All the help you need making a business plan: Format, Template Providers And Useful Applications
Why create a business plan
We have discussed several times in the past how planning is a surefire way to success (well, most of the times). Think about it; before every move, be it personal or professional, most of us tend to weigh the pros and cons of the situation and decide to have our best interests in mind. This is especially true if you’re a business owner trying to steer your company towards the right direction and ensure its sustainability.
Decision-making is one of the hardest aspects of running a business. However, there are ways to make it easier or, at least, a lot more calculated rather than random. But first, you need to actually break down what your company’s vision is, what is its purpose and then decide how to achieve goals.
Either you’re just starting out your business or trying to get some investors’ attention, preparing a business plan is essential for many reasons. Primarily, the purpose of building a business plan is to define what the business is and where you intend on taking it over time (usually, within five years). This allows you to decide what improvements are necessary and the ways to make it move forward. It could mean improvements in strategy, in products or services rendered so that they align with what your ideal customer wants.
Moreover, setting up a business plan helps you set realistic goals based on the research you will inevitably do, as we will discuss later in this article. After you do your research, you need to allocate your budget and resources accordingly for maximum profit and carefully describe it in your business plan.
In this article, we are going to outline the layout of a great business plan and suggest useful applications that will help you in building it.
The Format of a solid business plan
Ultimately, you have to make it attractive to potential investors, banks (so you can get credit easily) and give your employees a path to follow. In order to get started, here’s what your business plan should consist of and how to complete its components:
- Executive Summary: It is basically your company’s pitch where you need to include important information while taking up a small space. Executives usually leave the executive summary for last so as to inject a few insights from other sections of the business plan.
- Business Description: When making a business plan, this is one of the most important components as you get to answer vital questions to whoever’s reading it. Τhese are namely your business’s activity, how it was formed and its mission. You may also write about your business model, your products, and your target audience.
- Market Analysis: As we’ve discussed in our previous article “How to do a market research step by step!”, it is essential to study the market you’re about to enter and constantly look for new trends and threats throughout your company’s journey. This will enable you to discover your strengths and differentiate from the competition.
- Organization Management: This is where you present to the world your strong team. You can include their qualifications, experience, and unique skills. This serves the purpose of impressing potential investors that your management and leaders are capable of seeing your business plan through.
- Sales Strategies: This is where your business plan gets really great! How are you going to make all the above happen without profits? Your sales strategy is the answer. In this particular step of your business plan, your pricing model and marketing efforts are under the microscope.Υou should provide information on your current promotional activities and their improved version to be implemented. This may include any brand awareness efforts on social media, press and other strategies you employ to attract customers and retain them. Don’t forget to mention the SEO strategy and web development plan you will follow to boost sales and customer reach.
- Financial Projections: Finally, the last section of your business plan is a future revenues and expenses forecast. We have already stressed the importance of the financial analysis for startups trying to convince prospective investors to fund their innovative ideas and further analyzed all the steps when developing a good business plan in a previous post.Always keep in mind that, your financial projections should be based on information about your market’s trends combined with your sales strategy. This will explain how your revenue will grow while keeping your expenses on a sustainable level.
Useful free online templates
Of course, all this can be a bit of a challenge for anyone. Not because one may be lacking the vision or strategic mindset, but rather the experience in such a complicated task.
Fortunately, there are online templates out there to help you structure your business plan according to your needs!
For example, we found Bplan’s templates to be extremely useful in business planning. According to your industry, there is a wide variety of free business plan samples and ready layouts for you to choose from. Once you select a category, you can view successful business plan formats and get inspired! We also recommend Entrepreneur’s sample business plans that offer business planning examples for a selection of industries.
Useful apps for business planning
In case you’re more into apps (and we completely feel you), there are tools that can help you quite a lot in creating a detailed business plan. For example, Enloop can help you with the tedious task of financial forecasting as well, simply by following some simple steps!
Also, Stratpad and The business plan shop are cloud applications that do the heavy lifting of successful business planning by offering comprehensive solutions. You can create a great business plan step-by-step, keep track of your performance and stick to your goals.
Finally, you can choose a planning tool in the form of a mobile application for Android and iOS such as MyBizPlan, Business Plan Quick Builder, and Business Plan Creator. You just download them and let them guide you through the whole process on your phone or tablet!
Summary: Like your business, your plan is like a living organization. Always evolving.
The benefits of having a well-thought business plan in place are undeniable, regardless of your company’s size.
That said, drafting a business plan is neither easy or is it supposed to be. However, it is essential for your business to have a roadmap to success and a constant reminder to you and your employees of what needs to be done, even in times of crisis. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it is written in stone, as your business needs to be flexible, above anything else!
So, remember to frequently revisit your business plan and re-adjust it if you feel it’s necessary for your business’s growth!