Business Planning Guide

Your business plan is your compass. It will help you map out a new course, and navigate through unchartered territory. Whether you're writing a business plan for the first time or the fifth time, it doesn't have to be hard. In fact, if you write a lean plan or a one-page pitch first, you may find you actually enjoy it. You can start creating your business plan with our free business plan template or with a sample business plan from your industry. If you're applying for an SBA loan, take our free, SBA-approved course on how to write a business plan. If you have any questions, you can turn to one of our expert how-to guides on how to write a business plan for answers.

Getting Started

If you’ve never written a business plan before, these guides will walk you through what a business plan is, what it is used for, who needs one, the different types of plans available and what is included within the plan.

The Purpose of a Business Plan
Start With an Initial Assessment
Is a Simple Plan Right for You?
The Many Different Types of Business Plans

How to write a business plan

If you’re ready to write your business plan, follow our step-by-step guide on writing a detailed plan document or take a look at a our business plan outline to get started.

How to Write a Business Plan in Under an Hour
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Business Plan
The Standard Business Plan Outline
Download a Business Plan Template
How to Write a Business Plan for a Nonprofit

The Financials

Do you know how to build the financial section of your business plan? Learn more about what you’ll need to include and mistakes you should avoid making along the way.

The Key Elements of a Financial Plan
The Difference Between Cash and Profits
How to Create a Sales Forecast
Common Business Plan Mistakes

Using Your Plan

Your business plan is a live document. It’s something you’ll want to use to pitch for funding, that you’ll want to update as you grow and as your business changes and that you can use to direct your decisions.

How to Pitch Your Plan to Investors
Our Complete Guide to Funding a Business
Conduct a SWOT Analysis to Develop Strategy
Can You Stick to Your Business’s Budget?

Recent Articles on Business Planning

planning

How to Forecast Sales

By Tim Berry

First, allow me to deal with a very common problem: Business owners are often afraid to forecast sales. But, you shouldn’t be. Don’t think there is some magic right answer that you don’t know. Don’t think that it’s a matter of training you don’t have. It doesn’t take spreadsheet modeling, much less econometric modeling, to... Read more »

planning

Lean Business Planning with Tim Berry [VIDEO]

By Jonathan Michael

We recently had Tim Berry, Palo Alto Software founder and business planning expert, present our Bplans audience with his latest advice on lean business planning. He is the known guru in business planning, particularly for small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs, although he’s worked with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies as well. Lean business planning offers... Read more »

planning

How to Forecast Cash Flow

By Tim Berry

  A good cash flow analysis might be the most important single piece of a business plan. All the strategy, tactics, and ongoing business activities mean nothing if there isn’t enough money to pay the bills. And that’s what a cash flow projection is about—predicting your money needs in advance. By cash, we mean money you... Read more »

planning

How to Create an Expense Budget

By Tim Berry

An expense budget is part of the bread-and-butter basics of good management. Set your budget as a goal, then review and revise often to stay on track. Being right on budget is usually good, but good management takes the regular review to check on the timing, efficiency, and results of what your business spends. For... Read more »

planning

The Different Types of Business Plans

By Tim Berry

Different situations call for different types of business plans. This is our guide to the most common types of business plans and how to use them. Read more »