The right business plan outline will enable you to write a comprehensive business plan that your management team (and potential investors) will love! A business plan outline with instructions will make it easy for you to write a business plan on your own. While I always recommend you get expert help from a business planner or writer, following a business plan outline to write a business plan will make you look like the expert. It will also save you thousands of dollars in consulting fees that a good business plan writer will charge you.
I have written over 200+ business plans for entrepreneurs and business owners. I completely understand what a management team, staff, lenders, and investors want and need to see in a business plan to understand how the business operates and generates revenue. The free business plan outline I am providing you with in this blog can be used to create comprehensive business plan, marketing plan and financial plan that everyone will be impressed with.
Here, I identify and break down each section of the business plan and explain what information is needed in each section. This business plan outline can be used as a sample business plan template for a business venture in any industry. This includes (but is not limited to), a lawn care business, boutique business, new invention business, nonprofit business, restaurant business, landscaping business, real estate business, construction business, farm business or consulting business, etc. This business plan outline also meets the business plan standards outlined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). A SBA formatted business plan is accepted everywhere (e.g. banks, lenders, investment firms, etc.).
The Business Plan Outline
The business plan section of a business plan identifies what product or services are sold by the business and to whom. It also identifies who started the business, who runs the business, how the business operates, and the health of the business industry. A business plan outline for the business plan section is below.
- Cover Page – The cover page of the business plan should identify the name of the business, the years the business plan covers (e.g. 2017 – 2019), the mailing or headquarters address for the business, and the contact person for the business along with their name, phone number and email address.
- Non-Disclosure Notice – A simple non-disclosure agreement that can be inserted into the business plan as a way to ensure that anyone who reads it keeps the information private.
- Tables of Content – An outline of the entire business plan with section titles and page numbers included.
- 1.0 Executive Summary – A complete summary of the entire business plan in short form. It should identify who started the business and why, the product or service being sold, an analysis of the industry, the target market and how they’ll be reached, the management team and staff, and past performance and/or sales projections.
- 1.1 Business Goals & Objectives – A list of at least three measurable goals that can be realized in the next three fiscal years. Also discuss how each goal will be accomplished. (A goal = something you want to accomplish, an objective = how you will accomplish it).
- 1.2 Mission, Purpose & Vision – A statement outlining the reason for the company being in business. The mission should state what the team aims to accomplish (suggestion: make it revolve around how the company benefits its target market). The purpose is the reason for doing what you do for your target market. The vision is how the team will accomplish the mission.
- 1.3 Keys to Success – A list of factors that can increase the chances of business success. An example would be opening the business in a certain area (where the target market lives). Another example of a key to success would be to ensure the business is properly licensed (if business licenses are required for your industry).
- 2.0 Company Summary – A brief description of where the company located, the products or services offered, the target market, and the mission, purpose and vision statement. Business industry statistics can also be identified here to show the potential for growth.
- 2.1 Company Ownership – The owner(s) of the company identified along with the state of registration and registration date for the business. The business entity type (i.e. c corp, s corp, llc, etc) should also be identified.
- 2.1.1 Company History – How and why the company was started (and by who should be outlined here). The experience of the owners/founders can also be discussed. Current milestones or accomplishments reached should be identified to show business growth and potential.
- 2.2 Company Location & Facilities – The company mailing and/or physical (i.e. headquarters) address should be identified here. Whether office space is rented or owned should also be mentioned. (If you are working from home please state that and identify when you plan on renting or purchasing office space).
- 2.3 Services Description – Provide a detailed description of the company’s products or services in a way that’s simple to understand. Simple and concise is key.
- 2.4 Future Products & Services – Identify all new products or services that will be offered in the next three years (that are currently not offered). Explain how offering these products or services will contribute to an increase in sales and growth of the business.
- 2.5 Fulfillment & Distribution of Services – A step by step outline of the product or service delivery process. Explain each step that is taken to ensure the customer or client gets what they pay for. From the first point of contact, until the product or service is delivered and the final payment is made.
- 2.6 Business Model Description & Chart – Outline the business model using the Business Model Canvas template created by the Strategyzer team. It will help the management team and staff understand what resources and partnerships are needed to operate the business and how it all comes together.
- 2.6.1 Operations & Technology – Provide a list of all of the technology the business needs to use to operate effectively and efficiently. This includes equipment, computer hardware or software and supplies, etc.
- 3.0 Service Business Analysis – Provide the industry NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Code for your business. NAICS Codes can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau website. NAICS Codes is used by the U.S. government to identify, categorize and define all of the different business industries in the U.S.
- 4.0 Business Industry Analysis – An overview of what the industry is all about and how well it is doing. This is a topic that will need to be researched. I suggest using business industry research databases like FirstResearch and IBISWorld to complete this section.
- 4.1 Business Industry Trends – An outline of current business opportunities that your team can capitalize on, challenges the business will be faced with and how the team plans on dealing with those challenges. (See: FirstResearch or IBISWorld)
- 4.2 Business Industry Growth Analysis – Verifiable statistics of past and current industry growth. Overall industry revenue and estimated percentage of industry growth should be identified here. Also identify different factors that will contribute to industry growth (e.g. an estimated increase in the disposable income of consumers, etc.). (See: FirstResearch or IBISWorld)
- 4.2.1 Business Industry Risks – A list of risks that can affect the growth or sustainability of the business and a business continuity plan that outlines how those risks will be combated. (See: FirstResearch or IBISWorld)
- 4.3 Business Industry Participants & Main Competitors – A list of the companies with the most market share in the business industry. Also includes a list of the business’ local competitors. Information about the percentage of market share held by all competitors along with each company’s estimated revenue can be included. (See: FirstResearch or IBISWorld. Manta can be used to find information on local competitors).
- 4.4 Buying Patterns – An explanation of what determines when the target market buys the company’s product any why. An example of a buying patterns would be an increase in consumer spending during the holidays. Something like this can affect your overall sales. (See: IBISWorld to find a list of buying patterns.)
- 4.5 Community Benefits – An explanation of how the business will give back to the community in which it is located. For example, donating uniforms to a local high school basketball team or sponsoring a food drive for the homeless are things that benefit that community.
The following sections come after the marketing plan sections (5.0, 5.1 and 6.0):
- 7.0 SWOT Analysis – An overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the management team and business industry, the opportunities for growth in the industry and any threats the business will face that can affect sales and growth.
- 7.1 Strengths – Strengths of the management team and business industry.
- 7.2 Weaknesses – Weaknesses of the management team and business industry and how they will be dealt with.
- 7.3 Opportunities – Opportunities for growth in the business industry.
- 7.4 Threats – Challenges the business will face and how they will be dealt with.
- 8.0 Management Team Summary – Each member of the management team is identified along with their position titles and duties and responsibilities. Resumes and/or career bios for each management team member should be added immediately after this section.
- 8.1 Management Team Gaps & Personnel Plan – Management team members who are needed (and why they are needed) should be identified here along with their position titles and duties and responsibilities. Regular staff members should also be identified (who are currently on the team), along with their position titles and duties and responsibilities. Regular staff member positions that are currently not filled (but needed) should be mentioned as well.
- 8.2 Personnel Training Plan – A detailed description of how the management team and staff will be trained should be outlined.
- 8.3 Organizational Structure (Chart) – Management team and staff positions should be outlined in an organizational chart that shows the hierarchy of the organization. Click here to see an example of an organizational structure and chart.
The Marketing Plan Outline
The marketing plan section of a business plan identifies the target market and marketing strategy. The marketing strategy outlines how the business will be branded and promoted to generate an interest from its target market. The purpose of the marketing plan is to inform your team, lenders, and/or investors of who you are targeting, how you will reach you will reach them and how you will generate leads that can turn into closed sales. A business plan outline for the marketing plan section is below.
- 5.0 Target Market Description & Segmentation – Identify the target market of the business along with the characteristics of the target market. The age, race, sex, location, educational attainment, school enrollment, household income, and/or business industry (if the business is B2B), etc. should be identified here. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder Tool can be used to find target market demographics. Information about who actually buys the products or services sold in the business industry can be found in an IBISWorld Industry Report.
- 5.1 Target Market Needs – Discuss why the target market needs your products or services. Also discuss how the company meeting those needs actually benefit the target market.
- 6.0 Marketing Vision & Strategy – Discuss the marketing strategy that will be implemented to gain exposure, generate an interest in the business and generate leads that can turn into closed sales. Also identify each marketing and advertising technique that will be used, the expected result it will bring and how much money will be spent on marketing.
The Financial Plan Outline
The financial plan identifies the past and future sales performance of the business. It also identifies the costs associated with operating the business. It helps teams, lenders and/or investors understand how profitable the business is (or will be). As a rule of thumb, when writing a business plan, your financial plan should always include either 3 year or 5 year financial projections.
- 9.0 Financial Plan Summary – An overview of the costs associated with operating the business, how many sales will be closed, how much revenue will be generated, the overall profit of the business.
- Startup Expenses – A list of all business expenses.
- Past Performance – A detailed outline of past sales, revenue, expenses and profit.
- Sales Forecast – An estimate of future sales and revenue.
- Personnel Plan – An outline of the wages that will be paid to the management team and staff.
- Benchmarks – Key performance metrics (such as gross profit, exceeding the minimum sales threshold, etc.) are identified.
- Break-Even Analysis – The point in which your total costs (or expenses) are equal to your total revenue is identified. There is “no profit or loss” in the business when the break-even point is reached.
- Pro Forma Profit & Loss – The company’s projected net income for a future period of time should be identified here.
- Gross Margin – The company’s projected gross income for a future period time should be identified here.
- Pro Forma Cash Flow Projection – The company’s expected “inflows” and “outflows” of cash for a future period of time should be identified here.
- Pro Forma Balance Sheet – Identifies the financial status of a company after a planned transaction takes place. An example of a planned transaction would be the sale or purchase of equipment or machinery. These types of transactions may reduce the cash in the business but increase the worth of the business.
- Ratios – Ratios that show the overall financial health of your business. Each business industry uses financial ratios to determine the health of every company in an industry. Learn more about financial ratios for different business industries.
Is this Business Plan Outline Easy to Understand?
If you plan on using this business plan outline, let me know how it works out for you. Is it easy to understand? Is the information needed for each section in the business plan clearly outlined here? Click here to contact me with feedback. Thank you!