong foundation. Remember, done is better than perfect. 

Create a winning business plan by starting with a detailed, actionable outline

The best way to learn is by doing. So go ahead, get started on your business plan outline. As you develop your plan, you’ll no doubt learn more about your business and what’s important for success along the way. 

A clean, compelling template is a great way to get a head start on your outline. After all, the sections are already separated and defined for you! 

Explore Venngage’s business plan templates  for one that suits your needs. Many are free to use and there are premium templates available for a small monthly fee. Happy outlining!

Plan Smarter, Grow Faster:

25% Off Annual Plans! Save Now

Tool graphics

0 results have been found for “”

 Return to blog home

What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

a business plan should include

What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. 

A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner. 

Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.  

Why do you need a business plan?

The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis. 

These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.

That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .  

What can you do with your plan?

So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.

Test an idea

Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful. 

The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.

Document your strategy and goals

For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen. 

With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.

Pursue funding

Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.

The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used. 

Better manage your business

A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.

Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.

What should your business plan include?

The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see. 

Executive summary

The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.

This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.

Products & Services

When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business. 

Market analysis

A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.

Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .  

Marketing & sales

Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it. 

Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.

Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business. 

Organization & management

This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.

Financial projections

Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think. 

Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate. 

Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. 

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. 

The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.

It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process. 

To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan. 

It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. 

Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .

Like this post? Share with a friend!

Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

Join over 1 million entrepreneurs who found success with liveplan, like this content sign up to receive more.

Subscribe for tips and guidance to help you grow a better, smarter business.

You're all set!

Exciting business insights and growth strategies will be coming your way each month.

We care about your privacy. See our privacy policy .

Our Recommendations

  • Best Small Business Loans for 2024
  • Businessloans.com Review
  • Biz2Credit Review
  • SBG Funding Review
  • Rapid Finance Review
  • 26 Great Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs
  • Startup Costs: How Much Cash Will You Need?
  • How to Get a Bank Loan for Your Small Business
  • Articles of Incorporation: What New Business Owners Should Know
  • How to Choose the Best Legal Structure for Your Business

Small Business Resources

  • Business Ideas
  • Business Plans
  • Startup Basics
  • Startup Funding
  • Franchising
  • Success Stories
  • Entrepreneurs
  • The Best Credit Card Processors of 2024
  • Clover Credit Card Processing Review
  • Merchant One Review
  • ProMerchant Review
  • Stax Review
  • How to Conduct a Market Analysis for Your Business
  • Local Marketing Strategies for Success
  • Tips for Hiring a Marketing Company
  • Benefits of CRM Systems
  • 10 Employee Recruitment Strategies for Success
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Best Business Phone Systems of 2024
  • The Best PEOs of 2024
  • RingCentral Review
  • Nextiva Review
  • Ooma Review
  • Guide to Developing a Training Program for New Employees
  • How Does 401(k) Matching Work for Employers?
  • Why You Need to Create a Fantastic Workplace Culture
  • 16 Cool Job Perks That Keep Employees Happy
  • 7 Project Management Styles
  • Women in Business
  • Personal Growth
  • Best Accounting Software and Invoice Generators of 2024
  • Best Payroll Services for 2024
  • Best POS Systems for 2024
  • Best CRM Software of 2024
  • Best Call Centers and Answering Services for Busineses for 2024
  • Salesforce vs. HubSpot: Which CRM Is Right for Your Business?
  • Rippling vs Gusto: An In-Depth Comparison
  • RingCentral vs. Ooma Comparison
  • Choosing a Business Phone System: A Buyer’s Guide
  • Equipment Leasing: A Guide for Business Owners
  • HR Solutions
  • Financial Solutions
  • Marketing Solutions
  • Security Solutions
  • Retail Solutions
  • SMB Solutions

6 Questions Every Business Plan Should Answer

author image

Table of Contents

An actionable business plan is crucial, whether your business is brand-new or an established player in its field. A business plan is especially vital for SMBs, which often must contend with lower name recognition, fewer loyal customers and other typical business challenges. While it doesn’t guarantee success, creating a business plan with research and care can help a business prepare for any future uncertainties.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners must ensure their business plans address six primary questions. Thinking through these questions and developing potential solutions helps set up your venture for success. 

What is a business plan, and why does it matter?

A business plan is a formal document designed to help you set achievable business goals and outline how you’ll accomplish them. The business plan should include various road maps dedicated to the following operational elements:

  • Product creation
  • Operational goals

A business plan is a valuable tool internally and externally.

  • Internal business plan functions: Internally, a business plan helps align its decisions with an overall road map to help it stay on track. Businesses can also use road maps to help think through difficult choices, such as headcount decisions.
  • External business plan functions: Externally, a road map is critical for securing funding from outside investors like angel investors . A business must demonstrate to investors that it has a solid business plan with achievable goals and a road map to success. 

When pitching your business idea to investors , emphasize how your product or service solves a problem and frame your pitch as a story to demonstrate your passion.

What should a business plan include?

Typically, a business plan should include the following elements: 

  • Executive summary. An executive summary highlights a business plan’s essential elements. Readers should be able to understand your business plan by reading your executive summary, even if they don’t read the rest of the document.
  • Budget. A small business budget should include overall operational and personnel costs. Consider your payroll budget , marketing budget and other departmental budgets.
  • Market analysis. A market analysis should include a thorough market assessment that identifies competitors, your target customer , customer buying habits, marketing demographics and what customers are willing to pay. A market analysis may include a competitive analysis that dives more deeply into direct and indirect competitors.
  • Product analysis. A product analysis outlines decisions about optimal product pricing. While you want to sell as many products as possible, low prices can scare off customers and eat into your profit margins, while prices that are too high will have customers turning to your competitors. 
  • Marketing strategy. Your marketing plan should outline how best to market the business and its products or services. Consider digital marketing targeted to specific online and social platforms, email marketing and local marketing. 

Business plans vary in length depending on your business’s size, industry and scope. An SMB typically has a shorter and more succinct business plan than a larger, established business that operates across industries. 

Collect market intelligence for your business plan by conducting customer surveys and researching social media metrics, competitors’ sales and target customer data.

Questions every business plan should answer

We spoke with six business leaders who shared their thoughts on the crucial questions a business plan should answer. Consider these six essential questions to optimize your business plan.

1. What is the competitive advantage?

Scott Locke, chair of the intellectual property department at Dorf and Nelson LLP, advises thoroughly researching copyright infringement issues when determining your competitive advantage. 

“I always look for what will give the business a competitive advantage relative to businesses that want to offer the same or similar goods and services and an analysis of the competitive landscape,” Locke explained. “I pay particular attention as to whether there is valuable intellectual property, be it patents, trademarks, copyrights or trade secrets, that will serve as barriers to entry for competitors. Similarly, I like to see a discussion of the intellectual property of the most direct competitors and how the new business will avoid infringing on it.”

2. Is the business in a growth market?

Walter Recher, principal consultant at SmallBall Marketing, says your business plan should emphasize how you plan to grow your business . 

“The key to any successful business is to be a growing company in a growth market. A business plan should articulate how the entrepreneurs will enter the market, apply their investment to prepare them to grow quickly, and participate in the expansion of an industry that is thriving, with a better-than-average growth trajectory,” Recher said. “As I have spent my career working for hyper-growth companies in rapidly expanding markets, a founder of several small businesses and adjunct professor of a course on entrepreneurship, this has been the common denominator.”

3. Will customers pay for it?

Andi Gray, founder and president of Strategy Leaders, advises examining the risks of entrepreneurship and determining what and how customers will pay for their products and services. 

“When looking at business plans, I always want to know how the owners plan to get paying customers to engage at a fee and quantity that allows them, as owners, to be in business and sustain themselves,” Gray advised. “My frequently asked question is, ‘How do you plan to feed and clothe yourself, and where do you plan to sleep while you’re getting this venture off the ground?’ My hope is that it will cause the students to consider why they are planning to take the risks of entrepreneurship.” 

4. How will the business be staffed?

Larry Holfelder, senior consultant at DJL Insurance Services Inc., emphasizes the importance of staffing considerations. 

“In every business plan, I like to see the recognition of the need to cover and staff the production, sales and finance parts of the business. Roles should be established for the entity as if it were mature and successful,” Holfelder advised. “Multiple roles should be assigned at first, if necessary, and filled with the right people as the entity grows and the timing is right.” 

Holfelder says thoughtful staffing coverage shows that the business owners are realistic. “I like to see that type of thought process because it shows me they recognize that they won’t be able to do it all themselves and that business success revolves around collaboration and management,” Holfelder said. “It also shows that they recognize their own limitations, their ability to focus on their strengths, and the need to bring in others who know what they don’t in order to reach the goals they envision.”

Consider using a staffing agency if you need to scale quickly and want flexibility and reduced legal risks.

5. Is the product innovative?

Irwin Glenn, chief identity scientist at Hunova, stresses the importance of innovation and inventiveness as well as the team’s level of inspiration. 

“Is the idea for the product or service innovative, a unique invention, or is the dream truly inspired? Glenn asked. “By innovative, I want to understand if the business plan is centered around a new twist on already-existing technology or services delivered in a new and compelling way. If inventive, can the idea be protected against new or existing competition? Finally, is the team assembled an excellent group that can’t be stopped from succeeding? Are they inspiring to me, each other, and their marketplace?”

6. Are the plans and goals realistic?

Charles North, former president and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, prioritizes a realistic business plan with reasonable expectations. 

“I look for it to be a realistic business plan, not something that is pie-in-the-sky. I want to see reasonable expectations,” North explained. “I tend to look more on the conservative side, since I feel that is the safest way to go. The idea doesn’t have to be reasonable; the plan does. The idea can be anything.”

North also emphasizes the importance of sales forecasts . “I always look for projections on what the business will do in the first year, second year, third year and fourth year showing sales, expenses [and the] bottom line as the business progresses. Those assumptions have to be reasonable.”

How planning for success pays off

A great business idea is no guarantee of success, but a solid business plan is a way to start a new business off the right foot and prepare your venture for a lucrative future. 

Business plans are a vital resource for businesses of all sizes. While business plans should, at minimum, lay out a series of goals and a road map for achieving them, a business plan should also help answer questions ranging from analyzing a business’ competitive advantages to considering if its goals are realistic. 

If you think through these questions while creating your business plan, your business will be in a better position to achieve its goals and weather any challenges it may face. 

David Mielach contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

thumbnail

Building Better Businesses

Insights on business strategy and culture, right to your inbox. Part of the business.com network.

  • Sources of Business Finance
  • Small Business Loans
  • Small Business Grants
  • Crowdfunding Sites
  • How to Get a Business Loan
  • Small Business Insurance Providers
  • Best Factoring Companies
  • Types of Bank Accounts
  • Best Banks for Small Business
  • Best Business Bank Accounts
  • Open a Business Bank Account
  • Bank Accounts for Small Businesses
  • Free Business Checking Accounts
  • Best Business Credit Cards
  • Get a Business Credit Card
  • Business Credit Cards for Bad Credit
  • Build Business Credit Fast
  • Business Loan Eligibility Criteria
  • Small-Business Bookkeeping Basics
  • How to Set Financial Goals
  • Business Loan Calculators
  • How to Calculate ROI
  • Calculate Net Income
  • Calculate Working Capital
  • Calculate Operating Income
  • Calculate Net Present Value (NPV)
  • Calculate Payroll Tax

12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

' src=

Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

Was This Article Helpful?

Martin luenendonk.

' src=

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

Full Scale

What Should a Business Plan Include?

A business plan serves as a roadmap to successfully launch a business. It helps you overcome the challenges you might experience in your industry. Learn how to create and use a business plan for your startup.

One of the most fatal mistakes that aspiring entrepreneurs make in launching a startup is forgetting a business plan . You wouldn’t launch a ship at sea without establishing its routes and the direction you’ll steer it to. Without proper planning, your ship will end up adrift or worst, dramatically sink when the tides hit. And in a volatile commercial industry, the tides are constantly changing.

Avoid common startup mistakes by creating a business plan. A business plan not only strengthens your foundation but also helps you navigate the ever-changing field of business. Chances are your customers’ preferences will change over time and you have to keep up with them. Hence, a business plan also changes accordingly.

But how exactly do you create a business plan ? Is there a template to follow? Should you enlist the help of other experts to write it? Today, we’ll look into what should be included in your business plan and how it should be written. The first step is by understanding what it is and what it is for.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is an official company document that breaks down all the goals of a business and how to achieve them. It basically lays out the groundwork for your idea to come alive. It’s often referred to as the “blueprint of the business”, summarizing your goals.

Although there are many ways to write it, its key point usually discusses the financial, marketing, and operational strategies of the business.   

What is it for?

A business plan serves as a guide for a growing company. It’s a consistent reference for business owners and stakeholders to base critical decisions on. It’s especially useful for early-stage startups to attract investors. When a company doesn’t have a proven track record, it can lay out its full potential instead.

Not only is the business plan useful for the initial launching of a business, but it also helps with pivotal changes. Since the market is perpetually changing, it’s crucial that your plan also evolves with it. Hence, the goals and methods of achieving will be updated. In some cases, a whole new plan is created if the company wants to drastically move in a new direction.   

What’s included in a Business Plan

Although there’s no fixed formula for writing a business plan, there are some identifiable key points. These are generally the items factored in its creation:

1.     Executive Summary

The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company’s structure. It should also include your financial plans.   

2.     Business Description

The business description provides detailed information about your industry. It must describe its current outlook as well as its profit potential. You will go into detail about your target market and other organizations or businesses you cater to. Also, this section briefly discusses what problem the business is trying to solve.  

3.     Market Analysis

A business must have a firm understanding of its target market and should be able to prove its sustainability. The market analysis provides trends and studies about the target consumers—their size, demographics, buying power, and frequent activities. This section also touches briefly on the competitors.

4.     Product Development

Investors need a clear idea of how you would create and maintain your product. The development plan section contains the details of the product’s design; its production methods, lifecycle, marketing, and development budget. This includes the overall strategy of how it will be sold in the market.

5.     Marketing Strategies

The product is only as good as how much it will sell. Therefore, this section describes how you will present your products and services to the market. This will discuss your marketing campaigns, distribution channels, and types of media you’ll tap into. You will summarize how you intend to reach your customers and pitch your products to them.

6.     Operations and Management

Your investors need an overview of how the business functions. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the company such as team responsibilities, division tasks, and operational expenses. This helps track down who is responsible for certain areas of the business.  

7.     Financial Plans

Money mobilizes the idea. Hence, it’s important to keep an accurate record of where it’s going. This section shows the company’s monetary plans and its future projections. This includes financial statements, balance sheets, and third-party business transactions. For startups, it will mostly contain the target profit and estimates of expenses.    

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

Now that we have an idea of the business plan template , it’s time to learn how to write it effectively. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re writing one for your business.

  • Keep it concise. It serve as a guide for the company and the investors. It needs to be easy to understand and direct to the point. You can’t afford to waste a reader’s time by creating a 100-page business plan. Instead, aim for a summarized version of your plan, only highlighting the important points and outlining the rest.
  • Avoid jargon. Ensure that everyone, especially investors, can understand your business plan. Do not include complex jargon in your content. Save the technicalities for the experts and simplify the terms in explaining your ideas.
  • Keep it up-to-date. As previously mentioned, business plans are not static. Over time, a lot of things in the industry will change and might make your original plans obsolete. Frequently update your business plan according to what’s new in the field and with new methods you’re employing. Remember, a business plan is only useful if it’s still relevant.  

Build your Business

Business plans are important when you’re starting your business from scratch. However, the success of your business still heavily relies on their execution. A lot of startups fail because they can’t push through with what was proposed in the business plans.

More than just articulating your ideas, you need to do a lot more to make them come to life. For one, you’ll need the capital to kick things off and make everything operational. Second, you’ll need to hire the best people to run your operations. Lastly, you have to find investors to sustain your business.

One way to ensure that your business plan is properly executed is by enlisting the help of business experts. Full Scale is an offshore software development company that specializes in helping startups.

We can provide the talent and resources needed to begin your operations. Whether you need project managers, marketing specialists, or technical experts; we’ve got them all. We’ll take care of all the processes of recruitment and management so you can focus on your core competencies.

Ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey? Get your FREE consultation today!

Learn More about Offshore Development

Copyright 2024 © Full Scale

What should a business plan include?

Table of Contents

Keep your financial information organised with a simple app

Every business needs a plan to succeed. A business plan is a crucial document that gives you and interested parties (like investors or lenders) a description and overview of your company’s future. At its most basic, your business plan should explain who you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. 

So, what details should a business plan include to convey this information? This guide will explain why your business plan needs the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Competitor and market analysis
  • Details of organisation and management
  • Breakdown of products and services
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding requests and financial projections

Use a combination of these nine elements to create your business plan.

The executive summary appears first in your business plan and highlights what you’ll discuss in your business plan to give the reader an idea of what to expect. Since it’s a summary of what’s to come, it’s best to write it last to make sure you include all the important parts.

A good executive summary is engaging from the first sentence, revealing your company’s mission and sharing details about your products or services. It might be good to explain why you’re starting your business and share details about your experience in the industry.

After your executive summary, you include a company description that includes key information about your business, goals and target market. Use this section to provide a detailed description of your company, including the problems you solve and who you solve them for. 

Explain your competitive advantages that will make your business succeed. Your company description is the best place to boast about your strengths and abilities. 

  • Competitor analysis

A good business plan will also include a section that describes how your business will compete against your competitors. Use this section to prove your knowledge of the industry, breaking down other companies’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This section aims to demonstrate how your business will measure up and explain if anything will prevent you from jumping into the market. Examples of such obstacles could be high upfront costs or complicated supply processes. Whatever it is, you need to be honest about it. The competitor analysis is part of your market analysis, which we’ll cover in the next section.

  • Market analysis

This section is to show readers that you understand the industry and specific market you want to enter. You’ll explain how your unique strengths will fit into the market and back it up with data and statistics about industry trends and themes. 

Include information about how other businesses are succeeding and failing, and use the analysis to visualise your target customers. Above all, your analysis should demonstrate how your business will provide value in your target market .

  • Organisation and management

Here you’ll explain how your business will be structured and managed. Describe the legal structure of your business: will you be a sole trader or run a limited company? 

Use an organisational chart to lay out how you’ll manage your business, including if you plan to eventually hire staff or if you’ll go it alone the entire way. The more details you can provide, the better an overview the reader will get.

While you’ll include a description of your products or services in your company description, this section will give the reader all the details they need. This section should include a complete description of what your business creates and sells. Explain how long they could last and how they’ll meet the existing demand in the market. 

You should also mention your suppliers (if you have any) and other key information like how much it’ll cost to make your products and how much you hope to make from them. If you have any patents or copyrights, this is where you list them.

This section is where you explain how you’ll attract and retain customers, including how a sale will actually happen. You’ll need to refer to this section when you make financial projections (we’ll cover this later), so be thorough when describing your marketing and sales strategies. 

Break down the steps you’ll take to promote your business and the budget you’ll need to implement your strategies.

  • Funding request

If you need funding , this section is where you outline your funding requirements. Clearly explain how much funding you need over the next few years and what you’ll use the money for. 

You’ll need to specify the type of funding you want, such as the terms you want to apply and the length of time your request will cover. Explain if you need funding to buy equipment or materials, cover specific bills until business picks up, or if you need it for something else. Always include a description of how you plan to pay off your debt as well.

  • Financial projections

In this final section, you’ll break down the financial goals and expectations that you’ve set based on your market analysis. 

Report how much you anticipate to make in the first 12 months and your projected earnings for the second, third, fourth and fifth years of business. If you’re applying for a personal loan or small business loan, it’s a good idea to include an appendix or added section that provides additional financial or background information.

Now that you know what to include, you should have all the tools you need to create a solid business plan.

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here .

Countingup

  • Counting Up on Facebook
  • Counting Up on Twitter
  • Counting Up on LinkedIn

Related Resources

How to set up a tiktok shop (2024).

TikTok can be an excellent platform for growing a business, big or small.

Best side hustle ideas to start in 2024

Looking to start a new career? Or maybe you’re looking to embrace your

10 key tips to starting a business in the UK

10 things you need to know before starting a business in the UK

How to Register A Company in the UK

There are over four million companies registered in the UK – could your

How to set up your business: Sole trader or limited company

If you’ve just started a business, you’ll likely be faced with the early

How to register as a sole trader

Running a small business and considering whether to register as a sole trader? 

How to open a Barclays business account

When starting a new business, one of the first things you need to

6 examples of objectives for a small business plan

Your new company’s business plan is a crucial part of your success, as

How to start a successful business during a recession

Starting a business during a recession may sound like madness, but some big

What is a mission statement (and how to write one)

When starting a small business, you’ll need a plan to get things up

How does self-employment work?

The decision to become self-employed is not one to take lightly, and you

Tips for choosing a company name

It can be difficult to choose the right company name. Read these simple tips to make your decision easier.

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Here’s how you know

Official websites use .gov A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

GSA Logo

  • Explore sell to government
  • Ways you can sell to government
  • How to access contract opportunities
  • Conduct market research
  • Register your business
  • Certify as a small business
  • Become a schedule holder
  • Market your business
  • Research active solicitations
  • Respond to a solicitation
  • What to expect during the award process
  • Comply with contractual requirements
  • Handle contract modifications
  • Monitor past performance evaluations
  • Explore real estate
  • 3D-4D building information modeling
  • Art in architecture | Fine arts
  • Computer-aided design standards
  • Commissioning
  • Design excellence
  • Engineering
  • Project management information system
  • Spatial data management
  • Facilities operations
  • Smart buildings
  • Tenant services
  • Utility services
  • Water quality management
  • Explore historic buildings
  • Heritage tourism
  • Historic preservation policy, tools and resources
  • Historic building stewardship
  • Videos, pictures, posters and more
  • NEPA implementation
  • Courthouse program
  • Land ports of entry
  • Prospectus library
  • Regional buildings
  • Renting property
  • Visiting public buildings
  • Real property disposal
  • Reimbursable services (RWA)
  • Rental policy and procedures
  • Site selection and relocation
  • For businesses seeking opportunities
  • For federal customers
  • For workers in federal buildings
  • Explore policy and regulations
  • Acquisition management policy
  • Aviation management policy
  • Information technology policy
  • Real property management policy
  • Relocation management policy
  • Travel management policy
  • Vehicle management policy
  • Federal acquisition regulations
  • Federal management regulations
  • Federal travel regulations
  • GSA acquisition manual
  • Managing the federal rulemaking process
  • Explore small business
  • Explore business models
  • Research the federal market
  • Forecast of contracting opportunities
  • Events and contacts
  • Explore travel
  • Per diem rates
  • Transportation (airfare rates, POV rates, etc.)
  • State tax exemption
  • Travel charge card
  • Conferences and meetings
  • E-gov travel service (ETS)
  • Travel category schedule
  • Federal travel regulation
  • Travel policy
  • Explore technology
  • Cloud computing services
  • Cybersecurity products and services
  • Data center services
  • Hardware products and services
  • Professional IT services
  • Software products and services
  • Telecommunications and network services
  • Work with small businesses
  • Governmentwide acquisition contracts
  • MAS information technology
  • Software purchase agreements
  • Cybersecurity
  • Digital strategy
  • Emerging citizen technology
  • Federal identity, credentials, and access management
  • Mobile government
  • Technology modernization fund
  • Explore about us
  • Annual reports
  • Mission and strategic goals
  • Role in presidential transitions
  • Get an internship
  • Launch your career
  • Elevate your professional career
  • Discover special hiring paths
  • Events and training
  • Agency blog
  • Congressional testimony
  • GSA does that podcast
  • News releases
  • Leadership directory
  • Staff directory
  • Office of the administrator
  • Federal Acquisition Service
  • Public Buildings Service
  • Staff offices
  • Board of Contract Appeals
  • Office of Inspector General
  • Region 1 | New England
  • Region 2 | Northeast and Caribbean
  • Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic
  • Region 4 | Southeast Sunbelt
  • Region 5 | Great Lakes
  • Region 6 | Heartland
  • Region 7 | Greater Southwest
  • Region 8 | Rocky Mountain
  • Region 9 | Pacific Rim
  • Region 10 | Northwest/Arctic
  • Region 11 | National Capital Region
  • Per Diem Lookup

Privately owned vehicle (POV) mileage reimbursement rates

GSA has adjusted all POV mileage reimbursement rates effective January 1, 2024.

* Airplane nautical miles (NMs) should be converted into statute miles (SMs) or regular miles when submitting a voucher using the formula (1 NM equals 1.15077945 SMs).

For calculating the mileage difference between airports, please visit the U.S. Department of Transportation's Inter-Airport Distance website.

QUESTIONS: For all travel policy questions, email [email protected] .

Have travel policy questions? Use our ' Have a Question? ' site

PER DIEM LOOK-UP

1 choose a location.

Error, The Per Diem API is not responding. Please try again later.

No results could be found for the location you've entered.

Rates for Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. Territories and Possessions are set by the Department of Defense .

Rates for foreign countries are set by the State Department .

2 Choose a date

Rates are available between 10/1/2021 and 09/30/2024.

The End Date of your trip can not occur before the Start Date.

Traveler reimbursement is based on the location of the work activities and not the accommodations, unless lodging is not available at the work activity, then the agency may authorize the rate where lodging is obtained.

Unless otherwise specified, the per diem locality is defined as "all locations within, or entirely surrounded by, the corporate limits of the key city, including independent entities located within those boundaries."

Per diem localities with county definitions shall include "all locations within, or entirely surrounded by, the corporate limits of the key city as well as the boundaries of the listed counties, including independent entities located within the boundaries of the key city and the listed counties (unless otherwise listed separately)."

When a military installation or Government - related facility(whether or not specifically named) is located partially within more than one city or county boundary, the applicable per diem rate for the entire installation or facility is the higher of the rates which apply to the cities and / or counties, even though part(s) of such activities may be located outside the defined per diem locality.

.css-s5s6ko{margin-right:42px;color:#F5F4F3;}@media (max-width: 1120px){.css-s5s6ko{margin-right:12px;}} Join us: Learn how to build a trusted AI strategy to support your company's intelligent transformation, featuring Forrester .css-1ixh9fn{display:inline-block;}@media (max-width: 480px){.css-1ixh9fn{display:block;margin-top:12px;}} .css-1uaoevr-heading-6{font-size:14px;line-height:24px;font-weight:500;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;color:#F5F4F3;}.css-1uaoevr-heading-6:hover{color:#F5F4F3;} .css-ora5nu-heading-6{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:start;-ms-flex-pack:start;-webkit-justify-content:flex-start;justify-content:flex-start;color:#0D0E10;-webkit-transition:all 0.3s;transition:all 0.3s;position:relative;font-size:16px;line-height:28px;padding:0;font-size:14px;line-height:24px;font-weight:500;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;color:#F5F4F3;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover{border-bottom:0;color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover path{fill:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover div{border-color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover div:before{border-left-color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active{border-bottom:0;background-color:#EBE8E8;color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active path{fill:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active div{border-color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active div:before{border-left-color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover{color:#F5F4F3;} Register now .css-1k6cidy{width:11px;height:11px;margin-left:8px;}.css-1k6cidy path{fill:currentColor;}

  • Project management |
  • What is a risk register: a project mana ...

What is a risk register: a project manager’s guide (and example)

Team Asana contributor image

Looking for tools to set your team up for success? A risk register can do just that.

A risk register is shared with project stakeholders to ensure information is stored in one accessible place. Since it’s usually up to project managers (we’re talking about you!), it’s a good idea to learn how and when to use a risk register so you’re prepared for your next project. 

What is a risk register?

A risk register is a document that is used as a risk management tool to identify potential setbacks within a project. This process aims to collectively identify, analyze, and solve risks before they become problems. While usually centered around projects, other circumstances where risk management is helpful include product launches and manufacturing. 

A risk register document, otherwise known as a risk register log, tracks potential risks specifically within a project. It also includes information about the priority of the risk and the likelihood of it happening. 

A project risk register should not only identify and analyze risks, but also provide tangible mitigation measures. This way, if the risk becomes a larger threat, your team is prepared with solutions and empowered to solve the issues. 

When should you use a risk register?

There are many instances when a risk register comes in handy. Ideally, it should be used—or available for use when needed—for every project. It can be used for both small and large projects, though your risk log may look different depending on the scope and complexity of your initiative. 

While a small project may only include basic information about the risk such as likelihood, priority, and solutions, a more complicated project may require around 10 different document fields. 

While some companies employ risk management professionals to manage a risk log, it often falls on the project manager or team lead to oversee it. If your team doesn’t already use a risk management or incident management process, it may be helpful to know common risk scenarios to decide whether a risk register is right for you and your team. 

Some risk scenarios ranked by priority could include:

Low priority: Risks such as lack of communication and scheduling errors can leave projects open to scope creep and missed deliverables. 

Medium priority: Risks such as unplanned or additional work can cause teams to struggle with productivity and create unclear objectives. 

High priority: Risks such as data security and theft can leave your company open to revenue loss and should be prioritized. 

Once you know when to use a risk register, you can properly define high priority risks when you come across them. 

Common risk scenarios

Multiple risks could arise during a new project. Anything from data security to unplanned work can risk projects going over budget and scope. Nobody wants to imagine the consequences of missed due dates, which is why it’s important to identify potential risks before they happen.

Common risk scenarios

It’s a good idea to include common risk categories in your risk register log so you’re prepared when they occur. Learn a little more about these risks and determine which ones could apply to your team. 

Data security 

If you’re working on projects that could affect data security, it’s extremely important to track and mitigate potential risks. Unmanaged risks could result in:

Information being stolen: Without proper mitigation, your business could become vulnerable to private information being stolen. This is especially harmful if it’s customer information being stolen.

Credit card fraud: This is dangerous for a number of reasons, but could result in a loss of revenue and potentially require legal action. 

Data security is a top risk and should be prioritized accordingly in order to prevent long-term security issues.  

Communication issues

Communication issues can arise no matter the size of your project and team. While a risk register can help identify where communication areas live, it can be helpful to also implement work management software to streamline communication at work .

Here are some risks that could arise from lack of communication:

Project inconsistencies: Without proper communication, inconsistencies in deliverables can cause confusion. 

Missed deadlines: No one wants to miss a deadline but without clear communication, your team may not be aware of due dates for deliverables. 

Creating a proper communication plan can also help prevent risks from surfacing in the first place. 

Scheduling delays

If scheduling errors and delays go unnoticed, they can become a big problem when deadlines are missed. Tools such as timelines and team calendar software can help prevent scheduling errors in the first place. 

Project scheduling delays could result in:

Rushed deliverables: There’s nothing worse than a project that hasn’t been properly executed, which can cause goals to be missed and work to appear sloppy.

Confusion: Teams can become overwhelmed and confused without a proper schedule in place. 

Implementing a schedule can help keep deliverables on track for both daily tasks and one-off projects. 

Unplanned work

We’ve all been in a situation where a project goes over scope. It’s a common risk that can be fairly easy to mitigate if tracked properly. Catching unplanned work early on allows you to properly delegate it to the project lead. 

Without a proper risk register, you could experience:

Missed deliverables: If work slips through the cracks, you may be at risk of missing a deadline altogether. 

Employee burnout: Overscheduling your team members with unplanned work can create tension and even cause overwork and burnout. That’s why it’s important to scope projects correctly. 

If you do run into issues with unplanned work, implementing a change control process can help communicate additional work to your team members.  

Theft of materials

While hopefully uncommon, businesses that have a large inventory of products could run the risk of theft or reporting errors. By tracking inventory consistently and frequently, you can catch risks early on to determine the cause.  

Theft can leave your business open to:

Loss of revenue: Whether products are being stolen or there are errors in reporting, theft will have a negative impact on revenue. 

Uncertainty: When theft happens, employee and business uncertainty can cause internal stress. 

Misuse of time: Along with theft of tangible goods, there’s a risk of time theft. In a remote working environment, it can be more difficult to track where your team is spending their time. 

Similar to data security, theft is a high-priority risk that should be handled as quickly as possible. 

What’s included in a risk register?

A risk register is made of a list of risks and tracking fields. Your team’s risk log will most likely look different than others as you’ll have unique risks associated with your projects. 

What's included in a risk register

No matter the differences, most risk registers are made up of a few essential parts, including risk identification, risk likelihood, and risk mitigation. These parts work to create a fluid log of information on potential risks. These logs are also helpful to look back on when working on new projects that could face similar risks. 

Additional fields that are good to include are details like risk identification, description, and priority. The more specific you get, the more likely you’ll be prepared to mitigate whatever risks come your way. 

A great rule of thumb to keep in mind is the more complicated the project is, the more intricate your risk register is likely to be. That means it’s a good idea to be as specific as possible within your log for large projects that span multiple months and have a number of different stakeholders. 

Here are some of the most important fields to include in your project risk management plan. 

1. Risk identification  

One of the first entries included in a risk register is the identification of the risk. This is usually in the form of a risk name or identification number. A risk identification field should include:

The risk name

The identification date

A subtitle if needed

You don’t need to get super creative when naming your risks, a simple summary will do. On the other hand, if you want to get creative, you can craft personas for each type of risk. For example, using the persona “Daniela” as your data security risk name to help team members understand how to quickly identify risks. 

Along with a name, you may also choose to include a short subtitle and the date of the risk identification. This will help track how long mitigation methods are taking and allow you to identify which risks are taking the longest to resolve. 

2. Risk description

After the identification is complete, a short description should be added to your log. A risk description should include:

A short, high-level overview of the risk

Why the risk is a potential issue

How long you choose to make your descriptions is up to how detailed you want your log to be, but the average length is typically 80 to 100 characters.

More importantly than the length, a description should include the key points of the risk and why it’s a potential issue. The main takeaway is that a description should accurately describe the risk without getting in the weeds so it can be easily identified. 

3. Risk category

There are a number of risk categories that help quickly identify the potential risk. Quickly identifying the risk makes it easier to assign to the correct team—especially when working on a complicated project with multiple risks. A risk category could be any of the following:

Operations 

Information 

Project plan

To determine the category type, you’ll first need to evaluate where the risk is coming from and who can help solve it. You may need to work with department heads if the solution isn’t obvious. 

4. Risk likelihood

If risks are caught early enough, it’s possible the team will be able to sort them out before any real action is needed. So it’s possible that risks that are flagged on your risk register won’t actually become problems. 

The likelihood of a risk can be documented with a simple selection of: 

Not likely 

Very likely 

Categorizing your risks by likelihood can help identify which risks to tackle first and which you should wait on. 

5. Risk analysis

A risk analysis gauges the potential impact the risk could have on your project. This helps to quickly identify the most important risks to tackle. This is not to be confused with priority, which takes into account both likelihood and analysis. 

While teams document risk levels differently, you can start with this simple five-point scale:

If you’re struggling to identify the risk level, you may want to get a second opinion by working with a department head. This way you can accurately gauge how high the impact might be. 

6. Risk mitigation

A mitigation plan, also called a risk response plan, is one of the most important parts of a risk register. After all, the point of a risk management plan is to identify and mitigate possible risks. Basically, it’s an action plan. A risk mitigation plan should include:

A step-by-step solution on how to lessen the risk

A brief description of the intended outcome

How the plan will affect the impact 

While small risk assessments may be easy to mitigate, some risks are much more complex and don’t have obvious solutions. In this case, the mitigation plan will need a bit of teamwork to solve. This usually happens beyond the actual risk register document, such as during a meeting or team huddle. 

However you choose to conduct your mitigation plan, you should document a high-level description within the log for reference and clear communication. This will not only ensure everyone on the project team understands the response plans, but it will also help you visualize the solution. 

7. Risk priority 

While the impact of a risk will help determine priority, it’s good to also include this entry on your log. Priority should take into account both the likelihood of the risk and the risk analysis. Both of these aspects will make it clear which risks are likely to have harmful consequences on the project. 

Priority can be documented by a simple number scale:

If you’re looking to make your risk register more visually appealing, you may want to document priority by using a color-coded scale instead. This can be used in place of or alongside the three options. Love organizing by color? Then color-coding your log is the perfect option for you! 

8. Risk ownership

Once the risk has been identified, reviewed, and prioritized, it’s time to assign the mitigation deliverables to be implemented. Risk ownership should include:

The person assigned to oversee the implementation of deliverables

Any additional team members, if applicable

The risk ownership field can help quickly determine which department the risk should be handled by. It can also help visualize which team members have ownership of specific risks. 

9. Risk status

The last field to include in your risk register is the status of the risk. This helps communicate whether a risk has been successfully mitigated or not. A risk status field should be filled out with one of the following:

In progress

If you want to get more granular with your status options, you may choose a more specific list such as active, not started, hold, ongoing, and complete. 

Additional risk register fields

While there are a handful of main entries that every risk register should include, there are additional optional items you can include as well. It’s always better to over-prepare than be caught off guard when the time comes, so take a look at these additional fields to decide if you need them. 

Risk trigger: Adding a risk trigger entry can help you evaluate why the risk happened in order to prevent future risks. 

Response type: While many risks will be on the negative end of the spectrum, there is a possibility for a positive outcome. In this case, you can add a field for a positive or negative response. 

Timeline: You can also include the schedule or timeline of the mitigation plan within the log in order to keep information in one place. Timeline software is a great tool to help with this. 

How to create a risk register (with example)

A risk register contains a lot of information and can be challenging to create for the first time. While you may know what information you need to include, getting started can be difficult. That’s why we put together an example to help you get started on your own risk management plan. 

Here’s what your risk register log might look like:

[List View] Example risk register project in Asana

The key objective of a risk register is to log the information of potential risks, so don’t get too caught up in the details. You should choose the fields necessary to communicate potential risks to your team members. 

Some teams may only need a simple risk register with few fields, while others may need something more complex. It may be helpful to start simple and work your way up to a more complex log if needed.

Here’s an example of a risk register entry to get you started on your own risk log. 

Risk name: Design delay

Risk description: Design team is overbooked with work, which could result in a timeline delay. 

Risk category: Schedule

Risk likelihood: Likely

Risk analysis: Medium

Risk mitigation: Hire a freelancer to create project graphics. Move meetings from Kabir’s calendar during the week of 7/12 to free up time to edit graphics and send to Kat for final approval. 

Risk priority: 2

Risk ownership: Kat Mooney

Risk status: In progress

Once you get the hang of filling out your risk register, you can work to continuously improve and perfect your data log for future projects.   

Don’t risk your risk management plan

Identifying risks is a large part of any successful risk management strategy. While identifying and mitigating new risks isn’t always easy, it’s essential in order to keep your business on track for success. Once you nail down your risk register, project risks won’t seem as hard to manage. Plus, your team will have more time to spend on important things, like delivering impact. 

If you’re looking for additional resources on risk management, check out how to create a contingency plan to prevent business risks. 

Related resources

a business plan should include

15 project management interview questions, answers, and tips

a business plan should include

Critical path method: How to use CPM for project management

a business plan should include

Unmanaged business goals don’t work. Here’s what does.

a business plan should include

How Asana uses work management to drive product development

House Republicans want to raise the Social Security age. It could hurt those who 'work their whole lives and die sooner,' the agency's head says.

  • House Republicans proposed raising the age for receiving Social Security benefits.
  • Social Security benefits are already facing funding issues over the next decade.
  • The proposed change has sparked criticism from both Democrats and some Republicans.

Insider Today

House Republicans have a plan to raise the age at which Americans receive Social Security benefits — and the agency's leader isn't on board.

Earlier this week, the Republican Study Committee unveiled their fiscal year 2025 budget proposal — called Fiscal Sanity to Save America — which consisted of nearly 200 pages of funding priorities for key issues, including taxes , higher education , and healthcare.

The budget also addressed an issue that has long been contentious across both parties: Social Security. According to the proposal, the committee wants to "make modest adjustments to the retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy." The proposal did not specify the exact age they're eyeing for Americans to receive their benefits, but it would likely be above the current threshold of 67 years old.

The committee's chairman Kevin Hern emphasized in the budget that "we cannot be clearer: we WILL NOT adjust or delay retirement benefits for any senior in or near retirement."

Still, the proposal has some administration officials concerned for future retirees. During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Thursday, Social Security Commissioner Martin O'Malley said that "we have to be mindful of people who really do hard work, hard labor, their whole lives, and who die sooner than those of us who are privileged enough to do work that is not as taxing on our bodies and our physical well-being."

Related stories

Full Social Security benefits are already in jeopardy over the next decade. In March 2023, the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees estimated that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund might only be able to pay out full benefits over the next decade, which is earlier than anticipated.

"My dad had an expression, 'Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.' The Republican Study Committee budget shows what Republicans value," President Biden said in a statement on the RSC budget. "This extreme budget will cut Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act. It endorses a national abortion ban. The Republican budget will raise housing costs and prescription drugs costs for families. And it will shower giveaways on the wealthy and biggest corporations. Let me be clear: I will stop them."

Even some Republican lawmakers have been critical of the House's budget proposal. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley called the plan "the stupidest thing I ever heard," according to The Hill, and GOP Sen. Mitt Romney warned his House colleagues of the consequences of putting forth this plan during an election year.

"Talk about a gift to the Democrats," Romney said . "Seems like people have lost their political ear if they think any adjustments to the benefits of Social Security makes sense to talk about at any time, let alone during an election year."

Retirement is already looking bleak for some seniors, who are facing lower incomes and high healthcare and housing costs . A little over half of Americans over the age of 65 are earning under $30,000 a year, according to Census Bureau's Current Population Survey . And for many Americans, Social Security is a financial lifeline in their later years. Among typical retirees , just under 80% say Social Security is a source of income — a far greater share than retirement savings or wages.

Biden said that his "budget represents a different future," one where "we protect Social Security so the working people who built this country can retire with dignity."

"I see a future for all Americans and I will never stop fighting for that future," he said.

Watch: Surprising misconceptions about Trump and Biden ahead of the 2024 election

a business plan should include

  • Main content

a business plan should include

Ask a Financial Pro: My Financial Situation Is Pretty Simple. Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Estate planning is sometimes thought of as a luxury reserved for people with complex finances or massive wealth.

It’s easy to understand that misconception. A key focus of estate planning is to reduce the tax liability on your estate when you die.

Bordered Photo Box Enhancement : Ask a Financial Pro

In 2024, however, the estate tax applies only to estates worth more than $13.61 million, so it seems reasonable to conclude that you don't need to worry about it if your assets are worth less.

But that isn’t the end of it.

There is a lot more to estate planning than shielding large estates from taxation . When you consider these other aspects, nearly everyone can benefit from estate planning.

Rather than thinking about whether or not you need to do it at all, think about it in terms of complexity. It’s not that a simple financial situation means you don’t need an estate plan, it just means your plan may be less complex.

What Does an Estate Plan Do?

The basic purpose of an estate plan is to provide instructions for how your affairs will be settled and assets distributed when you die. It also provides instructions for decision-making if you become incapacitated and can no longer make choices for yourself.

Popular Brokers : Popular Brokers

It’s important to have these plans outlined before the need arises. If you don’t, these important decisions are often left to a court. Having an estate plan ensures that you have a say in what ultimately happens to your money, responsibilities and assets .

What Should I Include in an Estate Plan If I Don’t Have a Large Estate?

Even if you don’t have a large estate or require extensive tax planning for your assets, there are several things you still want to cover with legally binding documents.

Beneficiary Designations

One of the simplest and most effective estate-planning actions you can take is to ensure you've made proper beneficiary designations on all of your financial accounts.

Take, for example, an individual retirement account called an IRA. One of the sections on your account opening paperwork asks you to list who you want the money to go to when you die. You can name one or multiple recipients and specify the percentage of the account that you want to go to each.

This selection is critical because it supersedes any other instructions you’ve given. When you die, the listed beneficiaries will receive the specified amounts. This also means it's important to update these as the need arises.

Wills outline your wishes for how to distribute your property. Again, this isn’t just for the wealthy and it isn’t just about finances. It can help prevent unnecessary stress or arguments among your family members.

Consider, for example, something as simple as family heirlooms. Those may include earrings, Grandpa’s old pocket watch or a photo album. Specify in your will who you want to receive these things. Depending on your family dynamics, you can even include your heirs in the discussion so that everyone gets the opportunity to provide their input.

If you don’t include details like that in your will, a court will decide how to divide them up during probate .

What if you own your home? Does one of your family members hope to inherit it and move in? Do multiple? What if there’s still a mortgage balance? How does that get paid? Has anyone talked about it? These are all common and basic questions. It’s best to address all of them in the will so nobody is left scrambling to figure it out under pressure.

Naming an Executor

The executor is the person responsible for settling all your affairs, such as following the instructions you provide in a will. If you don’t name one, the court will appoint one. Naming an executor gives you a chance to select the person you think will be most capable of doing the job.

There are several things to consider when naming an executor. It should be someone you trust to follow your wishes. It should be someone who you think is responsible enough to get things done.

Additionally, consider the emotional state that person may be in. Your most responsible and trustworthy child may not be the one to burden with the execution of your will if they are overcome with grief.

Again, doing this ahead of time gives you a chance to include others in the discussion and name a capable and willing person.

Estate Planning Is for Everyone

This is not an exhaustive discussion of everything you need to know or think about when it comes to your estate plan.

The point here is to highlight the fact that having a simple financial situation does not mean that you don’t need to have an estate plan at all. There are basic estate-planning considerations that everyone should address.

Copyright 2024 U.S. News & World Report

How to Find a Financial Advisor for Estate Planning

IMAGES

  1. 9 Key Elements of an Effective Business Plan

    a business plan should include

  2. How to Write a Business Plan

    a business plan should include

  3. A Complete Guide On Small Business Plan Examples (2022)

    a business plan should include

  4. How to Write a Business Plan

    a business plan should include

  5. 8 Things to Include in a Successful Business Plan

    a business plan should include

  6. Step-By-Step Guide to Write Your Business Plan + Template

    a business plan should include

VIDEO

  1. Important Business Idea || Growing Business Plan for Beginners

  2. What is Business Plan Presentation || Types of Business Plan Presentation

  3. What is Business Plan Presentation || Types of Business Plan Presentation

  4. What is Business Plan Presentation || Types of Business Plan Presentation

  5. What is Business Plan Presentation || Types of Business Plan Presentation

  6. Important questions a Business Plan should answer

COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  2. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...

  3. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It's also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. After completing your plan, you can ...

  4. Business Plan: What it Is, How to Write One

    Learn about the best business plan software. 1. Write an executive summary. This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your ...

  5. How to write a business plan in 9 steps

    Now that you understand why a business plan is important let's take a look at the steps you'll need to follow to create a successful one. 1. Write an executive summary. Think of your executive ...

  6. How to Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 7: Financial Analysis and Projections. It doesn't matter if you include a request for funding in your plan, you will want to include a financial analysis here. You'll want to do two things here: Paint a picture of your business's performance in the past and show it will grow in the future.

  7. The Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan

    A key aspect of how to write a business plan is showing you can be profitable. Provide an overview of your pricing structure, including any pricing incentives such as discounts that you plan to offer. You should include the following: An income statement, showing income and expenses for a given period of time.

  8. How To Write A Business Plan

    Describe your services or products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  9. What is a Business Plan? Definition + Resources

    A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. But the reality can be more nuanced - it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written. Ideal times to write a business plan include: When you have an idea for a ...

  10. How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

    1. Create Your Executive Summary. The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans. Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

  11. How To Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (2024)

    5. List your products and services. Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it's important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers. If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines.

  12. Seven Sections Your Business Plan Should Have

    This will ultimately drive sales. 6. Organization & Management. This can be broken into separate sections, but both leadership and plans for employees must be addressed. This should include a ...

  13. What to Include in Your Business Plan

    A plan should cover all the important matters that will contribute to making your business a success. These include the following: 1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the ...

  14. How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates]

    Your business plan outline should include all the following sections. The level of detail you choose to go into will depend on your intentions for your plan (sharing with stakeholders vs. internal use), but you'll want every section to be clear and to the point. 1. Executive summary.

  15. What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Essentials Explained

    It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It's more than just a stack of paper and can be ...

  16. What to Include in Your Business Plan

    The business plan should include various road maps dedicated to the following operational elements: Finances. Product creation. Marketing. Operational goals. A business plan is a valuable tool ...

  17. 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

    Here are some of the components of an effective business plan. 1. Executive Summary. One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

  18. Free business plan template & how to write a business plan

    Once you've got your audience in mind, you can start your business plan, which should include: 1. Executive summary. Even though it appears first in the official plan, write this section last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.

  19. 8 Things Every Business Plan Should Include

    8. Request for Funding. Now for the really fun part of your business plan: officially asking for money. Your request for funding should start with what the investor will get by partaking in your small business. Spell out your capital needs, why you need them, and why providing them is beneficial to the funder.

  20. What Should a Business Plan Include?

    1. Executive Summary. The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company's structure. It should also include your financial plans.

  21. What Should You Include in a Business Plan?

    For a business plan to succeed, it needs several elements that make the reader feel confident in the company's objectives and mission. Learning what to include in a business plan ensures you write an effective document that keeps the reader's interest. In this article, we explain what a business plan is and what you should include in them.

  22. What should a business plan include?

    A business plan is a crucial document that gives you and interested parties (like investors or lenders) a description and overview of your company's future. At its most basic, your business plan should explain who you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. So, what details should a business plan include to convey this ...

  23. Privately owned vehicle (POV) mileage reimbursement rates

    * Airplane nautical miles (NMs) should be converted into statute miles (SMs) or regular miles when submitting a voucher using the formula (1 NM equals 1.15077945 SMs). For calculating the mileage difference between airports, please visit the U.S. Department of Transportation's Inter-Airport Distance website. QUESTIONS:

  24. Risk Register: A Project Manager's Guide with Examples [2024] • Asana

    Here are some of the most important fields to include in your project risk management plan. 1. Risk identification One of the first entries included in a risk register is the identification of the risk. This is usually in the form of a risk name or identification number. A risk identification field should include: The risk name. The ...

  25. Republicans Propose Raising Age to Get Social Security Benefits

    House Republicans have a plan to raise the age at which Americans receive Social Security benefits — and the agency's leader isn't on board.. Earlier this week, the Republican Study Committee ...

  26. Ask a Financial Pro: My Financial Situation Is Pretty Simple. Do ...

    Bordered Photo Box Enhancement : Ask a Financial Pro . In 2024, however, the estate tax applies only to estates worth more than $13.61 million, so it seems reasonable to conclude that you don't ...

  27. Create a cyber security policy

    rules and controls for protecting them and your business. It's important to create a cyber security policy for your business - particularly if you have employees. It helps your employees to understand their role in protecting the technology and information assets of your business. When you prepare your policy, ensure it guides your ...