Small Business
Jun 7, 2024

Business Plan Examples: Guide To Writing A Winning Plan

A well-crafted business plan is essential for any startup or business. Whether you’re trying to attract investors or gain stakeholders’ confidence in your business idea, the first step is a business plan.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about writing your own plan, along with the best business plan examples to get you started.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies of a business. It acts as a roadmap for your company, providing guidance to the management team and employees.

It can help you secure the necessary funds and investments to start your business venture and gives stakeholders confidence in your leadership.

Types of Business Plans

There are several types of business plans, each covering different industries and purposes. All plans have a few sections in common, but it’s important to choose the type of business plan that best suits your company type and business goals.

Here are some of the different types of plans:

One-page Business Plan (One-Pager)

Think of the one-page business plan, or the one-pager, as an elevator pitch. It’s a one-page version of your detailed business plan that quickly explains everything your readers need to know.

It should be skimmable and easy to read at a glance.

Sections to Include

  • Executive summary (a short version)
  • Market analysis summary
  • Products and services overview
  • Company overview
  • Competitor analysis and SWOT Analysis
  • High-level financial projections

Startup Business Plan

In this type of business plan, you’ll want to focus on financial projections to show that your business idea is viable. This is where the market research section of your business plan should shine.

Your company’s proposition value and product uniqueness are also important because they prove there’s a need for your business; hence, it will grow.

Startup business plans are iterative, so you’ll need to constantly update your plan as you test your product and learn more about your customers’ needs.

Most entrepreneurs use an example business plan as a reference and tailor it to their different startup types.

Sections to Include

  • Executive summary
  • Market analysis (detailed)
  • Products and services (detailed)
  • Competitor analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • Financial projections (include a detailed one-time expenses report)

Internal Business Plan

An internal business plan is designed for your team, employees, and key stakeholders to make sure everyone is aligned in terms of business goals, milestones, achievements, and more.

Internal business plans can also include performance updates, new company policies, and strategy ideas. The operations and logistics section of the plan will usually carry the most weight when writing an internal plan because it covers the day-to-day operations.

Investors and company outsiders don’t typically have access to your internal business plan.

Sections to Include

  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Products and services
  • Marketing plan
  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials

Strategic Business Plan

A strategic business plan focuses on your company goals and sets a high-level roadmap to achieving them.

This type of plan lays out the big picture for how the company operates as a whole. It’s meant to inspire team members to work towards the company’s goals while improving the company’s external image.

When writing a strategic plan, outline how your existing business, products, and services can potentially expand and grow into new markets in the future.  

One of the best ways to write a strategic plan is to start with a regular business plan format and build on each section from a strategic point of view.

Sections to Include

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Products and services
  • Marketing plan (detailed, with emphasis on future trends)
  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials

Feasibility Business Plan

Feasibility business plans focus on two important topics:

  • Whether people would buy your company’s products or services
  • Whether your company or business model is profitable

Feasibility plans are often considered a pre-business plan because there’s no point in going into the business and formulating a plan if your business model isn’t feasible.

They are often called feasibility studies because they’re mainly centered around market research and your company’s market position.

Small businesses and startups often attach a feasibility business plan to their existing business plan as a means to validate their efforts and goals. Existing companies can also use a feasibility plan when expanding into new markets or testing new products.

Sections to Include

  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Products and services
  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financials

The 8 Business Plan Sections and How to Write Each One

Creating your own business plan is simple if you know which sections you need and what goes in each section.

Here are the eight sections you’ll find in a typical business plan template.

1. Executive Summary

An executive summary is a general overview of your business plan. It explains your business idea, mission, and purpose while showcasing the different sections of your plan.

The executive summary should always be the first section of your business plan. However, when brainstorming and writing your plan, you should leave this section for last since it’s an important, simplified summary of the other sections.

The executive summary is arguably the most important part of your plan because it’s the first thing readers come across. It’s supposed to capture their attention and pave the way for the rest of the business plan.

In many cases, potential investors and stakeholders might not be willing or have the time to go through the tens or hundreds of pages of a business plan. Many will decide whether or not your business idea has potential by going through the executive summary.

Most business plans include the following points in their executive summaries:

  • The company’s mission statement, leadership, and history
  • A brief overview of your competitive advantage
  • High-level financial projections
  • Company goals

Each of these items will be covered thoroughly in different sections of the business plan, but you should keep a high-level overview of each to reel in your readers.

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Showcase a certain problem and clearly explain how your product or service solves it
  • Highlight the market opportunity, focusing on why the target market needs your product or service
  • Explain your value proposition
  • Highlight your business’s growth potential
  • Tailor your executive summary to your readers. For example, when pitching to investors, focus on financial statements and ROI (return on investment)
  • Be brief and concise, and add a CTA (call to action) at the end

2. Company Overview

The company overview is where you give a detailed description of your company. Think of it as a long version of the “About Us” section of your company website.

This is where you’ll dive deeper into the mission statement, company structure, and other aspects of your business.

A typical company description includes the following items:

  • Business Structure: This explains how your startup or company is legally registered. It can be an LLC, corporation, or any other type of business.
  • Business Nature: Explain what kind of product or service your company offers.
  • Market: Explain the industry your company serves, including other sub-industries you might potentially expand into.
  • Company Background: Outline your company’s background information and history, focusing on details that highlight your team’s market expertise.
  • Business Goals: Explain your mission statement and the objectives of your company. Your business goals should highlight how your company can benefit customers and the community while remaining profitable.

Tips for Writing Your Company Overview

  • Focus on what makes your company unique
  • Get inspiration from your company’s About page or social media profiles
  • Check out the company descriptions of other successful companies in your industry
  • Make sure your core values and goals line up with both customer and company interests

3. Market Analysis (Competitive Analysis)

The market analysis, or competitive analysis, section of a business plan focuses on supply and demand in your industry. It validates whether or not there’s a problem that needs solving and whether your product is a viable solution.

It also gauges how well your company is suited to compete against other industry leaders. With proper market research, you can determine your company’s market share and identify opportunities to increase your share.

Market research often helps you uncover industry trends that other companies aren’t fully utilizing. You can discover the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and capitalize on them to give your company a step up.

One of the best ways to determine your own strengths and weaknesses is to do a SWOT analysis.

When writing the market analysis section of your business plan, focus on the following:

  • Target market, its size, and potential for growth
  • Market trends
  • Competitors analysis
  • Analysis of your target audience, such as demographics, buying habits, and more
  • Different analytical tools, such as SWOT analysis and TAM SAM SOM

Tips for Your Market Analysis Section

  • Do in-depth research into your industry and analyze every piece of info you can find. The more details you have, the better you can position your company on the market
  • Compare your company’s product or service to those of your competitors
  • Focus on your company’s branding and how your product will stand out in the market
  • Try to get customer feedback on your products as early as possible and include them
  • Highlight your strengths and potential for growth in adjacent markets
  • Outline your plan to overcome obstacles and weaknesses
  • Include numerical data and statistics

4. Products and Services

The products and services section of the business plan is where you go into detail describing what your company has to offer.

This is where you describe the different products and services you’re selling, how they work, their pricing strategies, and more.

This section is especially important because your entire business model rests on your product’s uniqueness, functionality, and likeability. Make sure to articulate these aspects thoroughly, especially if you’re pitching to potential investors who don’t fully understand your products.

It’s also important to highlight your quality measures and how you ensure that each product or service lives up to a high level of standard.

Most products and services sections include the following items:

  • A description of your product
  • A comparison of your product vs. competitors
  • Your pricing strategies
  • An outline of your order management
  • Quality metrics

Tips for Your Products and Services

  • Include all features your product has to offer, but highlight the best ones first
  • Explain how these features satisfy your target customers’ needs or solve their problems
  • Highlight what features make your product stand out compared to others
  • Explain your pricing strategy
  • Outline any additional features or development plans you plan on adding in the future

5. Sales and Marketing Plan

“Build it, and they will come” is one of the most famous sayings in the world of small businesses and startups. However, the reality is that no one will be interested in your product if they never see it or hear about it. Hence, the role of a sales and marketing plan.

Having a solid marketing plan is indispensable when starting a business plan. It provides a roadmap to how you’re going to advertise your business and drive sales.

This section of your business plan should focus on your customer acquisition strategies and how to attract customers. It explains how you’re going to make a sale and forecasts your revenue.

Most marketing plans rely on the Four Ps of Marketing, which are product, price, place, and promotion.

When first writing your marketing plan, one of the best ways to brainstorm ideas is to start with your marketing channels. These can include things like social media, blogs, videos, emails, word of mouth, and marketing platforms.

The best marketing plans utilize multiple marketing channels to reach as many potential customers as possible. Remember, diverse marketing strategies are among the top things every small business needs to grow, so the more, the merrier.  

The sales and marketing section of a traditional business plan includes the following items:

  • Your brand positioning plan
  • Your marketing goals and how you plan to achieve them
  • How you’re going to measure your marketing success and sales performance
  • Your current and future marketing channels
  • Your strategies for customer retention and maximizing your customers’ LTV (lifetime value)

Tips for Your Sales and Marketing Plan

  • Explain your sales and marketing goals with clearly defined measurements of success
  • Outline your marketing budget and resources
  • Loop in your sales and marketing team, explaining their role in achieving company goals
  • Outline partnerships, sponsorships, and collaborations that can boost your marketing strategies
  • Include as many diverse marketing channels as you can
  • Showcase how your marketing strategy will appeal to customers
  • Highlight how your sales and marketing plan will contribute to your company’s growth and market share, linking the previous sections of the business plan.

6. Logistics and Operations Plan

The logistics and operations plan covers all the day-to-day processes and activities of your company. It’s a detailed explanation of how you plan on achieving your business goals and delivering your product or service.

This section of your business plan should be as detailed as possible. It should clearly outline each department’s responsibilities, tasks, and goals, both short and long-term.

You’ll also want to include the different resources you need and their costs. For example, if you need certain machines to create your product, this is where you mention how they work and the capital required to get them.

Your operations plan is bound to change, but solid, detailed business planning can make sure you don’t steer too far off course. Make sure to include quality control measures in your plan to gauge your company’s performance.

Here are a few things you should include in the logistics and operations plan:

  • Supply chain processes such as inventory and supplier management
  • Resources needed, such as equipment, special production facilities, and more
  • Detailed accounts of your day-to-day operations
  • Quality control measures
  • Any legal or compliance aspects required for your daily operations
  • Customer services processes
  • Technology and software used

Tips for Your Logistics and Operations Plan

  • Include several contingency plans because daily operations rarely go as planned
  • Be as detailed as possible
  • Focus on sustainable processes, which is especially important to environmentally conscious investors
  • Leave room for iterations since ops plans will be constantly updated

7. Management Summary

The management summary section is where you show investors and stakeholders that your team knows what it’s doing. This is where you introduce the business owners and management team, giving a detailed account of their relevant experience and qualifications.

The management summary section of the business plan is meant to give stakeholders and potential investors confidence in your business and those running it.

You’ll need to highlight each team member’s role, responsibilities, compensation plan, and relevant experience. However, only mention key management personnel who play a role in the company’s vision and business objectives.

You can also include consultants or advisors, both internal and external.

The management summary section should also explain the hierarchy or the organizational structure of your company. It’s important to clarify who reports to whom and who has the authority to make vital decisions in the company when opinions are divided.

This is especially important to investors who prefer a solid chain of command and clear accountability when it comes to numbers.

Tips for Your Management Summary

  • Start with your leadership and then move down through the hierarchy
  • Include plans to develop or improve your team
  • Highlight each key individual’s functions and responsibilities
  • Don’t focus on what leadership is supposed to do but rather what they bring to the table
  • Make sure each team member’s compensation plan suits their role and function

8. Financial Plan

The financial plan is one of the most important sections for startups in different funding stages. It shows investors and stakeholders how your company will make and spend money and whether it’s worth funding or supporting.

The financial plan also explains the different assets, liabilities, and equity your company has, which translates into how much your net worth is.

This part of the business plan answers the question of whether your business is profitable, sustainable, and able to grow.

Some of the most vital components of the financial plan include:

  • Balance sheet
  • Cash flow statement
  • P&L (Profit and loss) statement
  • Cost of operations
  • Use of funds report (if you’re pitching to investors or asking for a loan)

If you’re starting a new business, you should also include your break-even point, which shows when your revenue will have covered all expenses and your company starts being profitable.

Tips for Your Financial Plan

  • Be honest with your revenue forecast, and don’t exaggerate your projections just to secure funding.
  • Focus on your company’s growth potential for the next three to five years
  • Explain your financial forecasts and assumptions with evidence-backed data
  • Include a section that explains potential market risks and how you plan to respond to market changes
  • Highlight how funding can help your company grow
  • Include multiple scenarios of how your company will break even to give you more credibility and show your business model is practical.
  • Use both words and visual representations, such as graphs

The 3 C’s Approach to Writing Your Own Business Plan

One of the best ways to ensure your business plan covers the core essentials is to use the 3 C’s Model.

Here are the three cornerstones of this approach:

  • Concept: Focus on your business concept, explaining your purpose behind launching this new business venture. Your goal could be to generate profit, solve a problem in the community, or bring an innovative idea to life.
  • Customer: Outline who your customers are, how you plan on marketing and selling to them, and your customer retention strategies. The better you study your target audience, the more your business can grow and expand.
  • Cashflow: Provide detailed forecasts for your revenue, expenses, net profit, investments, and any flow of cash in or out of your company. Your cash flow statements justify whether your business is sustainable and whether it can grow.

Top Business Plan Examples

There are hundreds of free business plan templates online covering almost every business type. However, you should never copy these plans as is. Instead, use them for inspiration and tailor them to your company’s needs.

Here are some of the top sample business plans to check out.

  • LiveFlow Template: LiveFlow’s sample business plan focuses on the financials section. It provides you with everything you need to make a thorough marketing P&L that highlights your revenue, expenses, and marketing strategy.
  • BPlans’ Art Store Template: While this business plan example was made for an art supply store and gallery, it can be easily tailored to almost any type of business. It’s highly comprehensive, making it ideal for detailed, large-scale business plans.
  • BPlan’s SaaS Template: If your startup or business provides technological services or products, a SaaS business plan template like this one is an excellent choice. It focuses on your product’s features and offerings and what they bring to the marketplace.
  • Culina’s Template: This template by Culina lays out the different components of a business plan in a visually appealing method that’s easy to read. It’s an excellent template for displaying graphs and visual data that’s difficult to explain with words.
  • LiveShopBuy Template: The LiveShopBuy template is a comprehensive business plan that focuses on investment opportunities. It’s one of the best sample business plan examples for companies looking to secure funds or loans.

Business Plan Examples FAQ

Do I Have to Include All Sections in a Business Plan?

No, you don’t need to use all of them. However, the main sections that are part of almost every business plan are the executive summary, products and services, financials, and market analysis.

Is a Business Plan the Same as a Business Proposal?

A business plan gives a comprehensive overview of your company and focuses on financials, product offerings, and market share.
A business proposal, on the other hand, is usually designed for a specific project and is meant to encourage a potential client to work with your company.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a business owner or part of the leadership and management team, a business plan can help you achieve your business goals.

Now that you know how to create your own plan, you can start building a roadmap to success. And if you ever get stumped, you can use any of the excellent business plan templates above for inspiration!