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.

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

What Type of Business Plan Do I Need?

By Tim Berry

We get this question a lot, mainly because there are so many different things labelled as business plans: strategic plans, annual plans, operational plans, feasibility plans, and, of course, what most people think of, business plans for startups seeking investment. And also, what real business owners want—lean business plans for better management. In this article,... Read more »

planning

Tools, Tips, and Tricks to Improve Business Writing

By Robert Morris

Of the many courses I took in college, business writing was the most challenging. Students whose plans involve business careers are not interested in abstract rules, referencing standards, confusing legal language, and other materials presented in those classes. After a term spent editing and writing different documents, my classmates and I ended up even more... Read more »

planning

One Page Business Pitch Template Download [FREE]

By Jonathan Michael

Before you write your business plan, you should spend some time experimenting with your business idea and gathering your core assumptions onto a one page business pitch. That’s why we created our one page business pitch template. Using the free template, you can quickly create a simple, shareable, and impressive overview of your business. With detailed instructions for each section, you... Read more »

planning

Business Planning Makes You More Successful, and We’ve Got the Science to Prove It

By Noah Parsons

Should you spend some time developing a plan for your business, or just dive in and start, figuring things out as you go? There has been plenty of debate on this topic, but no one has pulled together the scientific evidence to determine if planning is worthwhile—until now. Over the past few months, with the... Read more »

planning

SWOT Analysis Challenge Day 5: Turning Your SWOT Analysis into Actionable Strategies

By Lisa Furgison

Welcome to the final day of our 5 Day SWOT Analysis Challenge! Invite others to take the challenge! Share this article on Facebook or Twitter and use the #SWOT hashtag. By conducting a SWOT analysis of your business, you’re starting your year off right. Our 5 Day SWOT challenge was designed to give entrepreneurs a... Read more »