If you have never used a business plan template before, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of putting your business’ ideas and strategies on paper. You might not even be convinced yet that your organization actually needs a business plan in the first place.
However, no matter how big or small your business is, you need a business plan to help you strategize, plan ahead, and gain the attention of key investors.
Here’s a look at what a business plan is, why you might want to use a template, and six tips for writing an effective business plan for your organization.
Here’s a sample Business Plan template that can be easily customized and adapted to meet your requirements. It’s free to download and use.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a basic document created by the founders of a business that establishes an organization’s purpose and strategy for success. Typical sections of a business plan include a product/service overview, marketing strategy, financials, and an overview of operations.
While business plans can be created for internal planning purposes, they can also be created for external parties. This typically includes investors, potential strategic partners, or loan officers.
What is the purpose of using a business plan template?
Starting from scratch can feel intimidating.
One of the main perks of using a business plan template is the fact that you do not have to create it from scratch. Starting with a blank page can feel intimidating and overwhelming, and a simple business plan template helps to provide you with structure and clear guidelines for what information should be included.
You can communicate with others in a format they understand.
If you need to provide a business plan in order to secure funding from a lender or investor, a simple business plan template can help you to communicate the right information about your business in a format that these individuals are familiar with.
You can gain a better idea of potential gaps in your preparedness.
Without a thorough business plan, you are unable to see potential gaps in your business’ preparedness. A business plan template can help you make sure that you’ve thought ahead, considered your market positioning, and have a good idea of how you can practically achieve your business goals.
Six best practices for writing your business plan.
Establish your audience and objectives.
Before setting out to write your business plan, think about what your objectives are. Are you trying to secure funding from a conservative lender? Are you trying to impress or persuade an investor to fund a project? Are you creating one to win over internal stakeholders?
Whatever your objective is, make sure that your formatting and language are well-aligned with the individual or institution receiving your business plan. This is the best way to ensure that your business plan is successful and well-received.
Make sure your internal stakeholders are on board.
There is a lot of information to present in a business plan, and there are likely a lot of different departments and internal stakeholders involved. Before submitting your business plan, make sure that your internal team has time to review and get on board with everything in your business plan. This can help to manage the expectations of your team and prevent confusion or hard feelings.
Leave the introduction and executive summary until the end.
The introduction or executive summary of your business plan is just that – a summary. And the best way to make sure that your executive summary is accurate is to wait until the very end. Sometimes information or ideas can change while writing your plan, and you want to make sure that all of these changes are reflected in the executive summary.
When writing your business plan template, simply skip over this section and wait to write it until the very end once you have all of the information that you need.
Consider the context of your industry, niche, and strategic positioning.
A restaurant business plan template might look a bit different than other small business plan templates – but that’s okay! It’s perfectly fine if you need to adapt your plan to your specific industry, niche, and strategic position in your marketplace.
For example, you have a lifestyle brand, you might want to make sure that your personality shines through in your wording and messaging. However, if you are in the technology or finance industry, you will want to make sure that your plan exudes competency and professionalism.
Bring it to life with images, graphs, and tables.
Some of the best business plan templates are the ones that are brought to life with the help of images, tables, and graphs. When writing your business plan, try to incorporate photos and other graphics when possible – without going overboard.
Here are a few examples of where a photo or other visual element might be appropriate:
- A photo of your CEO and other top leaders on a section about management.
- A photo of your facilities, equipment, or location.
- Sales projection graphs.
- Graphs of your website visits or social media following.
Bonus tip: if you must submit a business plan to your bank or investor, always make sure that visuals are appropriate for your niche or situation.
Don’t forget about CSR (corporate social responsibility).
CSR (corporate social responsibility) is becoming increasingly important for lenders, investors, and many other organizations. When crafting your business plan, try to think ahead about ways that your business is environmentally or socially responsible.
This could be anything from ethical sourcing policies, community involvement, or employee engagement initiatives. Having a dedicated CSR section in your business plan not only shows that your business cares about the world, but it might just help to give you a competitive advantage against other organizations competing for partnership contracts or funding.