Free Business plan templates samples, 40+ formats, and examples & guide

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What is a Business plan template?

Business plans can seem daunting to someone who has never written one idea itself might be fairly simple to explain, but if you want to apply for a loan, raise investor capital, or simply have a solid, documented direction for your company, you’re going to need to write a business plan.

Writing a business plan is a prerequisite to your company’s success. A solid plan is necessary to help find your company and ensure that your goals remain on track over time. Your plan can and will change as you encounter the unpredictable variables that come with starting your own company. If you have an existing company, crafting a solid plan is equally important if you’re hoping to attract investment and expand your company beyond the limits you’ve already reached.

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Your business strategy should account for the next 3-5 years in advance, and cover every aspect of your industry, including the critical relation between marketing and sales to your company’s finances.

Your business plan should provide all the details about the business concept that you have tried to illustrate, the marketplace and the expected financial performance in your business.

Top Tips

·Be concise: It’s really important that potential investors can understand what your business is all about from a quick glance at your plan. Ensure that you include a summary of your business, other relevant details about your business, and how it will make money right from the start, and use simple language throughout that is easily understandable.

·Be specific: Being specific is just as important as being concise. The details will help you drill down into how you will actually deliver your plan.

·Know your market: A big part of knowing whether your business will be successful is understanding your audience. Make sure your plan is clear about your target market – who will you be selling to and how many other companies are already selling similar products?

· Know your finances: The other essential part of a business plan is the finance section, as finance is the most important part for anything in the world. If your business isn’t going to make any money, it won’t be successful so you need to be very clear on how you will make a profit.

·Your plan will be incredibly useful when it comes to securing loans and investment, but it’s not only restricted to this but there are many more advantages to it. It’s also a personal tool to help you understand your objectives.

.Do a SWOT analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.Ask your adviser or mentor to review your plan and give you feedback and suggested improvements.

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Implementing your business plan

  • Keep your business plan as a living document – don’t leave it to gather dust on a shelf.
  • Make sure it’s easily accessible, keep it very handy and it’s always at the top-of-your mind for you and your team.
  • Reflect your goals in the day-to-day operations of your business.
  • Outline the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve each goal – make a note of any extra resources you’ll need.
  • Make it clear these goals are the top priority for the business.

Try this SWOT tool – Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

  • Conducting a SWOT analysis helps provide direction to your business venture and tell others what your business does well and what you need to improve on.
  • Strengths and weaknesses are typically inside your business — what are you good at, what are you not so good at — while opportunities and threats are external factors.

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Review your business plan

  • Track and reach out to your key milestones in your business plan every month and keep it updated, and celebrate when these have been reached.
  • Stay on top of industry trends and stay connected with your customers – this will help you stay ahead of any changes needed in your business.
  • Update your business plan with any changes affecting your business or industry and take care of handling it.

Common mistakes

  • Not being able to clearly articulate your business and the value it offers to customers.
  • Making certain assumptions using your intelligence and do a little survey directly and asking questions.
  • Not reviewing and monitoring your business plan.
  • Setting unrealistic or uninformed targets.

What are the different types of business plan?

Business plans can be divided roughly into four distinct types. There are very short plans, or mini plans, presentation plans or decks, working plans, and what-if plans. They each require very different amounts of labor and not always with proportionately different results. That is to say, a more elaborate plan isn’t guaranteed to be superior to an abbreviated one. Success depends on various factors and whether the right plan is used in the right setting. For example, a new hire may not want to read the same, elaborate version of your plan that might be important to a potential investor.

  • The Mini plan: It is the easiest and quickest reference plan for your business The mini plan is preferred by many recipients because it is easy to look for and they can download it and read it quickly and even refer to read later on their iPhone or tablet. You should include most of the same ingredients that you would in a longer plan, but you may cut to the highlights while telling the same story to other people. For a small-business venture, it’s typically all that you need. For a more complex business, you may need the longer version.

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  • The Presentation Plan: The advent of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to the tech world has changed the way many things used to work if not all but the way most of the plans were presented. And while the plan is shorter than its predecessors, it’s not necessarily easier to present. Many people lose sleep over an upcoming presentation the next morning or in near future, especially one that can play a vital role in their near future or of their business. But presenting your plan as a deck can be very powerful. Readers of a plan can’t always capture your passion for the business nor can they ask questions when you finish. But in 20 minutes, you can cover all the key points and tell your story from concept and mission statement through financial forecasts.

Remember to keep your graphics uncluttered, as graphics speak a lot more than what words can explain and do not forget to make comments to accentuate your ideas rather than simply reading what’s in front of your audience what’s written on the screen.

While in a presentation make sure that your plan is concise, don’t be fooled: It takes plenty of planning before you actually set out to present it. The pertinent questions who, what, where, why, when and how all need to be answered before anyone pinpoints and asks you.

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  • The Working Plan: A working plan is a tool to be used to operate your business. It has to be long in detail but may be short on presentation. As in with amino plan, you can probably, afford to have a somewhat higher degree of informality when preparing and planning out a working plan.

For example: If in a plan, you have intended to present this plan to a bank loan committee, then you might have to describe a rival as “competing primarily on a price basis” or if your comment has to be the same competitor you might put it as “When is Jones ever going to stop this insane price-cutting?”

A plan intended strictly for your organization’s internal use then you may also omit some elements that you need not explain to yourself, though it is always preferred to at least enlist it in bullet points. Likewise, you probably don’t need to include an appendix with resumes of key executives nor would a working plan especially benefit from product photos.

Internal policy considerations may guide you and help you to take the best decision about whether to include or exclude certain information in a working plan so always consult it when you sit down to make a business plan. Many entrepreneurs are sensitive about employees knowing the precise salary the owner takes home from the business. To the extent such information can be left out of a working plan without compromising its utility, you can feel free to protect your privacy and you may skip if you feel it is not necessary.

This document is like an old pair of khakis you wear to the office on Saturdays or that one ancient delivery truck that never seems to break down. It’s there to be used, not admired.

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  • The What-If Plan: When you face unusual circumstances, you need a variant on the working plan. For example, you might want to prepare a contingency plan when you’re seeking bank financing. A contingency plan is a plan based on the worst-case scenario that you can imagine your business would face in near future such as loss of market share, heavy price competition, the defection of a key member of your management team and soothe the fears of a banker or investor.

Your business may be considered as an acquisition but a business plan can help you understand how it might affect your core business. What if you raise prices, invest in staff training and reduce duplicate efforts? Such what-if planning doesn’t have to be as formal as a presentation plan, perhaps you would like to want to mull over the chances of a major expansion in your business perspectives. A what-if plan can help you spot the increased needs for space, equipment, personnel and other variables so you can make good decisions.

These kinds of plans are set apart from the working and presentation plans when they necessarily describing the way in which how you’ll run the business. They’re essentially more like an addendum to your actual business plan. If you decide to acquire that competitor or grow dramatically, you’ll want to incorporate some of the thinking already invested in these special purpose plans into your primary business plan.

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Why we need a business plan templates?

Should a customized business plan template be used, if not then which approach should be followed?There are many ways of approaching about how to write a business plan, and every approach has its benefits over other but some are better than others. Though it is difficult still can you find a completed business plan that matches your business, change the names, and that you can call your own? Well, you could, but a business plan template might be a better idea for this instance.

Let’s have a quick glance through the pros and cons of using a business plan template to start your planning process, maybe it proves beneficial for you.

The pros of business plan templates

A good business plan template has many advantages but one of the basic and most important ones is that it can really help you get your thoughts organized in a sequential manner. It can provide a guideline so that you’re not stuck looking at a blank page trying to figure out where to start, you can always go back to it for your reference when you’re stuck.

The general layout of a standard business plan is available to ease your work. A great business plan template will also provide you with step by step instructions of your plan and show you what an investor-ready business plan should look like.

There are tons of free business plan templates but be careful—there are lots of people out there who will try and charge you for a template.

You can look into online business planning solutions like Live Plan if you need some more templates rather than the free ones, which provides more help and customization options than any template can.

 The cons of business plan templates

We agree that there are multiple benefits of using a business plan template, depending on your situation but it may not be the absolute best way to complete your plan. But remember the template is just a guide for you and there is still a lot of work involved. For instance, you have to complete all the financial spreadsheets and along with that, you need to do all the calculations.

While doing the calculations and maintaining records ensure that you have full knowledge about the process, to be sure of getting all the numbers in the right places. And, typically there are limited instructions to go along with a free template, so if you don’t already know what you’re doing, the process of writing your business plan isn’t going to be that much easier with a template as you have imagined it to be.

Finally, merging data from Excel spreadsheets into your Word document and keeping everything up-to-date as you make changes to your numbers, is harder than it looks with the integration of the statistical data and its representation in the form of charts and graphs into your business plan template.

However, if you’re new to business planning and just want to get a sense of what a plan looks like and want to get the process started quickly then downloading a free template is a great way to get started.

Nowadays the technology has advanced so much that the almost all the software come with a step-by-step guide, a DVD of video tutorials, some tools like automatic financial forecasting, automatic formatting, and chart creation. A good software can save hundreds of hours of work compared to building a plan in Word and Excel and hence you can spend more time starting your business and less time planning.

Top Ten Do’s and Don’ts

The DO’S

  1. Prepare a complete business plan jotting every detail you have in your mind for any business you are considering.
  2. Use the business plan templates for this purpose and do a self-research, before you set on.
  3. Complete sections of your business plan as you proceed through the course.
  4. Research (use search engines) to find business plans that are available on the Internet.
  5. Package your business plan in an attractive kit as a selling tool.
  6. Submit your business plan to experts in your intended business for their advice.
  7. Spell out your strategies on how you intend to handle adversities.
  8. Spell out the strengths and weaknesses of your management team.
  9. Include a monthly one-year cash flow projection.
  10. Freely and frequently modify your business plans to account for changing conditions.

The DON’TS

  1. Be optimistic in highly estimating future sales.
  2. Be optimistic in keep your estimations low on future costs.
  3. Disregard or discount weaknesses in your plan and be bold enough to spell them out.
  4. Avoid stressing on long-term projections. It’s always better to focus on projections for your first year and do short term planning to achieve long term goals.
  5. Depend entirely on the uniqueness of your business or the success of an invention.
  6. Project yourself as someone you’re not. Be brutally realistic.
  7. Be everything to everybody. Highly focused specialists usually do best.
  8. Proceed without adequate financial and accounting know-how.
  9. Base your business plan on a wonderful concept. Test it first.
  10. Pursue a business not substantiated by your business plan analysis.

40+ business plan templates formats

SCORE is a nonprofit association that is working to help and foster the growing number of startups in today world by providing them mentor ship so that they can grow and planning tools. The SCORE organization believes that the value of completing a business plan is not the finished product that we obtain, but rather the process that is followed in that business plan.

The SCORE’s business template begins with an introduction that goes as, “The act of planning helps you to think things through thoroughly, study and research if you are not sure of the facts, and look at your ideas critically. It takes time now, but avoids costly, perhaps disastrous, mistakes later.”

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Having a clear picture about the purpose of your business, its goals, and how it will operate is critical not only for your understanding of these issues, but more importantly to get potential lenders and investors to buy in.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go to business school—or hire someone who did—to create a business plan. You can download a free business plan template and customize it to your needs.

  • B-Plans

B plans.com is also known as the authority on business plans, that caters to offer a free Word business plan template along with a complete user manual with instructions and a table of contents.

It also offers standard business plan sections such as executive summary, company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy, management summary, and financial planning. You will be able to download the materials from a wide range of data library that is available for your businesses in different industries on which to base your plan as to whether your business is online, service-based, or a food establishment.

B-Plan’s Word business plan templates are comprehensive and are a great option for beginners and new business owners who have just stepped into this field.

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Entrepreneur.com provides a collection of various business tools which are essentially helpful when you set on to venture in this area. The business plans are available free in the form of PDF, PowerPoint and Word documents. The templates can be viewed or be downloaded if you need it for future references through the Seamless Docs platform.

The site includes a template for a variety of specific business types, a business plan model that outlines the different parts of a business plan, and customizable templates that allow users to add their logos and business information.

If you need a guide to write a business plan, Entrepreneur.com also provides facility to download these.

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  • Law Depot

The Law Depot is a step-by-step business plan builder that was introduced and offered by the Law Depot.

It covers that basic ingredients that you require in your Business plans like the structure, product marketing, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), operations, and details specific to your business in their templates.

It allows you to design and customize your template online and once the template is complete, you can download it and take a print out for your reference copy. The Law Depot plan builder has been designed in such a way that asks specific questions to help you focus on your answers and make your business plan concise and comprehensive.

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  • My Own Business Institute

MOBI, or My Own Business Institute, is part of Santa Clara University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship that offers a fifteen-section business plan template, including the business profile, licenses/permits, and location, which is available for free download in Word as individual templates, or as a larger all-in-one document.

All downloads are compatible with current and older versions of Word.

  • Office Depot

is a Business Resource Center contains free business plan samples for retailers, manufacturers and service providers.

Excel business plan financials are also available for manufacturers and service providers, while the retailer business plan template is complete with forecasting and financial tables, but this requires Microsoft Word version 6.0 or later.

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Catering to businesses owned by women, Oprah.com is a free one-page business plan templates that can be used by anyone who wants to start a business.

The PDF templates come filled in with example information for small consulting businesses, boutique clothing stores, and nonprofit organizations, but you can delete that information to be left with a template that works for any business venture you are venturing into.

The template has space for information such as vision, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plans.

  • Rocket Lawyer

With Rocket Lawyer, you get the advantage of an attorney’s advice to make sure that your document is legally sound, interesting, right?

The template used here is questionnaire-style and asks for key information about your business such as founders, structure and industry, marketing plans, financial projections, etc. Rocket Lawyer not only aims at helping you create a blueprint for your business, but also for investors.

  • Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers an online business plan template and guide to help you build your business plan, step by step.

Once your account has been created and activated, you can complete the cover page by filling in your business details such as the company name, owner name and contact information, and then upload your logo.

It gives the facility to choose from six business plan sections(Executive Summary, Company Description, Market Research, Product/Service Line, Marketing and Sales, Financial Projections).

  • The $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan

Looking for a business plan template that gets straight to the point without hitting around the bush and doesn’t show any tantrums?

The $100 Startup, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, offers the One-Page Business Plan. It is a simple form that asks you several questions before you actually get to the template and this you can quickly answer to get up and running.

This free business plan template covers everything from your business overview to finances, marketing, goals, and challenges it also includes resources which include a one-page consulting business plan, one-page marketing plan, product launch guide and many more of this type.

  • Free-Plan

The Free-Plan offers a comprehensive Word-based document that contains a detailed framework for building your business plan, including sample text, tables, and charts, as well as a manual with section-by-section assistance.

The Free-Plan is an ideal place for new and established businesses looking to expand and in need of a business plan for internal or external use. Their micro-plan is designed for startups and very small businesses.

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V Finance basically deals with investments and finance related issues. V Finance is a publicly traded company that uses their own personal knowledge of investment in creating a business plan template.

With this site, you can download a free business plan template targeted to your industry. It also gives you the benefit of $75 toward three months of professional posting of your plan for potential investors to view.

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This online business planner allows you to fill out a template on the site section by section. It also tracks down your progress on the plan and allows you to share the plan once it’s completed.

Biz Gym’s recent update offers a collaborative platform with multiple pricing options, including a free “Inventor” plan. Through this application, you can access resources such as a deck builder, budget builder, and pivot plan.

Important Ingredients of a Good business plan letter

Business Plan Format: The Business Plan format is a systematic assessment of all the factors critical to your business purpose and goals keeping in mind the shortcomings.

  • A Vision Statement:It tells about your goals in few words. This will be a concise outline of your business purpose and goals.
  • The People:The most important ingredient for your success will be yourself. Focus on how your prior experiences will be applicable to your new business. Be factual and avoid hype. This part of your Business Plan will be read very carefully by those with whom you will be having relationships, including lenders, investors, and vendors.

However, if you lack the ability to perform a key function, include this in your business plan as you cannot be someone who you are not. For example, if you lack the ability to train staff, include an explanation how you will compensate for this deficiency. You could add a partner to your plan or plan to hire key people who will provide skills you don’t have. Include biographies of all your intended management.

  • Your Business Profile: Define and describe your intended business and exactly how you plan to go about it. Try to stay focused on the specialized market you intend to serve. As a rule, specialists do better than non-specialists.
  • Economic Assessment: Provide a complete assessment of the economic environment in which your business will become a part. Explain how your business will be appropriate for the regulatory agencies and demographics with which you will be dealing. If appropriate, provide demographic studies and traffic flow data normally available from local planning departments.
  • Cash Flow Assessment: Include a one-year cash flow that will incorporate your capital requirements. Include your assessment of what could go wrong and how you would plan to handle problems.
  • Marketing Plan and Expansion Plans: Your expansion plan should describe how you plan to test markets and products before rolling out. SCORE offers a great marketing plan guide.
  • Damage Control Plan: All businesses will experience episodes of distress. Survival will depend on how well you are prepared to cope with them. Your damage control plan should anticipate potential threats to your business and how you plan to overcome them. Here are three examples:
  • Plan for 35% loss of sales: During economic downturns, your survival will depend on your ability to maintain liquidity for a period of at least 12 months.

Can your Damage Control cash flow plan show how to avoid running out of cash?

  • Plan for a catastrophic incident: Businesses can be overturned by unforeseen disasters which can be avoided by maintaining appropriate insurance. You will need the assistance of a qualified business insurance agent.
  • Plan for product obsolescence: If your business is in a rapidly changing technology area such as Netflix’s home delivered DVDs, you will need to plan now to keep a step ahead of technical changes or advancements.

Eight Steps to A Great Business Plan

Start-up entrepreneurs often have difficulty writing out business plans so don’t skip this planning tool, as this is the most crucial discipline for you in the world of business! To make it easier, here are eight steps that will produce a worthwhile plan:

  1. Set time aside to prepare your business plan as you work through the MOBI courses.
  2. Focus and refine your concept based on the information you have collected.
  3. Gather all the data you can on the feasibility and the specifics of your business concept.
  4. Outline the specifics of your business, using a “what, where, why, how” approach.
  5. Include your experience, education and personal information.
  6. Fill in the templates at the end of each session.  Use understandable language and realistic projections.
  7. You may wish to enhance your presentation with bar charts, pie charts, and graphics.
  8. Share a draft of your plan with trusted advisers.  Use their feedback to improve the plan.

Does Your Plan Include the Following Necessary Factors?

  • A Sound Business Concept: The single most common mistake made by entrepreneurs is not selecting the right business initially. The best way to learn about your prospective business is to work for someone else in that business before beginning your own. There can be a huge gap between your concept of a fine business and reality.
  • Understanding of Your Market:A good way to test your understanding is to test market your product or service before your start. Do you think you have a great kite that will capture the imagination of kite fliers throughout the world? Then craft some kites and try selling them first.
  • A Healthy, Growing and Stable Industry: Remember that some of the great inventions of all time, like airplanes and cars, did not result in economic benefit for many of those who tried to exploit these great advances. For example, the cumulative earnings of all airlines since Wilbert Wright flew that first plane is less than zero. Success comes to those who find businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions or advances to mankind.
  • Capable Management: Look for people you like and admire, who have good ethical values, have complementary skills and are smarter than you. Plan to hire people who have the skills that you lack. Define your unique ability and seek out others who turn your weaknesses into strengths.
  • Able Financial Control: You will learn later the importance of becoming qualified in accounting, computer software, and cash flow management. Most entrepreneurs do not come from accounting backgrounds and must go back to school to learn these skills. Would you bet your savings in a game where you don’t know how to keep score? People mistakenly do it in business all the time.
  • Financial Management Skills: Build a qualified team to evaluate the best options for utilizing retained earnings.
  • A Consistent Business Focus: As a rule, people who specialize in a product or service will do better than people who do not specialize. Focus your efforts on something that you can do so well that you will not be competing solely on the basis of price.
  • A Mindset to Anticipate Change: Don’t commit you too early. Your first plan should be written in pencil, not in ink. Keep a fluid mindset and be aggressive in making revisions as warranted by changing circumstances and expanding knowledge.

 

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