Creating a successful business is about more than launching a business website or hanging a shingle on your front door. It requires a well-crafted plan that keeps you on track, anticipates obstacles and acts as a concrete roadmap for launching or improving your small business.
Business planning allows you to clarify your vision while providing information to both intrigue and reassure potential investors. The process may seem daunting, but creating a business plan isn’t difficult—and templates like the one below can help simplify the process even further.
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What is a business plan?
A business plan is used by small business owners and entrepreneurs when starting a new business venture. It’s a strategic document that outlines the goals, objectives and strategies of your new or expanding business, including the company's vision, target market, financial projections and operational plans.
A business plan can attract potential partners, convince investors and banks to help you raise capital, and serve as a resource for future growth. Most importantly, you’ll be able to use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, operate and manage your new venture, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, a partnership or something larger.
Who needs a business plan?
Every business owner needs a business plan. They’re an essential tool for any person or entity interested in starting a business. There are many benefits, including:
Defining your business idea
Clarifying the market and competitive landscape
Outlining your marketing strategy
Stating your value proposition
Identifying/anticipating potential risks
Seeking investments from banks and other sources
Setting benchmarks, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)
A business plan also gives you a way to assess the viability of a business before investing too much time or money into it. While all business involves risk, taking the time to create a plan can help mitigate fallout and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
When creating a business plan, it's important to establish your business goals up front and be prepared to spend time researching the market, performing a competitor analysis and understanding your target market.
Download Wix’s free business plan template
Creating a successful business plan is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together a simple, customizable, and free-to-download business plan template that takes the guesswork out of getting started. Use it to create a new business plan or to refresh an existing one.
Lean startup versus traditional business plan formats
In terms of types of business plans, there are two main formats to choose from: traditional and lean.
Traditional business plan format
A traditional business plan includes every detail and component that defines a business and contributes to its success. It's typically a sizable document of about 30 to 50 pages that includes:
Company description: A company description should include essential details like your business name, the names of your founders, your locations and your company’s mission statement. Briefly describe your core services (or products if you’re writing an eCommerce business plan), but don't go into too much detail since you’ll elaborate on this in the service/product section. Wix offers some helpful mission statement examples if you get stuck. It’s also a good idea to create a vision statement. While your mission statement clarifies your company’s purpose, a vision statement outlines what you want your company to achieve over time.
Organization and management: This is where you outline how your business is structured and who's in charge, including founders, executive team members, board members, employees and key stakeholders. To this end, it can be helpful to create a visual layout (e.g., org chart) to illustrate your company structure.
Service or product line: Create a detailed list of your current and future products and services. If you’re still working on your idea, create a concept statement to describe your idea or product. You should also include a proof of concept (POC), which demonstrates the feasibility of your idea. Wherever applicable, include diagrams, product images and other visual components to illustrate the product life cycle.
Marketing and sales: Detail how your business idea translates into selling and delivering your offerings to potential customers. You can start by outlining your brand identity, which includes the colors and fonts you plan to use, your marketing and advertising strategy, and details about planned consumer touchpoints (like your website, mobile app or physical storefront).
Financial projections and funding requests: Include financial statements, such as a balance sheet, profit-and-loss statement (P&L), cash flow statement and break-even analysis. It's not uncommon for a business plan to include multiple pages of financial projections and information. You’ll also want to mention how much funding you seek and what you plan to do with it. If you’ve already secured funding, provide details about your investments.
Lean startup business plan format
A lean startup business plan—also referred to as a “lean canvas”—is presented as a problem/solution framework that provides a high-level description of your business idea. A lean plan is a single-page document that provides a basic overview of the most essential aspects of your business. It’s a good way to dip a toe into business planning since it doesn't require the same level of detail as a traditional plan. This includes:
Problem: What problem does your product or service solve, or what need does it fulfill?
Solution: How do you intend to solve it?
Unique value proposition (UVP): Why should people use your product or service versus someone else’s?
Unfair advantage: What do you have that other companies don’t?
Customers: Who are your ideal customers?
Channels: How will those customers find you?
Key metrics: How do you define success? How will you track and measure it?
Revenue streams: How will your business make money?
Cost structure: What will you spend money on (fixed and variable costs)?
Benefits of a business plan template
Business plan templates offer numerous benefits for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Here are some key advantages:
1. Save time and effort: Templates provide a pre-defined structure, eliminating the need to start from scratch. This frees up valuable time and effort that can be invested in other crucial aspects of business development.
2. Improve structure: Templates ensure a consistent and organized approach to presenting your business plan. This makes it easier for potential investors, lenders and advisors to understand your vision and evaluate the feasibility of your business.
3. Enhance professionalism: Using a well-designed template demonstrates professionalism and seriousness to external stakeholders. This can significantly impact their perception of your business and increase their confidence in your venture.
4. Guide your thought process: Templates act as a helpful framework, prompting you to consider all the key elements of your business plan and ensuring you haven't overlooked any critical areas.
5. Ensure completeness: Templates often include checklists and prompts to ensure you cover all essential information, minimizing the risk of missing crucial details.
6. Standardize formatting: Templates ensure a consistent and uniform appearance throughout your business plan, contributing to a more polished and professional presentation.
7. Access to expert knowledge: Many templates are developed by experienced business professionals or organizations, incorporating best practices and insights gained from successful ventures.
8. Adaptability and customization: While templates offer a basic structure, they can be easily customized to reflect the unique characteristics and needs of your specific business.
9. Cost-effectiveness: Templates are generally available for free or at a low cost, making them an accessible and budget-friendly option for entrepreneurs.
10. Increased success rate: Studies have shown that businesses with well-developed plans are more likely to succeed. Templates can help you create a comprehensive and persuasive plan, increasing your chances of securing funding and achieving your business goals.
Tips for filling out your business plan template
The hardest part of a journey is always the first step, or so the saying goes. Filling out your business plan template can be daunting, but the template itself is meant to get you over that crucial first hurdle—getting started. We’ve provided some tips aimed at helping you get the most from our template.
These are best practices—they’re not rules. Do what works for you. The main thing to remember is that these tips can help you move more easily through the planning process, so that you can advance onto the next (exciting) step, which is launching your business.
Consider your goals: What is the purpose of your business? Are you looking to expand, launch a new product line or fund a specific project? Identifying your goals helps you prioritize important information in your business plan.
Fill out what you can: You may already have a vague—or specific—idea of what you want your business to achieve. Go through each section of the template and fill out what you can. We suggest leaving the executive summary blank for now, since it'll be the last thing you write.
Be realistic: Even though this document is meant to serve as a marketing tool for potential investors, don't exaggerate any numbers or make any false promises.
Dig into the research: Nothing's more motivating than getting some intel about your competitors and your market. If you're truly stuck, a little research can help motivate you and provide valuable insight about what direction to take your business. For example, if you plan to start a landscaping business, learn about the specific pricing offered in your area so that you can differentiate your services and potentially offer better options.
Get help from others: Bouncing your ideas off a friend, mentor or advisor is a great way to get feedback and discover approaches or products to incorporate into your plan. Your network can also give you valuable insight about the industry or even about potential customers. Plus, it's nice to be able to talk through the challenges with someone who understands you and your vision.
Revise and review: Once complete, step back from your plan and let it "cook." In a day or two, review your plan and make sure that everything is current. Have other people review it too, since having another set of eyes can help identify areas that may be lacking detail or need further explanation.
Once you’ve completed your business plan template, it can become a meaningful resource for developing your mission statement, writing business proposals and planning how to move forward with the marketing, distribution and growth of your products and services.
After launch, you can also analyze your value chain to identify key factors that create value for your customers and maximum profitability for you. This can help you develop a more effective business plan that considers the entire value chain, from research and development to sales and customer support.
Business plan template FAQ
What is the easiest way to write a business plan?
The easiest way to write a business plan is to utilize a template. Templates provide a structured format and guide you through each section, simplifying the process of creating a comprehensive plan.