A simple business plan might be more appropriate for you if you are merely deciding whether your new business idea is viable or not. However, if you are trying to secure funds for your business, this template would not be appropriate.
Traditional business plans typically include 10 essential elements. However, the following basic business plan format only has 7 sections. You can copy and paste this step-by-step plan template into your favorite word processing software (e.g., Microsoft Word, etc.) and then answer the questions in each section to write your business plan easily.
I. Executive Summary
- What type of company are you operating (e.g., a software company, a bakery, etc.)?
- What is the legal structure of your company (e.g., sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, etc.)?
- What is your mission statement?
- What is the company’s history?
- What is your business model?
- What is it about your company that makes it (or will make it) uniquely qualified to succeed?
- What milestones has your company achieved to demonstrate success?
II. Industry Analysis
- In what market are you competing (e.g., the fast-food market, the running shoe market)?
- How big is the target market and is that size big enough?
- Are there positive or negative trends affecting the market (e.g., is it growing/shrinking, is government regulation on the horizon that could change the market analysis)?
III. Customer Analysis
- Who are your target customers?
- What are their primary needs when choosing a product/service provider such as your company?
IV. Competitive Analysis
- With whom will your company compete and how will your company better serve customer needs than your competitors?
- How else will you “beat” your competition?
V. Marketing Plan
- What key products/services will you offer and what promotional methods (e.g., radio advertising, pay-per-click ads) will you use to attract customers?
- How will you price your products/services?
- What discounts or promotions will you offer?
VI. Management Team
Key Members of the Team
- Who is on your management team?
- What experiences, relationships, etc. do they possess that will help your venture succeed?
- Are there key employees that you must hire in the future to improve your company’s odds of success?
- Do you have any business partners that take part in developing the business strategy?
VII. Financial Plan
- What are the main financial implications of your company?
- How much outside funding (if any) do you need?
- How much revenue can you really generate each year over the next five years?
- Are the profit margins high enough to sustain the company?
Completing this simple template will force you to answer key questions about your company which will help in determining its feasibility and likelihood for success.
For example, in choosing the ideal promotions strategy to attract new clients, you will be able to estimate the cost of acquiring new customers. This will allow you to compare that cost to your estimated customer lifetime value and ensure healthy profit margins are possible (or not).
Likewise, a competitive analysis might alert you to stiffer competition than you imagined and prompt you to opt for a new business idea or creatively come up with ways to outmaneuver competitors.
On a similar note, in completing this free template, you might realize the market size isn’t big enough to support the large, thriving enterprise you’d like to create. Or perhaps market trends are moving away from the problems your company’s products and services solve.
Yet another example of the importance of this exercise is that it forces you to really think about your target customers. The better and more narrowly you can define your target customers, the more cost-effectively you’ll be able to attract them and the more successful you can be in developing a value proposition that appeals to them.
In any case, completing this simple template allows you to better understand your venture and what it will take to make it successful.
Looking for a lean business plan? Learn more about the lean business planning process.
Looking for a one-page business plan? Learn more and download our free one-page business plan template.