Do you have a business plan for my business?
Unfortunately, no sample business plan will work perfectly for your business. After all, your business plan is about your business and how you will use it to succeed. You don’t want your business plan to read like a template – a plan for someone else’s business.

Sample plans are useful as examples, and of course you can build an effective business plan for your business without a sample plan that exactly matches. Even if we had a business plan that was very similar to your company (and we sometimes do), you would still have a different summary, a different company description, a different list of products, different strategy, different management team, and different financials. A sample plan is useful as an example, not for the information it contains.

Finding a pre-written plan for your business just doesn’t happen, and furthermore, it shouldn’t happen; it wouldn’t be good for any real business situation. The process of developing a plan is far more valuable than just having some pre-written plan you can use instead. You will learn more about your business and have a significantly greater chance of success if you write your own plan.

So don’t sweat having an exact match. Find something similar. A computer store can be a valuable example for an auto dealer because it has products and services, and deals with a local market instead of a national market. A bed and breakfast can be a good example for a motel, because both sell rooms for the night, and both have travelers as a market. A retail jewelry store can be a good example for a shoe store, because both depend on location, local markets, and buying things that they sell to their customers. And any sample business plan can give you a good idea of what’s in a plan, what’s covered, and how it looks.

Sample plan or not, our software, LivePlan, starts a new plan by asking you simple questions about your business and customizes your plan to match. It customizes outline topics, tables, and charts, depending on whether you are retail, service, manufacturer, etc., whether you are a home office, an ongoing or a start-up company, etc. We haven’t yet heard of a business that couldn’t build a business plan with LivePlan.

We do have more than 500 sample business plans included with LivePlan, and many plans posted at www.bplans.com as free sample business plans, so you can read them for free online.

The 500+ sample plans included with LivePlan are all available for use within LivePlan, as starting points for your own plan, with text and financials available to you within the program. The list includes all of the free plans on bplans.com. However, we don’t sell those separately; they are available as part of the purchase of LivePlan. If we don’t have the exact one you want, don’t sweat it, just develop your own plan. That’s what you’d end up doing anyhow, even if we did have an exact match. Every business is unique, so every business plan is unique.

There is a reason we don’t sell sample business plans. We provide the sample plans not for the business-specific information in them, but to give you an idea of what a finished business plan looks like. Most of them are real plans for real companies, with names disguised. Some were developed as sample plans.

Frankly, one of the things we intended when we decided to include sample business plans in LivePlan was to prove that you can do a business plan; it isn’t that hard a task. We didn’t think when we decided to post the plans that people should take them as recipes for starting a business. They are just examples.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.