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

Do This One Thing Before You Write Your Business Plan

By Noah Parsons

So, you’ve been asked to write a business plan. It’s likely that your mind is filling with images of long documents, bad memories of writing term papers, and worries about doing market research and creating financial forecasts. Take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be that way. Today, I’m going to walk you through... Read more »

planning

What Is a Balance Sheet?

By Angelique O'Rourke

If you’re in the process of starting a business or writing a business plan document, you’ll have heard the phrase “balance sheet” mentioned, or maybe you’ve seen one in a sample business plan. The balance sheet is one of three essential parts that form the bedrock of a company’s financial statements: cash flow, balance sheet, and... Read more »

planning

How to Write a Company Overview

By Angelique O'Rourke

A company overview (also known as company information or a company summary) is an essential part of a business plan. Your company overview should be exactly what it sounds like: an overview containing all of the most important points about your company. It usually appears after the executive summary. This is typically the shortest chapter... Read more »

planning

What Is an Income Statement?

By Angelique O'Rourke

Learn what an income statement is including a line by line explanation of it's components, and view income statement examples. Read more »

planning

How and Why to Manage Cash Flow

By Tim Berry

No matter how profitable your company looks, it can still be in danger of going under without sufficient cash flow. Cash is your business’s lifeblood, its survival. Yet the world is full of “profitable” companies bleeding themselves dry and slowly—or sometimes not so slowly—going under because they haven’t paid due attention to cash flow. How... Read more »