In its simplest form, a business plan is a guide—a roadmap for your business that outlines goals and details how you plan to achieve those goals. If you’ve ever thought about starting a business and written down a few ideas about your business strategy on the back of a napkin, you’ve written a business plan.
Now, to successfully start and run a business, you’ll need more than a sketch on a napkin. Thankfully, modern business planning is simpler, easier, and faster than ever before. Business plans can be as short as one page and are rarely longer than 10 pages.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to put together a complete business plan that will impress bankers, investors, and ensure that you build a successful business.
Start with some of our free business planning resources, like free sample business plans, our one-page plan template, or our template for a complete business plan. Then, scroll down for a complete set of resources that will help you create the ultimate business plan.
Before you get started on your business plan, read some background information about business planning. These articles explain what a business plan is, why you need one, the different business plan components, and the types of business plans you can write. With a little preparation, writing your own plan will be a quick and painless process.
Our advice is to always start with a simple, one-page business plan—a Lean Plan. The first article in this list explains exactly how to write that kind of plan and has a link to a free downloadable template as well. If you’re looking to write a more traditional, longer business plan document with all the needed business plan sections, take a look at our business plan outline and read our step-by-step instructions. You’ll find everything you need to put together a complete plan with all the business plan elements that will impress any audience.
No plan is complete without a good financial forecast—it’s one of the most important business plan components. Banks and investors will expect you to present a sales forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow forecast and balance sheet. These business plan sections are crucial—but don’t be intimidated by this, though. Doing the numbers for your plan doesn’t have to be as complex as you think. Read these articles to get a thorough guide to forecasting and business numbers—no MBA or accounting degree required.
Don’t just think of your business plan as a one-time document that you write and then stick in a drawer. The most successful businesses use their plan on an on-going basis to make sure that they are on track to meet their goals and stay on budget. They adjust their plan on a regular basis as strategies change. This doesn’t have to be a lot of work and will ensure that you build a successful, growing business.