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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

what should be included in business plan

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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Full Scale

What Should a Business Plan Include?

A business plan serves as a roadmap to successfully launch a business. It helps you overcome the challenges you might experience in your industry. Learn how to create and use a business plan for your startup.

One of the most fatal mistakes that aspiring entrepreneurs make in launching a startup is forgetting a business plan . You wouldn’t launch a ship at sea without establishing its routes and the direction you’ll steer it to. Without proper planning, your ship will end up adrift or worst, dramatically sink when the tides hit. And in a volatile commercial industry, the tides are constantly changing.

Avoid common startup mistakes by creating a business plan. A business plan not only strengthens your foundation but also helps you navigate the ever-changing field of business. Chances are your customers’ preferences will change over time and you have to keep up with them. Hence, a business plan also changes accordingly.

But how exactly do you create a business plan ? Is there a template to follow? Should you enlist the help of other experts to write it? Today, we’ll look into what should be included in your business plan and how it should be written. The first step is by understanding what it is and what it is for.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is an official company document that breaks down all the goals of a business and how to achieve them. It basically lays out the groundwork for your idea to come alive. It’s often referred to as the “blueprint of the business”, summarizing your goals.

Although there are many ways to write it, its key point usually discusses the financial, marketing, and operational strategies of the business.   

What is it for?

A business plan serves as a guide for a growing company. It’s a consistent reference for business owners and stakeholders to base critical decisions on. It’s especially useful for early-stage startups to attract investors. When a company doesn’t have a proven track record, it can lay out its full potential instead.

Not only is the business plan useful for the initial launching of a business, but it also helps with pivotal changes. Since the market is perpetually changing, it’s crucial that your plan also evolves with it. Hence, the goals and methods of achieving will be updated. In some cases, a whole new plan is created if the company wants to drastically move in a new direction.   

What’s included in a Business Plan

Although there’s no fixed formula for writing a business plan, there are some identifiable key points. These are generally the items factored in its creation:

1.     Executive Summary

The executive summary outlines the whole plan. You start with a clear introduction of who you are, what you sell, and what your ambitions are as a business. This section includes your mission statement, product description, and the basic overview of your company’s structure. It should also include your financial plans.   

2.     Business Description

The business description provides detailed information about your industry. It must describe its current outlook as well as its profit potential. You will go into detail about your target market and other organizations or businesses you cater to. Also, this section briefly discusses what problem the business is trying to solve.  

3.     Market Analysis

A business must have a firm understanding of its target market and should be able to prove its sustainability. The market analysis provides trends and studies about the target consumers—their size, demographics, buying power, and frequent activities. This section also touches briefly on the competitors.

4.     Product Development

Investors need a clear idea of how you would create and maintain your product. The development plan section contains the details of the product’s design; its production methods, lifecycle, marketing, and development budget. This includes the overall strategy of how it will be sold in the market.

5.     Marketing Strategies

The product is only as good as how much it will sell. Therefore, this section describes how you will present your products and services to the market. This will discuss your marketing campaigns, distribution channels, and types of media you’ll tap into. You will summarize how you intend to reach your customers and pitch your products to them.

6.     Operations and Management

Your investors need an overview of how the business functions. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the company such as team responsibilities, division tasks, and operational expenses. This helps track down who is responsible for certain areas of the business.  

7.     Financial Plans

Money mobilizes the idea. Hence, it’s important to keep an accurate record of where it’s going. This section shows the company’s monetary plans and its future projections. This includes financial statements, balance sheets, and third-party business transactions. For startups, it will mostly contain the target profit and estimates of expenses.    

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

Now that we have an idea of the business plan template , it’s time to learn how to write it effectively. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re writing one for your business.

  • Keep it concise. It serve as a guide for the company and the investors. It needs to be easy to understand and direct to the point. You can’t afford to waste a reader’s time by creating a 100-page business plan. Instead, aim for a summarized version of your plan, only highlighting the important points and outlining the rest.
  • Avoid jargon. Ensure that everyone, especially investors, can understand your business plan. Do not include complex jargon in your content. Save the technicalities for the experts and simplify the terms in explaining your ideas.
  • Keep it up-to-date. As previously mentioned, business plans are not static. Over time, a lot of things in the industry will change and might make your original plans obsolete. Frequently update your business plan according to what’s new in the field and with new methods you’re employing. Remember, a business plan is only useful if it’s still relevant.  

Build your Business

Business plans are important when you’re starting your business from scratch. However, the success of your business still heavily relies on their execution. A lot of startups fail because they can’t push through with what was proposed in the business plans.

More than just articulating your ideas, you need to do a lot more to make them come to life. For one, you’ll need the capital to kick things off and make everything operational. Second, you’ll need to hire the best people to run your operations. Lastly, you have to find investors to sustain your business.

One way to ensure that your business plan is properly executed is by enlisting the help of business experts. Full Scale is an offshore software development company that specializes in helping startups.

We can provide the talent and resources needed to begin your operations. Whether you need project managers, marketing specialists, or technical experts; we’ve got them all. We’ll take care of all the processes of recruitment and management so you can focus on your core competencies.

Ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey? Get your FREE consultation today!

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.



A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

what should be included in business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

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Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Our guide covers all the components of your startup business plan and explains why startups have unique business plan needs.

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To understand what should be included in a business plan, you have to understand who the plan is for and what stage of your business you’re in. If you’ll be taking a business plan to a financial institution as part of a loan application, you’re going to want a more traditional plan. These tend to be on the longer side and should be as detailed as possible, without getting too technical.

If you’re in the early planning stages of your business or just want something to show to a few angel investors, you might consider a startup business plan format, which will be more of a summary of key points. That might only be one page long but should still hit on all the major highlights and goals of the business.

According to the Small Business Administration, the length of your business plan should be long enough to accomplish three goals: (1) excite the financing source, (2) prove that you truly understand the market, and (3) fully detail the execution strategy.

Regardless of length, your business plan must get across why you are passionate about your company and why you think it will succeed. You should have a command of your market, your subject area and be authoritative. You should include market data and financial projections, but not come across overly dry. You want the readers of your business proposal—even bank loan officers—to see your commitment to your goals and the emotional connection you have formed to your business idea. At the same time, you want your plan to appear factual and professional.

Startup business plan requirements

If you’re writing a business plan for a bank or lending institution, consider including the following major components in your plan. Keep your plan in a binder with numbered pages and provide a table of contents to make it easy to follow.

Executive summary. This is a brief (1-2 page) explanation of what your company is, what it does and why it will be successful. Although this summary will come first in the plan, you should write it last so that you have all the information to draw from. Not succinctly summarizing your business idea is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made in a business plan. If you don’t hook your reader with your executive summary, that person is not going to want to keep reading. Here are some of the pieces to include:

  • The mission statement — a short statement summing up your business and explaining your product or services
  • A brief overview of the structure of your company and the leadership team
  • Some basic financial information, such as banking relationships and any investors
  • A summary of your company growth and any financial highlights
  • Company facts like number of employees, date founded and location

Mission statement. Although this is a part of the executive summary section, the mission statement deserves a separate callout because you’ll need to carefully craft your message. The statement needs to pack a punch, but remain a tight and coherent thought. Mission statements should be written in the present tense, and answer questions like who your customers are, what values are important to your business and what marker you’ll use to decide if your company is successful.

Market analysis. In your company description you started to explain why your company is a good idea. Your market analysis is where you’ll back up those statements with an authoritative understanding of your industry and target market. Address why your competitors are successful and prove that you know why what they’re doing is working. You also need to establish why your idea is better or will be more successful. The market analysis section should be between 9 and 22 pages long. In this section, include information like:

  • Trends and themes in your industry
  • A description and size of your target market
  • Your pricing and gross margin targets
  • Industry risks
  • Key personnel
  • Five-year projected revenues

If you need help with market research there are several free tools available. The U.S. Census is obviously data rich and can help you answer questions about the size of specific industries and businesses and which products in your industry are growing. The U.S. Census also offers Economic Indicator data that can help you digest what’s going on in different industrial sectors.

The SBA offers a tool called Sizeup that helps you process data points to get details on your competition, figure out where your competitors are located and where there might be gaps in the market. It’s important to remember that having a similar business plan as a competitor doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be successful. It’s possible that two similar businesses can thrive, but you should be able to explain why the market you are entering is conducive to that.

Your business plan must get across why you are passionate about your company and why you think it will succeed.

You should also be able to prove that you know the customers to whom your business caters and be able define and research their habits. Know when they buy, how often they buy or how often they will need your service.

Company description. A good way to describe your company is by answering this question: What problem does your company solve? That can help determine who your customers are and what advantages your company has over your competitors. The question will also lead you to explain and highlight the expertise of your team and the benefits of your physical location. A company description is an easy place to show your commitment and passion for the company as well as boast your company's strengths.

Organization and management. Here’s another place to show your team’s competence and explain the passion behind your business. This is where you’ll outline who is running your company, how it’s structured and what you all bring to the table. The main components to include are:

  • An organizational chart
  • The name of all owners and percentages they own
  • Resumes of some of your key staff/leaders
  • The legal structure of your business (i.e., an LLC, a partnership, etc.)

Marketing and sales. It’s not enough to simply say you have a great product. In a traditional business plan, you have to explain how you intend to get this great product or service to the right customers. You should convey how your strategy is going to evolve once you have more (or any) customer data. Still, you should lay out a roadmap for how to start and potential opportunities to attract and retain customers. Consider including the following:

  • An explanation of your business model and how your product leads to revenue
  • How and when you will introduce new products or services
  • Potential new territories for your company to enter
  • The plan to boost sales on a particular product
  • Potential long-term relationships with other companies or clients
  • The possibility of price increases
  • Improvements to your product or your processes for manufacturing or delivery
  • Ideas for advertising and social media strategy

Service or product line. In this section you will need to again answer what your company does and what you’re selling. You can go into more detail about what sets your product and company apart from your competitors, as well as how you target customer benefits. Some items to include are:

  • The life cycle of your product
  • Information on any copyrights, patents and any other ways you protect your intellectual property
  • Any non-disclosure or non-compete agreements
  • Any research and development you’ve done

Funding request. If the goal of your business plan is to secure an investment or a loan, then this is where you’ll explain how much funding you need and why. In addition, you want to explain how you will pay off your debt. Also include any information that would majorly impact your future financial situation, like plans to take the company public or sell the company.

Financial information. It might seem obvious, but in your financial projections you want to show that your business is strong. If you have an established business, this is where you’ll include cash flow statements, income statements and balance sheets as well as collateral that you could put up against a loan. You should also discuss how the business is being funded and your current costs. Also, make sure that the projections clearly match up to your funding requests, avoiding overreaching. This section of your business plan should also have some heft, possibly as long as 12 to 25 pages.

Some of the documents you should provide include:

  • Current financial data of all owners
  • Financial data from the past three years, such as balance sheets and profit and loss statements
  • A list of all your debt, including what you owe and to whom
  • A five-year forecast of income and expenses
  • A certification or review letter from a financial advisor saying that your information meets generally accepted accounting principles

Appendix. This section is for any supporting documents that can be used to support your plan statements. Consider including credit histories, the resumes of your staff or key leaders, product pictures, permits, patents or other relevant contracts.

Startup business plan template

For a startup business, it might be worthwhile to look at a less involved version of a traditional business plan. A popular one is the Business Model Canvas developed by Alex Osterwalder. The idea of the canvas is to explain your business model in a simple way to relevant parties, such as partners and potential investors.

Here are the main components of the Canvas model:

Key partnerships. Discuss the other businesses or services required to run your new business. This can include suppliers, contractors, manufacturers or other partners that are necessary for your company to operate.

Key activities. Format a list of how your business will gain an advantage in your industry through your chosen business model. You should highlight what makes your company more effective at reaching your target customer than your competitors.

Key resources. List your important business assets which may include staff, capital or intellectual property. These are the things that will make your chosen business model successful and help you deliver to your customer.

Value proposition. This is a good place to showcase your passion as well as your understanding of your market. You should make a compelling case for why a customer would choose you over the competition.

Customer relationships. Describe a customer’s experience working and interacting with your business. Address both customer acquisition and customer retention.

Customer segments. Explain who your customers are. You’ll want to give a clear sense of your target market and who is being served by your business. Be specific.

Channels. Describe how you will communicate with your customers and why those methods are effective. Most businesses use a mix of channels and optimize them over time.

Cost structure. Address how your company will reduce cost, maximize value and make money on your product or service. Be honest about the most significant costs that you anticipate facing.

Revenue streams. List all the revenue opportunities in your plan, including the product or service you're selling, advertising space for sale and membership fees.

See Also: Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid

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What is a Business Plan? Definition and Resources

Clipboard with paper, calculator, compass, and other similar tools laid out on a table. Represents the basics of what is a business plan.

9 min. read

Updated March 4, 2024

If you’ve ever jotted down a business idea on a napkin with a few tasks you need to accomplish, you’ve written a business plan — or at least the very basic components of one.

The origin of formal business plans is murky. But they certainly go back centuries. And when you consider that 20% of new businesses fail in year 1 , and half fail within 5 years, the importance of thorough planning and research should be clear.

But just what is a business plan? And what’s required to move from a series of ideas to a formal plan? Here we’ll answer that question and explain why you need one to be a successful business owner.

  • What is a business plan?

Definition: Business plan is a description of a company's strategies, goals, and plans for achieving them.

A business plan lays out a strategic roadmap for any new or growing business.

Any entrepreneur with a great idea for a business needs to conduct market research , analyze their competitors , validate their idea by talking to potential customers, and define their unique value proposition .

The business plan captures that opportunity you see for your company: it describes your product or service and business model , and the target market you’ll serve. 

It also includes details on how you’ll execute your plan: how you’ll price and market your solution and your financial projections .

Reasons for writing a business plan

If you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to write a business plan?’ consider this fact: 

Companies that commit to planning grow 30% faster than those that don’t.

Creating a business plan is crucial for businesses of any size or stage. 

If you plan to raise funds for your business through a traditional bank loan or SBA loan , none of them will want to move forward without seeing your business plan. Venture capital firms may or may not ask for one, but you’ll still need to do thorough planning to create a pitch that makes them want to invest.

But it’s more than just a means of getting your business funded . The plan is also your roadmap to identify and address potential risks. 

It’s not a one-time document. Your business plan is a living guide to ensure your business stays on course.

Related: 14 of the top reasons why you need a business plan

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What research shows about business plans

Numerous studies have established that planning improves business performance:

  • 71% of fast-growing companies have business plans that include budgets, sales goals, and marketing and sales strategies.
  • Companies that clearly define their value proposition are more successful than those that can’t.
  • Companies or startups with a business plan are more likely to get funding than those without one.
  • Starting the business planning process before investing in marketing reduces the likelihood of business failure.

The planning process significantly impacts business growth for existing companies and startups alike.

Read More: Research-backed reasons why writing a business plan matters

When should you write a business plan?

No two business plans are alike. 

Yet there are similar questions for anyone considering writing a plan to answer. One basic but important question is when to start writing it.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the ideal time to write a business plan is between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start a business. 

But the reality can be more nuanced – it depends on the stage a business is in, or the type of business plan being written.

Ideal times to write a business plan include:

  • When you have an idea for a business
  • When you’re starting a business
  • When you’re preparing to buy (or sell)
  • When you’re trying to get funding
  • When business conditions change
  • When you’re growing or scaling your business

Read More: The best times to write or update your business plan

How often should you update your business plan?

As is often the case, how often a business plan should be updated depends on your circumstances.

A business plan isn’t a homework assignment to complete and forget about. At the same time, no one wants to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of day-to-day goals. 

But it should cover new opportunities and threats that a business owner surfaces, and incorporate feedback they get from customers. So it can’t be a static document.

For an entrepreneur at the ideation stage, writing and checking back on their business plan will help them determine if they can turn that idea into a profitable business .

And for owners of up-and-running businesses, updating the plan (or rewriting it) will help them respond to market shifts they wouldn’t be prepared for otherwise. 

It also lets them compare their forecasts and budgets to actual financial results. This invaluable process surfaces where a business might be out-performing expectations and where weak performance may require a prompt strategy change. 

The planning process is what uncovers those insights.

Related Reading: 10 prompts to help you write a business plan with AI

  • How long should your business plan be?

Thinking about a business plan strictly in terms of page length can risk overlooking more important factors, like the level of detail or clarity in the plan. 

Not all of the plan consists of writing – there are also financial tables, graphs, and product illustrations to include.

But there are a few general rules to consider about a plan’s length:

  • Your business plan shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to skim.
  • Business plans for internal use (not for a bank loan or outside investment) can be as short as 5 to 10 pages.

A good practice is to write your business plan to match the expectations of your audience. 

If you’re walking into a bank looking for a loan, your plan should match the formal, professional style that a loan officer would expect . But if you’re writing it for stakeholders on your own team—shorter and less formal (even just a few pages) could be the better way to go.

The length of your plan may also depend on the stage your business is in. 

For instance, a startup plan won’t have nearly as much financial information to include as a plan written for an established company will.

Read More: How long should your business plan be?  

What information is included in a business plan?

The contents of a plan business plan will vary depending on the industry the business is in. 

After all, someone opening a new restaurant will have different customers, inventory needs, and marketing tactics to consider than someone bringing a new medical device to the market. 

But there are some common elements that most business plans include:

  • Executive summary: An overview of the business operation, strategy, and goals. The executive summary should be written last, despite being the first thing anyone will read.
  • Products and services: A description of the solution that a business is bringing to the market, emphasizing how it solves the problem customers are facing.
  • Market analysis: An examination of the demographic and psychographic attributes of likely customers, resulting in the profile of an ideal customer for the business.
  • Competitive analysis: Documenting the competitors a business will face in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses relative to those competitors.
  • Marketing and sales plan: Summarizing a business’s tactics to position their product or service favorably in the market, attract customers, and generate revenue.
  • Operational plan: Detailing the requirements to run the business day-to-day, including staffing, equipment, inventory, and facility needs.
  • Organization and management structure: A listing of the departments and position breakdown of the business, as well as descriptions of the backgrounds and qualifications of the leadership team.
  • Key milestones: Laying out the key dates that a business is projected to reach certain milestones , such as revenue, break-even, or customer acquisition goals.
  • Financial plan: Balance sheets, cash flow forecast , and sales and expense forecasts with forward-looking financial projections, listing assumptions and potential risks that could affect the accuracy of the plan.
  • Appendix: All of the supporting information that doesn’t fit into specific sections of the business plan, such as data and charts.

Read More: Use this business plan outline to organize your plan

  • Different types of business plans

A business plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. There are numerous ways to create an effective business plan that fits entrepreneurs’ or established business owners’ needs. 

Here are a few of the most common types of business plans for small businesses:

  • One-page plan : Outlining all of the most important information about a business into an adaptable one-page plan.
  • Growth plan : An ongoing business management plan that ensures business tactics and strategies are aligned as a business scales up.
  • Internal plan : A shorter version of a full business plan to be shared with internal stakeholders – ideal for established companies considering strategic shifts.

Business plan vs. operational plan vs. strategic plan

  • What questions are you trying to answer? 
  • Are you trying to lay out a plan for the actual running of your business?
  • Is your focus on how you will meet short or long-term goals? 

Since your objective will ultimately inform your plan, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start writing.

While a business plan provides the foundation for a business, other types of plans support this guiding document.

An operational plan sets short-term goals for the business by laying out where it plans to focus energy and investments and when it plans to hit key milestones.

Then there is the strategic plan , which examines longer-range opportunities for the business, and how to meet those larger goals over time.

Read More: How to use a business plan for strategic development and operations

  • Business plan vs. business model

If a business plan describes the tactics an entrepreneur will use to succeed in the market, then the business model represents how they will make money. 

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s important. 

Think of a business plan as the roadmap for how to exploit market opportunities and reach a state of sustainable growth. By contrast, the business model lays out how a business will operate and what it will look like once it has reached that growth phase.

Learn More: The differences between a business model and business plan

  • Moving from idea to business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, the next step is to start writing your business plan . 

If you’re stuck, start with a one-page business plan and check out our collection of over 550 business plan examples for inspiration. They’re broken out over dozens of industries—you can even copy and paste sections into your plan and rewrite them with information specific to your business.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

what should be included in business plan

Table of Contents

  • Reasons to write a business plan
  • Business planning research
  • When to write a business plan
  • When to update a business plan
  • Information to include
  • Business vs. operational vs. strategic plans

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What to Include in Your Business Plan Here's what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and what it should look like.

By The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. • Dec 9, 2014

In their book Write Your Business Plan , the staff of Entrepreneur Media offer an in-depth understanding of what's essential to any business plan, what's appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors briefly describe just what your business plan should contain, how long it should be and how to know if it's time to write it.

A business plan is a written description of the future of your business. It's a document that tells the story of what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

But there are some generally accepted conventions about what a full-blown business plan should include and how it should be presented. A plan should cover all the important matters that will contribute to making your business a success. These include the following:

1. Your basic business concept. This is where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.

2. Your strategy and the specific actions you plan to take to implement it. What goals do you have for your business? When and how will you reach your goals?

3. Your products and services and their competitive advantages. Here's your chance to dazzle the readers with good, solid information about your products or services and why customers will want to purchase your products and services and not those of your competitors.

4. The markets you'll pursue. Now you have to lay out your marketing plan. Who will your customers be? What is your demographic audience? How will you attract and retain enough customers to make a profit? What methods will you use to capture your audience? What sets your business apart from the competition?

5. The background of your management team and key employees. Having information about key personnel is an important but often misrepresented portion of a business plan. It's not a long and detailed biography of each person involved but an accurate account of what they've done and what they bring to the table for this specific business opportunity.

6. Your financing needs. These will be based on your projected financial statements. These statements provide a model of how your ideas about the company, its markets and its strategies will play out.

As you write your business plan, stick to facts instead of feelings, projections instead of hopes, and realistic expectations of profit instead of unrealistic dreams of wealth. Facts—checkable, demonstrable facts—will invest your plan with the most important component of all: credibility.

How long should your plan be?

A useful business plan can be any length, from that scrawl on the back of an envelope to more than 100 pages for an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise. A typical business plan runs 15 to 25 pages.

Miniplans of five to 10 pages are the popular concise models that may stand on their own for smaller businesses. Larger businesses seeking major funding will often have miniplans as well, but the full business plan will be waiting in the wings. It's to your advantage to run long when creating your plan, then narrow it down for presentation purposes.

The size of the plan will also depend on the nature of your business and your reason for writing it. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you're looking for millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you'll usually (although not always) have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you already have relationships with potential investors, they may simply want a miniplan. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version may suffice.

Many business plan presentations are made with PowerPoint decks, using 10 to 12 slides to tell your story. That's a great starting point, but you should have at least a miniplan available, especially if you're seeking millions of dollars.

When should you write it?

Still not sure if it's time to write a business plan? Here are a few clues that it's time to start writing:

  • A business plan is a good way to explore the feasibility of a new business without actually having to start it and run it. A good plan can help you see serious flaws in your business concept. You may uncover tough competition when researching the market section, or you may find that your financial projections simply aren't realistic.
  • Any venture that faces major changes (and that means almost all businesses) needs a business plan. If the demographics of your market are rapidly changing, strong new competitive products challenge your profitability, you expect your business to grow or shrink dramatically, or the economic climate is improving or slipping rapidly, you'll need a business plan. This will allow you to make changes accordingly.
  • If you're contemplating buying or selling a business, your business plan can provide you with a handy tool to establish a value—and to support that value if challenged.
  • You'll need a business plan if you're seeking financing. Your business plan is the backbone of your financing proposal. Bankers, venture capitalists and other financiers rarely provide money without seeing a plan. Less sophisticated investors or friends and family may not require a business plan, but they deserve one. Even if you're funding the business with your own savings, you owe it to yourself to plan how you'll expend the resources you're committing.

Entrepreneur Staff

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12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)

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Starting and running a successful business requires proper planning and execution of effective business tactics and strategies .

You need to prepare many essential business documents when starting a business for maximum success; the business plan is one such document.

When creating a business, you want to achieve business objectives and financial goals like productivity, profitability, and business growth. You need an effective business plan to help you get to your desired business destination.

Even if you are already running a business, the proper understanding and review of the key elements of a business plan help you navigate potential crises and obstacles.

This article will teach you why the business document is at the core of any successful business and its key elements you can not avoid.

Let’s get started.

Why Are Business Plans Important?

Business plans are practical steps or guidelines that usually outline what companies need to do to reach their goals. They are essential documents for any business wanting to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive business environment .

1. Proves Your Business Viability

A business plan gives companies an idea of how viable they are and what actions they need to take to grow and reach their financial targets. With a well-written and clearly defined business plan, your business is better positioned to meet its goals.

2. Guides You Throughout the Business Cycle

A business plan is not just important at the start of a business. As a business owner, you must draw up a business plan to remain relevant throughout the business cycle .

During the starting phase of your business, a business plan helps bring your ideas into reality. A solid business plan can secure funding from lenders and investors.

After successfully setting up your business, the next phase is management. Your business plan still has a role to play in this phase, as it assists in communicating your business vision to employees and external partners.

Essentially, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the needs of your business.

3. Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

As a business owner, you are involved in an endless decision-making cycle. Your business plan helps you find answers to your most crucial business decisions.

A robust business plan helps you settle your major business components before you launch your product, such as your marketing and sales strategy and competitive advantage.

4. Eliminates Big Mistakes

Many small businesses fail within their first five years for several reasons: lack of financing, stiff competition, low market need, inadequate teams, and inefficient pricing strategy.

Creating an effective plan helps you eliminate these big mistakes that lead to businesses' decline. Every business plan element is crucial for helping you avoid potential mistakes before they happen.

5. Secures Financing and Attracts Top Talents

Having an effective plan increases your chances of securing business loans. One of the essential requirements many lenders ask for to grant your loan request is your business plan.

A business plan helps investors feel confident that your business can attract a significant return on investments ( ROI ).

You can attract and retain top-quality talents with a clear business plan. It inspires your employees and keeps them aligned to achieve your strategic business goals.

Key Elements of Business Plan

Starting and running a successful business requires well-laid actions and supporting documents that better position a company to achieve its business goals and maximize success.

A business plan is a written document with relevant information detailing business objectives and how it intends to achieve its goals.

With an effective business plan, investors, lenders, and potential partners understand your organizational structure and goals, usually around profitability, productivity, and growth.

Every successful business plan is made up of key components that help solidify the efficacy of the business plan in delivering on what it was created to do.

Here are some of the components of an effective business plan.

1. Executive Summary

One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

In the overall business plan document, the executive summary should be at the forefront of the business plan. It helps set the tone for readers on what to expect from the business plan.

A well-written executive summary includes all vital information about the organization's operations, making it easy for a reader to understand.

The key points that need to be acted upon are highlighted in the executive summary. They should be well spelled out to make decisions easy for the management team.

A good and compelling executive summary points out a company's mission statement and a brief description of its products and services.

Executive Summary of the Business Plan

An executive summary summarizes a business's expected value proposition to distinct customer segments. It highlights the other key elements to be discussed during the rest of the business plan.

Including your prior experiences as an entrepreneur is a good idea in drawing up an executive summary for your business. A brief but detailed explanation of why you decided to start the business in the first place is essential.

Adding your company's mission statement in your executive summary cannot be overemphasized. It creates a culture that defines how employees and all individuals associated with your company abide when carrying out its related processes and operations.

Your executive summary should be brief and detailed to catch readers' attention and encourage them to learn more about your company.

Components of an Executive Summary

Here are some of the information that makes up an executive summary:

  • The name and location of your company
  • Products and services offered by your company
  • Mission and vision statements
  • Success factors of your business plan

2. Business Description

Your business description needs to be exciting and captivating as it is the formal introduction a reader gets about your company.

What your company aims to provide, its products and services, goals and objectives, target audience , and potential customers it plans to serve need to be highlighted in your business description.

A company description helps point out notable qualities that make your company stand out from other businesses in the industry. It details its unique strengths and the competitive advantages that give it an edge to succeed over its direct and indirect competitors.

Spell out how your business aims to deliver on the particular needs and wants of identified customers in your company description, as well as the particular industry and target market of the particular focus of the company.

Include trends and significant competitors within your particular industry in your company description. Your business description should contain what sets your company apart from other businesses and provides it with the needed competitive advantage.

In essence, if there is any area in your business plan where you need to brag about your business, your company description provides that unique opportunity as readers look to get a high-level overview.

Components of a Business Description

Your business description needs to contain these categories of information.

  • Business location
  • The legal structure of your business
  • Summary of your business’s short and long-term goals

3. Market Analysis

The market analysis section should be solely based on analytical research as it details trends particular to the market you want to penetrate.

Graphs, spreadsheets, and histograms are handy data and statistical tools you need to utilize in your market analysis. They make it easy to understand the relationship between your current ideas and the future goals you have for the business.

All details about the target customers you plan to sell products or services should be in the market analysis section. It helps readers with a helpful overview of the market.

In your market analysis, you provide the needed data and statistics about industry and market share, the identified strengths in your company description, and compare them against other businesses in the same industry.

The market analysis section aims to define your target audience and estimate how your product or service would fare with these identified audiences.

Components of Market Analysis

Market analysis helps visualize a target market by researching and identifying the primary target audience of your company and detailing steps and plans based on your audience location.

Obtaining this information through market research is essential as it helps shape how your business achieves its short-term and long-term goals.

Market Analysis Factors

Here are some of the factors to be included in your market analysis.

  • The geographical location of your target market
  • Needs of your target market and how your products and services can meet those needs
  • Demographics of your target audience

Components of the Market Analysis Section

Here is some of the information to be included in your market analysis.

  • Industry description and statistics
  • Demographics and profile of target customers
  • Marketing data for your products and services
  • Detailed evaluation of your competitors

4. Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines how your business aims to reach its target customers, generate sales leads, and, ultimately, make sales.

Promotion is at the center of any successful marketing plan. It is a series of steps to pitch a product or service to a larger audience to generate engagement. Note that the marketing strategy for a business should not be stagnant and must evolve depending on its outcome.

Include the budgetary requirement for successfully implementing your marketing plan in this section to make it easy for readers to measure your marketing plan's impact in terms of numbers.

The information to include in your marketing plan includes marketing and promotion strategies, pricing plans and strategies , and sales proposals. You need to include how you intend to get customers to return and make repeat purchases in your business plan.

Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

5. Sales Strategy

Sales strategy defines how you intend to get your product or service to your target customers and works hand in hand with your business marketing strategy.

Your sales strategy approach should not be complex. Break it down into simple and understandable steps to promote your product or service to target customers.

Apart from the steps to promote your product or service, define the budget you need to implement your sales strategies and the number of sales reps needed to help the business assist in direct sales.

Your sales strategy should be specific on what you need and how you intend to deliver on your sales targets, where numbers are reflected to make it easier for readers to understand and relate better.

Sales Strategy

6. Competitive Analysis

Providing transparent and honest information, even with direct and indirect competitors, defines a good business plan. Provide the reader with a clear picture of your rank against major competitors.

Identifying your competitors' weaknesses and strengths is useful in drawing up a market analysis. It is one information investors look out for when assessing business plans.

Competitive Analysis Framework

The competitive analysis section clearly defines the notable differences between your company and your competitors as measured against their strengths and weaknesses.

This section should define the following:

  • Your competitors' identified advantages in the market
  • How do you plan to set up your company to challenge your competitors’ advantage and gain grounds from them?
  • The standout qualities that distinguish you from other companies
  • Potential bottlenecks you have identified that have plagued competitors in the same industry and how you intend to overcome these bottlenecks

In your business plan, you need to prove your industry knowledge to anyone who reads your business plan. The competitive analysis section is designed for that purpose.

7. Management and Organization

Management and organization are key components of a business plan. They define its structure and how it is positioned to run.

Whether you intend to run a sole proprietorship, general or limited partnership, or corporation, the legal structure of your business needs to be clearly defined in your business plan.

Use an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of operations of your company and spells out separate departments and their roles and functions in this business plan section.

The management and organization section includes profiles of advisors, board of directors, and executive team members and their roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing the company's success.

Apparent factors that influence your company's corporate culture, such as human resources requirements and legal structure, should be well defined in the management and organization section.

Defining the business's chain of command if you are not a sole proprietor is necessary. It leaves room for little or no confusion about who is in charge or responsible during business operations.

This section provides relevant information on how the management team intends to help employees maximize their strengths and address their identified weaknesses to help all quarters improve for the business's success.

8. Products and Services

This business plan section describes what a company has to offer regarding products and services to the maximum benefit and satisfaction of its target market.

Boldly spell out pending patents or copyright products and intellectual property in this section alongside costs, expected sales revenue, research and development, and competitors' advantage as an overview.

At this stage of your business plan, the reader needs to know what your business plans to produce and sell and the benefits these products offer in meeting customers' needs.

The supply network of your business product, production costs, and how you intend to sell the products are crucial components of the products and services section.

Investors are always keen on this information to help them reach a balanced assessment of if investing in your business is risky or offer benefits to them.

You need to create a link in this section on how your products or services are designed to meet the market's needs and how you intend to keep those customers and carve out a market share for your company.

Repeat purchases are the backing that a successful business relies on and measure how much customers are into what your company is offering.

This section is more like an expansion of the executive summary section. You need to analyze each product or service under the business.

9. Operating Plan

An operations plan describes how you plan to carry out your business operations and processes.

The operating plan for your business should include:

  • Information about how your company plans to carry out its operations.
  • The base location from which your company intends to operate.
  • The number of employees to be utilized and other information about your company's operations.
  • Key business processes.

This section should highlight how your organization is set up to run. You can also introduce your company's management team in this section, alongside their skills, roles, and responsibilities in the company.

The best way to introduce the company team is by drawing up an organizational chart that effectively maps out an organization's rank and chain of command.

What should be spelled out to readers when they come across this business plan section is how the business plans to operate day-in and day-out successfully.

10. Financial Projections and Assumptions

Bringing your great business ideas into reality is why business plans are important. They help create a sustainable and viable business.

The financial section of your business plan offers significant value. A business uses a financial plan to solve all its financial concerns, which usually involves startup costs, labor expenses, financial projections, and funding and investor pitches.

All key assumptions about the business finances need to be listed alongside the business financial projection, and changes to be made on the assumptions side until it balances with the projection for the business.

The financial plan should also include how the business plans to generate income and the capital expenditure budgets that tend to eat into the budget to arrive at an accurate cash flow projection for the business.

Base your financial goals and expectations on extensive market research backed with relevant financial statements for the relevant period.

Examples of financial statements you can include in the financial projections and assumptions section of your business plan include:

  • Projected income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Income statements

Revealing the financial goals and potentials of the business is what the financial projection and assumption section of your business plan is all about. It needs to be purely based on facts that can be measurable and attainable.

11. Request For Funding

The request for funding section focuses on the amount of money needed to set up your business and underlying plans for raising the money required. This section includes plans for utilizing the funds for your business's operational and manufacturing processes.

When seeking funding, a reasonable timeline is required alongside it. If the need arises for additional funding to complete other business-related projects, you are not left scampering and desperate for funds.

If you do not have the funds to start up your business, then you should devote a whole section of your business plan to explaining the amount of money you need and how you plan to utilize every penny of the funds. You need to explain it in detail for a future funding request.

When an investor picks up your business plan to analyze it, with all your plans for the funds well spelled out, they are motivated to invest as they have gotten a backing guarantee from your funding request section.

Include timelines and plans for how you intend to repay the loans received in your funding request section. This addition keeps investors assured that they could recoup their investment in the business.

12. Exhibits and Appendices

Exhibits and appendices comprise the final section of your business plan and contain all supporting documents for other sections of the business plan.

Some of the documents that comprise the exhibits and appendices section includes:

  • Legal documents
  • Licenses and permits
  • Credit histories
  • Customer lists

The choice of what additional document to include in your business plan to support your statements depends mainly on the intended audience of your business plan. Hence, it is better to play it safe and not leave anything out when drawing up the appendix and exhibit section.

Supporting documentation is particularly helpful when you need funding or support for your business. This section provides investors with a clearer understanding of the research that backs the claims made in your business plan.

There are key points to include in the appendix and exhibits section of your business plan.

  • The management team and other stakeholders resume
  • Marketing research
  • Permits and relevant legal documents
  • Financial documents

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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

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Strategizing     Logan    March 5, 2019     6 min read

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

Every business needs to have a business plan, no matter the size. The main reason so many startups don’t survive past the first five years is because they didn’t set a strong business plan. You may have a great business idea, but then after setting out a plan and crunching the numbers, you find out it’s not such a great idea.

Your business plan is the roadmap for your business; it’ll contain future milestones, your budget and finances, marketing and sales strategy, and will help you overcome future obstacles. Whether your business plan is for bankers, venture capitalists, or just your employees, there are main elements set by the Small Business Administration ( www.sba.gov ) that should be included in every business plan.

What Are the Elements of a Business Plan?

  • The Executive Summary This is the first section of the business plan. It can be from 1 to 5 pages. It serves as the table of content for your plan.
  • Company Profile In this section, you explain what your business is, what your goals are, your vision, and mission, why you’re special and unique. Some companies mention the management and team members with short descriptions.
  • Market Analysis Before starting a business, you need to learn about the market. Study your competitors. Find out their profit range, what they’re known for, and what technologies are used in the industry. Every detail matters and can give you an advantage in your business.
  • Product/ Service Explain your products, different types or packages, your selling points, and answer all the questions a customer/ investor may have. Whoever reads your business plan should fully understand what you’re offering.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy The best product in the world wouldn’t sell if it has a poor marketing plan. Get into detail with how you’ll advertise your product. Detail your target audience, prices, and any promotional discounts.
  • Funding This is the most important section in your plan because it states your initial budget, the funds you’ll need for the next five years, what you plan on doing with the funds, the creditors’ or investors’ return, and all business expenses such as salaries and equipment.
  • Financial Forecast If you’re using your business plan for a loan or funds, you need to have the documents to back up your claim. You need to include all your financial statements and balance sheets, and any sources of income from the past few years.
  • Business Overview Give a general overview of your business with info like the legal structure, operations plan, business address , whether it’s an online or physical business, number of employees, specific roles, etc.

What Are the Aspects of a Successful Business Plan?

Now that we’ve stated the main elements that should be included in a business plan, let’s get to the points you should focus on to create a successful business plan and not just a boring, lengthy one.

Use a Template or Hire Someone with Experience

You can write your business plan yourself, but with all the elements that need to be added, it can get complicated. If your business plan is short, then you might not need a template. If your plan is lengthy, you can find templates with a prepared structure online. In order to have a professional, well-written business plan, you can look into hiring someone with experience to get the job done. They would be able to better structure your plan and add charts and graphs when needed.

Do Your Research

Before jumping into writing your business plan, you need to ensure you’ve done an efficient amount of research. It’s your responsibility to have the answers to the questions that creditors or investors would ask. Whether it’s researching the market, competitors, or the industry, you need to know every small detail that can be an advantage or disadvantage to your business.

Define the Purpose of Your Business Plan

Your business plan will be your guide throughout the years, working as your roadmap, but you need to define why you’re creating it from the start. For example, are you making a plan for personal needs, as a guide for your employees, or are you planning on using it for investors and funding? If for funding, you’ll need to be very precise and clear with your targets and overall writing.

A Modified Business Plan

Your business plan is going to be read by various types of people from bankers, investors, and venture capitalists, to employees and yourself. Each audience type has certain points they’re looking for in your plan and you need to address those points accordingly. Make sure your plan can easily be modified according to your target audience. For example, banks would focus on balance sheets and statements while your employees will be focused on business goals or market research. You need to be able to make small alterations to serve different purposes.

Don’t Make It Too Long

The truth is no one is actually going to read your whole business plan. An executive summary is important so readers can easily find the sections they need. A typical business plan usually ranges from 20 to 50 pages. For example, venture capitalists are usually time restricted, so they’d want to find things like the financial forecast and investors’ return quickly. Knowing this, you should place this information in the beginning.

Regularly Update Your Business Plan

Your business plan needs to be updated as your business evolves and grows. Not all the sections will need updating, but the objectives set at the start of your business will change and your financial records will need to be up-to-date, especially if you’re still looking for funding. As mentioned before, your business plan is your roadmap, so don’t neglect it down the line.

Stand Out, but Don’t Overdo It

Your business plan is mostly stating the facts about your business but you need to capture the reader’s attention, mention why you’re different from your competitors, what makes you better. But sometimes businesses tend to oversell themselves, explain your passion, how much you care for your business, and the problems you want to solve but without unnecessary exaggeration.

Don’t Undersell Your Competitors

Every business has competitors and you need to clearly acknowledge these competitors in your business plan. Some startups think that not mentioning their competitors or underselling them helps their case, when in fact, it does the complete opposite.

You need to highlight what your competitors are good at, and state how you can do better. This will give you an edge with investors. Never talk bad about competitors or imply they’re not worthy of mentioning, this will lessen your credibility and make you look unprofessional.

Set Long-term and Short-term Goals

Every business plan should include five-year goals, but most importantly, it should include short-term goals such as annual and quarterly goals. It’s great to know where you want your business to be in the future, but investors need to know you have a clear plan to get there.

Back Up Your Plan with Documents, Charts, or Graphs

A business plan shouldn’t just be blocks of text; you need to make your plan appealing by adding images, charts, or graphs whenever possible. It won’t only improve your overall design; it can simplify and explain complicated sections. In order to strengthen your plan, you need to add supporting documents like articles about your business, financial statements, or contracts.

These were 10 important aspects that will help you create a successful and polished business plan. A great business plan from the start can change the trajectory of your whole business so giving it the right amount of work, focus, and dedication is vital for your business.

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Logan is a passionate content creator, specializing in the business solutions sector. He loves to share his experience about technology, startups, entrepreneurs, and business-related updates.

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How to Create a Business Plan Timeline

business timeline

Below you will learn what a business plan timeline is and where it belongs in your business plan.  

What is a Business Plan Timeline?

A business plan timeline lays out the key milestones you hope to achieve in your business and when you plan to accomplish them.   

The Importance of a Timeline

In running a business, it is very easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities and putting out fires. When you do this, unfortunately, it’s hard to grow your business. Having a timeline that lists your key goals forces you to spend time each day, week, and month to work on key growth initiatives.

Also, if you are seeking funding, investors and lenders need to understand these milestones and your projected dates for accomplishing them. This helps give them confidence that you will successfully execute your plan. 

Also, having a timeline helps you better prioritize your time and hire the right people at the right time.

    Finish Your Business Plan Today!

Where does the timeline go in the business plan.

The timeline belongs primarily in the Operations Plan of your business plan, however, you may include some highlights within the Executive Summary as well. 

Using the established key milestones you have created, you will now assign a timeframe to those milestones to show when you expect to reach each milestone. Remember, use historical data and be realistic in your timeline so that you can meet these goals.  

What Should Be Included in the Timeline?

Your business is currently at point A. Where you want to go is to point B. Now getting from point A to point B requires you to complete milestones.

And the most important ones are what I call “risk-mitigating milestones.” These are the milestones that help eliminate the risk of your company failing.

Some examples of “risk mitigating milestones” may include:

  • Finding a location for your business, store, warehouse, etc.
  • Getting the permits and licenses
  • Building the facility/store
  • Hiring and training staff
  • New products and services introductions
  • Store opening date
  • Key employee hires
  • Revenue milestones (date when sales exceed $X, when sales exceed $Y, etc.)
  • Key partnerships executed
  • Key customer contracts secured
  • Key financial events (future funding rounds, IPO, etc.)

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it is your job to identify your risk-mitigating milestones and prioritize them so that you can take steps each day toward the larger business goals.  

How to Create & Prioritize Your Milestone List

Create your detailed risk-mitigating milestone list first. The goal should be to list approximately six major milestones in the next year, five milestones in the following year, and so on for up to five years (so include two in year 5). 

You can use this as a “To Do” list and ensure you achieve your goals each day, week, and month, further developing your business strategy.

Next to each milestone, include the expected timeframe, due date, and the budget you will need to attain them. For example, you may want to launch a billboard marketing campaign over a 6-month period (Expected Due Date: 6/30/2022), and the expected cost is $18,000.

After you create your milestone list, you need to prioritize them. Decide on which milestones you should achieve with the initial funding if needed. Ideally, these will get you to the point where you are generating revenues or profits. This is because the ability to generate revenues significantly reduces the risk of your venture; as it proves to lenders and investors that customers want the products and/or services you are offering.

By setting up your milestones, you will figure out what you can accomplish for less money. And the fact is, the less money you need to raise, the easier it generally is to raise it (mainly because the easiest to raise money sources offer lower dollar amounts).  

How to Develop a Timeline For Your Business Plan

You’ve already completed the hard part. 

Now, it’s time to schedule your milestone list and convert it into a timeline format to give you a quick visual reference. Be sure that your timeline includes all the milestones that you’ve deemed a priority.

There are many businesses that prefer to develop Gantt charts, while others may prefer a calendar, Excel sheet, or another preferred format. Choose the format that works best for you.

There are several format options and platforms to choose from if you do a quick search for “ create a timeline online .” However, keep in mind that it’s not how pretty the timeline is, it’s about functionality and the ease of use to track the progress of all the tasks completed. 

Here are a couple of options:

quarterly roadmap timeline for business plan

Source: SlideTeam

This one-page timeline is a downloadable template that is clean and easy to read and follow. While it doesn’t have all the details on this one page, it has enough information to help business leaders understand if the team is on track.

5 year plan

Source: Office Timeline

This is a PowerPoint Presentation add-in that allows you to create a custom Gantt chart with your Microsoft Office account. While the chart above says a 5-year plan, note that they did not include the parts of the milestones beyond Year 1. This may be to reduce clutter and keep focused on the near-future goals. 

gantt chart

Source: GanttPro

This Gantt chart online platform offers another alternative allowing you to assign tasks to others on your team and monitor their progress all in one place. It also tracks the time to complete each task so that you can better schedule in the future for similar projects.

These are only a few of the platforms available online to create an amazing timeline for your business plan. In the beginning, it may be a lot of work to set up, but once you obtain the funding you are seeking, it’ll be well worth the time and effort.

By creating a timeline as early as possible in the business planning process, you can begin to establish realistic goals that can help improve day-to-day decision-making and boost confidence among current and potential stakeholders.

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide For Small Businesses

Gymnastics Business Plan Examples  

  • By webmaster
  • February 1, 2024

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Planning on opening a gymnastics club?  

Millions of kids and teens participate in gymnastics every year in the U.S. In 2021, there were close to  4.3 million school-aged gymnasts . Add in the little tumblers, and that number is even higher.  

If you are passionate about helping young people explore their talent on the uneven bars, the mat, and the balance beam, you’re almost certain to run a profitable gym. To be a sure success, however, you need one more thing: a gymnastics business plan.  

Your business plan is your roadmap that takes you from startup to stardom. It lays out everything from your marketing strategy to your operational plan.  

If you’ve never created a business plan before, or you just need a refresher, read on. This article covers what to include in your gymnastics business plan and provides examples for inspiration. 

Two people stand over business plans

What Are the Key Aspects of a Gymnastics Business Plan?  

A business plan details how you’ll build your business and ensure its success.  

It’s an internal document that you and your team will use to guide your actions and business decisions. But you might also share it with external stakeholders, such as:  

  • Lenders  
  • Investors  
  • Potential partners  

Your plan reveals the why, what, and how behind your gym. If it’s a strong plan, stakeholders will be more likely to back your business, either financially or with other types of support.  

So, what should it include?  

Here are the key sections you’ll cover in your plan:  

Executive Summary  

This section includes an overview of your plan. It also covers your mission statement and why you’re starting this business.  

Business Description  

Here’s where you outline the nuts and bolts of your gymnastic business.  

  • Business goals: Do you want to train kids with Olympic dreams? Is the plan to open up multiple gyms in the region? Are you a small studio specializing in making gymnastics fun for kids?  
  • Services: What gymnastics classes will you offer? Will you offer related classes, such as dance or acro?  
  • Target customer: What age? What skill level?  

You can also list any experience your team has. For instance, gymnastics training certifications or awards.  

Market Analysis  

This section details the pain points of your primary customer.  

For a gymnastics business, you’re thinking about the parents paying for your classes, as well as the kids who want to learn how to tumble.  

How will your business fulfill their needs? Is there a market in your area for the type of classes you plan to offer?  

Marketing and Sales Plan  

Detail your marketing strategies. What channels will you use to promote your gym? Will you have a website? What social media sites will you use? What about ads in local magazines?  

You should also explain your pricing plan. Your prices should be in line with your competitors’ prices. They should also account for the value your gym offers. For instance, if you have former gymnastics champions teaching your classes, you’d charge a higher price than a gym without experienced coaches.  

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS:   Ideas for Small Business Marketing   

Organizational Plan  

Here, you’ll list your legal structure. Are you an LLC? A corporation? A partnership?  

You’ll also detail your management structure. List your leadership team and their relevant qualifications.  

Operating Plan  

How do you plan to run your day-to-day operations? Include those details in this section. 

For your gymnastics business plan, answer the following:  

  • How many teachers will you hire?  
  • When will they work?  
  • Who will manage them?  
  • What other roles will you need, such as administration, maintenance, and marketing?  
  • What tools will you use to manage class sign-ups, scheduling, and billing?  

Financial Plan  

Your financial plan is critical. This is where you explain your costs for getting your business off the ground. You’ll explain what you need to be profitable now and in the future.   

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS:   How to Build a Business Budget: 6 Easy Steps   

Woman coaches female gymnast

The Importance of Financial Planning for a Gymnastics Business  

Financial planning is where you figure out how to turn a profit.  

The reality is that being an excellent gymnastics coach doesn’t mean you know how to make your studio profitable. And if you can’t make a profit, you can’t stay in business.  

But with good planning, you can prepare for the ups and downs of running a business. Draw upon resources for business owners, including financial experts and management software, to help you stay on track financially.  

Here are five financial planning steps you should include in your business plan.  

Startup Costs  

How much will it cost you to open your gym? Include rent, new equipment purchases, labor, and marketing.  

Operational Costs  

What are your monthly expenses? Add up fixed and variable costs. 

When you know the monthly costs to run your gym, you can find your break-even point. That’s how much monthly revenue you need to generate to cover expenses. Anything above that point is profit.  

Funding Options  

How will you fund your business until it’s profitable? You can take out a business loan. 

The  Small Business Administration  helps small businesses access the funding they need, making it a good place to start. You can also check crowdfunding sites like EquityNet or Fundable .  

There are also traditional investors, grants, and any extra cash you may have in your personal savings. 

Emergency Savings  

Almost half  of small businesses reported cash flow issues last year. In this industry, market fluctuations are the norm. 

Summer slowdowns, changing trends, new competition—all of these factors can lead to fewer gymnastics students signing up for your classes. This means less revenue without lower costs.  

How will you manage until business picks up again? You need an emergency fund. 

Decide how much your gym needs to put away for a rainy day. Outline your plan to save that amount and where you’ll store it. 

For instance, you might keep this money in a high-interest savings account so you can access it if you need it. At the same time, it can earn interest and grow.  

Growth Milestones  

What are your plans for growth? Use your business plan to outline where you expect your company to be after one year, three years, and even five years.  

These growth milestones will help your business stay on track financially. It also helps you focus on the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down with day-to-day financial matters.  

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS:   7 Budgeting Tips to Make This the Best Year for Your Business  

Woman coaches male gymnast

Operational Strategies and Management for a Gymnastics Business Plan  

Your operational and management strategies are two other business plan sections worth further exploration. 

These sections define how you’ll function. They detail what tools and solutions you’ll use to ensure your business runs well so you have happy employees, stellar gymnastics classes, and a gym your students love coming to.  

Here are four ways you can optimize your operational and management strategy.  

Define the Scope of Each Position.  

Your coaches, support personnel, and other team members need a list of responsibilities and performance goals. Otherwise, you’ll run into issues with inconsistent processes and people not knowing how to do their job well.  

Set Up Clear Communication Channels and Processes.  

Everyone should know who to contact if they have questions or concerns. There should be a clear process for HR issues, coaching-related questions, and business-related questions. Also, create an online document system so your team can access the information they need anytime.  

Offer Ongoing Training.  

Consider supporting your staff in certifying for safety and gymnastics instruction.  USA Gymnastics  offers certification courses for competitive coaches. There are also online gymnastics coaching classes.  

You can count on a better student experience and a more professional team by ensuring your coaching staff is well-trained.  

Streamline Management and Billing with Software. 

With today’s technology, you can streamline many administrative tasks.  

Scheduling classes, sending emails, billing for classes—gymnastics management software can keep all these aspects of management under one system. It can also automate mundane tasks, helping your staff save time and minimizing errors. So, you’ll want to include plans for using software in your operational plan.  

FROM ONE OF OUR PARTNERS:   A 5-Step Guide to Annual Planning for Your Business   

Gymnastics Business Plan Examples to Reference  

Still not sure what your gymnastics business plan should look like? Here are two examples to help inspire you.  

Example Business Plan: Jenny’s Gymnastics  

Executive Summary: Our mission is to teach kids the fundamentals and high-level gymnastics skills so they can pursue their dreams.  

Business Description: Jenny’s Gymnastics aims to inspire kids of all ages to strive for their best in the sport. We’re staffed by certified coaches and offer gymnastics classes to students aged 6 to 18.  

Market Analysis: Jenny’s Gymnastics serves the Raleigh-Durham area, where approximately 5,000 to 6,000 gymnasts participate in clubs yearly. Our gym focuses on classes for serious students. We also have some of the most experienced coaches in the area.  

Marketing and Sales Plan: We have an active presence on Instagram and Facebook. Over half of the parents who enroll their kids use one of these platforms. We also have a monthly advertisement in the Raleigh Times newspaper.  

Operating Plan: Jenny’s Gymnastics has a team of seven highly trained coaches. Each coach teaches between two and three classes, allowing us to teach over 400 students each week. We use management software to streamline class management, billing, and communications.  

Financial Plan: With 120 class enrollments per week, Jenny’s Gymnastics is able to generate a profit. Our goal is to reach at least 150 enrollments per week after six months. By 2030, we plan to have an average enrollment of 300 students weekly.  

Example Business Plan: Tumbling Tots  

Executive Summary: Tumbling Tots is dedicated to helping toddlers and pre-school-aged children learn the joy of gymnastics through fun, engaging classes.  

Business Description: Tumbling Tots offers beginner gymnastics classes to young children up to age 6. By focusing on the younger demographic, we can fill a gap in our region, where most gyms target older students.  

Marketing and Sales Plan: We’re planning an aggressive online marketing campaign with a website, content marketing to educate parents on the benefits of starting gymnastics lessons early, and social media.  

Organizational Structure: We’re an LLC headed by Kennedy Star, a former national gymnastics champion. Everyone on our leadership team has at least five years of management experience. We hope to use that knowledge to expand quickly, with the goal of opening a second location in quarter four of next year.  

Top Tips for Creating a Gymnastics Business Plan  

Ready to start building a plan for your gymnastics business? Here are three tips to help you put your plan into action:  

Scout Out Available Locations.   

If you don’t already have a space, start looking. Check out leasing costs, too. That way, you can get an idea of how much renting a studio for your classes will cost.  

Research Your Market.   

Explore other gyms in the area. What classes do they offer? What are their prices? How experienced are their coaches? And how can you set your gymnastics business apart?  

Choose a Gymnastics Management Software.   

This tool will serve as the hub for your operations. Start the process of deciding on software now. That way, you’ll have all the tools in place for everything from class registrations to payments. 

Discover How Our Software

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AT&T notifies users of data breach and resets millions of passcodes

FILE - An AT&T sign is seen at a store in Pittsburgh, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. AT&T said, Saturday, March 30, 2024, it has begun notifying millions of customers about the theft of personal data recently discovered online. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - An AT&T sign is seen at a store in Pittsburgh, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. AT&T said, Saturday, March 30, 2024, it has begun notifying millions of customers about the theft of personal data recently discovered online. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

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AT&T said it has begun notifying millions of customers about the theft of personal data recently discovered online.

The telecommunications giant said Saturday that a dataset found on the “dark web” contains information such as Social Security numbers for about 7.6 million current AT&T account holders and 65.4 million former account holders.

The company said it has already reset the passcodes of current users and will be communicating with account holders whose sensitive personal information was compromised.

It is not known if the data “originated from AT&T or one of its vendors,” the company said in a statement. The compromised data is from 2019 or earlier and does not appear to include financial information or call history, it said. In addition to passcodes and Social Security numbers, it may include email and mailing addresses, phone numbers and birth dates.

While the data surfaced on a hacking forum nearly two weeks ago, it closely resembles a similar data breach that surfaced in 2021 but which AT&T never acknowledged, said cybersecurity researcher Troy Hunt .

“If they assess this and they made the wrong call on it, and we’ve had a course of years pass without them being able to notify impacted customers,” then it’s likely the company will soon face class action lawsuits, said Hunt, founder of an Australia-based website for warning people when their personal information has been exposed.

(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

An AT&T spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for comment Saturday.

It is not the first crisis this year for the Dallas-based company. An outage in February temporarily knocked out cellphone service for thousands of U.S. users. AT&T at the time blamed the incident on a technical coding error, not a malicious attack.

what should be included in business plan

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  • The best retirement plans for individuals
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  • Best retirement plans for self-employed individuals and small businesses
  • Which retirement plan is best for you?
  • Why You Should Trust Us

Best Retirement Plans in April 2024

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The best retirement plan depends on your situation. You'll probably qualify for multiple retirement savings vehicles if you have taxable income or work for an employer. And even if you don't work, you'll still have options.

You can set up most retirement accounts through employers, but you'll also be able to open and manage your retirement accounts.

Best Retirement Plans

The primary types of retirement accounts are:

  • Traditional IRAs : a tax-advantaged savings account that lets your funds grow tax-deferred
  • Roth IRAs : a tax-advantaged savings account of after-tax funds (money that you've already paid taxes on)
  • Spousal IRAs: spouses earning a low (or no) annual income may open a separate IRA in their spouse's name 
  • Rollover IRAs: funds moved over from a former employer 401(k) plan into an IRA
  • 401(k) plans : traditional or Roth, typically offered by for-profit employers
  • 403(b) plans : available to most non-profit employees
  • 457(b) plans: reserved for government employees
  • Thrift savings plans : reserved for government employees

what should be included in business plan

Additional individual retirement accounts include nondeductible IRAs or self-directed IRAs (more on that below). Investors also have the option to invest in precious metals with gold IRAs and silver IRAs. The best gold IRAs offer liquidity, low spread fees, account flexibility, low account minimums, and human advisor access. 

You can't use the traditional 401(k) account if you're self-employed. Instead, you'll have to pick a solo 401(k) or SEP IRA (you can supplement either account with an IRA if you choose).

Here are the options for small business retirement accounts:


  • Payroll deduction IRAs

Wealthfront Wealthfront IRA

Wealthfront's investment services feature a 0.25% annual fee and $500 minimum deposit, the robo-advisor offers a wide range of account types and investment strategies.

0.25%; 0.06 - 0.13% for low-cost investment funds

Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs

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  • Check mark icon A check mark. It indicates a confirmation of your intended interaction. Offers traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs
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Wealthfront is one of the best robo-advisor options if you're in search of low-cost automated portfolio management, and one of the best socially responsible investing apps for features like tax-loss harvesting, US direct indexing, and crypto trusts.

  • Consider it if: You're looking for goal-based strategies for retirement and other savings goals.
  • App store rating: 4.8 iOS/4.6 Android

Best Retirement Plans for Individuals

One of the most appealing components of independent retirement plans like IRAs is that you can open one as long as you've got taxable (earned) income. And even if you have an employer-sponsored retirement account, you can usually set up a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and other independent retirement accounts.

Traditional vs. Roth IRAs

Traditional IRAs let you save with pre-tax contributions, while Roth IRAs allow you to contribute after-tax dollars toward your retirement savings. As long as you're eligible (more on that below), experts generally recommend Roth IRAs for early-career workers who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in the future when they're making withdrawals  and traditional IRAs for higher-income workers who could use a tax deduction today.

Traditional and Roth IRAs share the same contribution and catch-up contribution limits. The 2024 contribution limit is $7,000, with up to $1,000 in catch-up contributions. The biggest difference between the two is tax advantages and income limitations. The Roth IRA limits who can contribute and how much.

For Roth IRAs, single filers can only contribute the maximum amount in 2024 if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than 146,000. You can still contribute less if you earn a little more, though.

You can find your MAGI by calculating your gross (before tax) income and subtracting any tax deductions from that amount to get your adjusted gross income (AGI). To calculate MAGI, you'll need to add back certain allowable deductions.

Allowable deductions that can be added back include passive income or losses, deductions for IRA contributions, rental losses, deductions for student loan interest, and more. Alternatively, you can ask your accountant or use an online calculator like the one below:

Married couples must earn less than $230,000 annually to contribute the full amount in 2024.

You don't have to worry about income limits for traditional IRAs. However, if a retirement plan at work covers you or your spouse, you must consider the income limits for tax-deductible contributions. Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are funded with pre-tax dollars.

For instance, in 2023, single filers can deduct the maximum contribution amount ($6,500) if they make $73,000 a year or less. Married couples filing jointly can also make full deductions if they make $116,000 a year or less. The amount you can deduct phases out or decreases if your income exceeds these limits.

While you can contribute to a 401(k) and traditional IRA simultaneously, your ability to take a tax deduction for these contributions — across both accounts, combined — ends once you hit those income limits.

Spousal IRAs

There's also an option for married couples where one spouse doesn't earn taxable income. Spousal IRAs allow both spouses to contribute to a separate IRA as long as one spouse is employed and earns taxable income. This account allows the nonworking spouse to fund their own IRA. 

In 2024, each can contribute $7,000 (or $8,000 if they are 50 or older) for up to $16,000 per year.

Rollover IRAs

The best rollover IRAs let you convert your existing employer-sponsored retirement plan into an IRA, something experts generally recommend doing when you leave a job for a few reasons — primarily because you have more control over the investment options in an IRA than in a 401(k), and also because it's easier to consolidate your accounts for record-keeping.

Many online brokerages and financial institutions offer rollover IRAs; some will even pay you to transfer your employer-sponsored plan to the IRA.

Self-directed IRAs (SDIRAs)

You can fund a self-directed IRA using traditional or Roth contributions (meaning the $6,500 and $7,500 contribution limits in 2023 are the same across all three — the 2024 limits of $7,000 and $8,000 are the same, too). But the difference between these accounts is mainly one of account custody and investment choices.

Unlike traditional and Roth IRAs, the IRS requires that all SDIRAs have a certified custodian or trustee who manages the account. These third parties handle the setup process and administrative duties of the IRA (e.g., executing transactions and assisting with account maintenance).

SDIRAs also give investors access to a wider range of investment options. With traditional and Roth IRAs, you're limited to mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and other traditional investments. But, SDIRAs allow you to invest in alternative assets like real estate, precious metals, and cryptocurrencies .

Nondeductible IRAs

Nondeductible IRAs are great for those who don't meet the income limits of Roth IRAs or make too much to qualify for a traditional IRA. For example, suppose you're filing taxes as an individual. In that case, you won't be eligible for a Roth IRA (even discounted contributions) if your MAGI exceeds $161,000 in 2023 or $240,000 for a married couple filing jointly.

Contributions for these accounts aren't tax deductible, meaning you'll be funding your IRA with post-tax dollars like a Roth IRA. The difference is that you'll still have to pay taxes on any earnings or interest from the account once you withdraw at age 59 and a half.

Best Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

Employer-sponsored retirement plans are savings vehicles your employer provides. There are several types — including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457(b)s, and thrift savings plans — and in some instances, your employer will match a percentage of your annual contributions.

For-profit companies generally offer these plans, and most companies give you the choice between two versions: the traditional 401(k) or the Roth 401(k). Traditional 401(k)s grow with pre-tax dollars, but Roth 401(k)s rely on after-tax contributions, just like they do with IRAs.

This means that you can either choose to pay taxes on your contributions upfront or take a potential tax deduction now and pay them later when you withdraw funds from your retirement account.

You can contribute up to $23,000 in 2024, and individuals age 50 and older can contribute additional "catch-up" contributions of $7,500. The maximum limit for employer and employee contributions is $69,000 in 2024. Therefore, the maximum amount those 50 and older can contribute is $76,500 in 2024.

Many employers also offer a 401(k) match. This means that your company may match a certain percentage of your annual contributions. These matches vary for each employer, ranging from 3% to 6%. For instance, if you make $50,000 per year, and your company matches 50% of your 401(k) contributions up to 5% of your salary, your employer can contribute up to $1,250 a year.

However, if you're employer matched 100% of your contributions up to 5%, you'd earn the other $1,250 a year, resulting in a $2,500 total from your employer. 

No matter how big the match, experts generally consider it to be "free money" and recommend taking advantage wherever possible, even if you only contribute enough to get the full match and nothing more.

Also referred to as tax-sheltered annuities, these retirement plans are typically designated for employees of public schools, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, churches, and other non-profit companies. Like 401(k)s, 403(b)s may include employer matches, pre-tax contribution options, and after-tax (Roth) contribution options.

If you're under 50, you can contribute up to $23,000 in 2024. Those aged 50 and above can contribute an additional $7,500.

In addition to pre-tax and after-tax contributions, you can also contribute to your 403(b) by allowing your employer to withhold money from your paycheck to deposit into the account.

State and local governments and certain tax-exempt organizations can open 457(b)s for their employees. As 403(b)s, you can also contribute to these accounts by asking your employer to set aside portions of your paychecks for your retirement plan. And in some cases, employers may allow you to make Roth — or after-tax — contributions. 

Like 401(k)s and 403(b)s, the catch-up contribution limit is $7,500.

Thrift Savings Plans

Thrift savings plans (TSPs) are retirement accounts for federal and uniformed services employees. Like 401(k)s, these plans let you contribute either pre- or post-tax dollars. But, unlike many 401(k) employer matches, most TSPs offer a full 5% contribution match. This means your employer will match your contributions up to 5% of your salary.

The annual contribution limit for 2024 is 23,000. The catch-up contribution limit is $7,500. You can make up to $69,000 in 2024.

Best Retirement Plans For Self-Employed Individuals and Small Businesses

If you're self-employed or a business owner with fewer than 100 employees, you'll have multiple retirement savings plans to choose from. Each plan has unique contribution limits and eligibility requirements. Take a closer look at your options below.

Solo 401(k)s

Solo 401(k)s are an option for self-employed individuals or business owners without full-time employees. Self-employed individuals can only contribute in one capacity, but business owners can contribute as both an employer and employee (and spouses of business owners may be able to contribute as well), meaning they can contribute twice as much. You can also make pre- or post-tax (Roth) contributions to your account. 

In 2024, the limit increases to $23,000 with up to $7,500 in catch-up contributions. You can earn up to $69,000 in annual contributions. Those aged 50 or older can contribute $76,500.

Simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs are retirement vehicles managed by small businesses or self-employed individuals. According to the IRS, employees (including self-employed individuals) are eligible if they meet the following requirements:

  • Have reached age 21
  • Have worked for the employer in at least three of the last five years
  • Received at least $750 in compensation in 2022

SEP IRAs also require that all contributions to the plan are 100% vested. This means that each employee holds immediate and complete ownership over all contributions to their account, including any employer match.

Vesting protects employees against financial loss. For instance, according to the IRS, an employer can forfeit amounts of an employee's account balance that isn't fully vested if that employee hasn't worked more than 500 hours in a year for five years.

You can contribute up to $69,000 or 25% of your employee's compensation in 2024. However, unlike the solo 401(k), you can't make Roth (after-tax) or catch-up contributions.

SIMPLE IRAs are available to self-employed individuals or small businesses with no more than 100 employees. According to the IRS, these retirement plans require employers to match each employee's contributions on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 3% of the employee's salary.

To qualify, employees (and self-employed individuals) must have made at least $5,000 in the last two years and expect to receive that same amount during the current year. But once you meet this requirement, you'll be 100% vested in all your SIMPLE IRA's earnings, meaning you have immediate ownership over both your and your employer's contributions. 

Unlike other retirement plans, SIMPLE IRAs and SEP IRAs give you total control over your retirement account. If you work for a small business that offers either of these plans, this prevents your employer from taking back its contributions or an employer match in the event of your leave or termination.

Employees can contribute up to $16,000 in 2024. You can also add on a catch-up contribution of $3,500 if you're 50 or older.

Payroll Deduction IRAs

There's an even simpler way for small businesses to set up IRAs for employees. With payroll deduction IRAs, businesses delegate most of the hard work to banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions. Self-employed people can also set up these retirement accounts.

In other words, employees can set up payroll deductions with those institutions to fund their IRAs. But you'll first need to consult your employer to determine which institutions it has partnered with. These accounts are generally best for employees who don't have access to other employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s and 457(b)s.

For 2024, you can contribute up to $7,000 in annual contributions and up to $1,000 in annual catch-up contributions for employees aged 50 or older. This means you can set aside up to $8,000 if you're at least 50 years old. 

Retirement Plans — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are better retirement plans than a 401(k) for people looking for lower account fees, more investment options, and increased flexibility. If you don't have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) or similar plan, then an IRA may be a good option. 

IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k) plans and 403(b)s are the best ways to save for retirement. The best retirement plan for you depends on the kind of tax advantages you're looking for (pre-tax benefits or after-tax benefits) and whether or not you have access to an employer-sponsored plan with matching benefits. 

$200 a month can be a good amount to contribute toward your retirement, depending on your current age and how long you have until you reach retirement age. You may not be able to contribute much, but contributing a little toward retirement is better than not contributing at all due to compound interest. 

Why You Should Trust Us: Our Expert Panel For The Best Retirement Plans

We interviewed the following investing experts to see what they had to say about retirement savings plans. 

  • Sandra Cho , RIA, wealth manager, and CEO of Pointwealth Capital Management
  • Tessa Campbell , Investment and retirement reporter at Personal Finance Insider

What are the advantages/disadvantages of investing in a retirement plan?

Sandra Cho:

"The main advantage is the tax implications of the account. Depending on the account, taxes will either be deferred or not included at all. For employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s, contributions to the plan are made with pre-tax funds, and the account grows tax-deferred. Taxes are then owed upon withdrawal.

"Roth IRAs, on the other hand, are contributed to with post-tax funds but grow tax-free. Both should be included in an investor's portfolio. Another advantage is that 401(k)s often have an employer matching component. That is, an employer will match your contributions up to a certain point (usually around 3% of your salary). 

"The disadvantage is that retirement accounts have a max contribution limit. Another disadvantage is that these funds cannot be used until age 59 1/2. For younger investors, that can be a long time wait."

Tessa Campbell: 

"Tax benefits and compound interest are two of the major advantages of contribution to a retirement savings plan like a 401(k) or individual IRA. Depending on the kind of plan you open (traditional or Roth), you can benefit from contributions after- or post-tax dollars. In addition, some 401(k) plans are eligible for employer-sponsored matches, which are essentially free money.

"The disadvantage of a retirement plan is that you won't be able to access the funds in your account penalty-free until you're at least 59 1/2 years old. Unless there are no other options, early withdraws from a retirement savings plan isn't advised."

Who should consider opening a retirement plan?

"Every individual should be investing through a retirement plan if they have the financial capability to. At the minimum, investors should try to contribute up to the matching amount for their 401(k) and the maximum amount for their Roth IRA. The growth in these funds compounds over time, helping to enhance the long-term return."

Tessa Campbell:

"I can't think of a single person that wouldn't benefit from a retirement savings plan, other than maybe someone that is already well into retirement. Although some younger individuals don't feel the need to start contributing quite yet, it's actually better to open an account as soon as possible and take advantage of compound interest growth capabilities."

Is there any advice you'd offer someone who's considering opening a retirement plan?

"I would advise them to work with a financial advisor or trusted professional. This will give them insight into where they should be investing their money, whether that be a 401(k), Roth IRA, or another vehicle. There are plenty of people and sources out there who provide important information and can help you create a strong financial future."

"Don't contribute huge portions of your salary if it doesn't make sense with your budget. While contributing to a retirement savings plan is important, you must still afford your monthly expenses and pay down an existing debt. If you're having trouble establishing a reasonable budget, consult a financial advisor or planner for professional help."

Which Retirement Plan is Best For You?

If you're not a small-business owner or self-employed individual, the best retirement plan for you usually depends on your type of employer, marital status, and short- and long-term savings goals. If you're employed, you'll still only have so much control since your employer determines which types of plans you can open.

However, for most employer-sponsored retirement accounts, you can decide whether to make pre-tax or post-tax (Roth) contributions to your account. Roth contributions are best for those who expect to pay more in taxes as they age, but you should consider pre-tax contributions if you don't mind paying taxes when you withdraw money from your account in retirement.

You can boost your retirement savings even more by opening a separate IRA in addition to your employer-sponsored plan (you can still save toward retirement with an IRA if you're unemployed).

Self-employed individuals and small business owners also have a range of options. Solo 401(k)s and SEP IRAs are best for self-employed individuals and small businesses looking to maximize their annual retirement savings (you can make up to $66,000 in total annual contributions or $69,000 in 2024, excluding the catch-up contribution). SIMPLE IRAs and payroll deduction IRAs are better options for small businesses that don't mind offering employees smaller annual contribution limits.

what should be included in business plan

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what should be included in business plan

Comparing Basic vs Premium Plans

Planner supports two different types of plans, Basic and Premium .  There are features that both plans support, and there are features that are only available to a specific plan. Updates are continuously being made to help close on the most critical gaps in the premium plan. 

The table below shows which features are included in each plan type. 

Note:  Access to some features depends on the user’s subscription. Visit Plans & Pricing to learn more about the different Planner subscriptions. 

1 Tasks assigned in premium plans will only appear for users who are members of the group associated with the plan.  Limited edit capabilities for premium tasks in the assigned to me view.  Users will need to open the premium plan to edit all the relevant fields.   

2 See Premium plan (Project for the web) limits . 

3 Conversations require the premium plan to be added to a Teams channel.  

4 Viva Goals integration needs to be enabled see Enable Integrations in Viva Goals | Microsoft Learn  

Application and Workflows 

Applications and workflows that have been built to interact with basic plans will require modification to work on premium plans. 

To provide product feedback, click here . 


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  10. 13 Key Business Plan Components

    13 Key Business Plan Components. We've built a comprehensive guide to the major parts of a business plan for you. From elements like the executive summary to product descriptions, traction, and financials, we'll guide you on all of the key sections you should include in your business plan. December 14th, 2022 | By: The Startups Team | Tags ...

  11. The 10 Components of a Business Plan

    Above all, the numbers should help answer why your business can do it better. 4. Competitive Analysis. A good business plan will present a clear comparison of your business vs your direct and indirect competitors. This is where you prove your knowledge of the industry by breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

  12. What to Include in Your Business Plan

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  13. 10 Important Components of an Effective Business Plan

    Effective business plans contain several key components that cover various aspects of a company's goals. The most important parts of a business plan include: 1. Executive summary. The executive summary is the first and one of the most critical parts of a business plan. This summary provides an overview of the business plan as a whole and ...

  14. Business Plan Format & Structure

    Organize your Marketing Plan into the 4 P's - Price, Product, Promotions and Place. If you have multiple products or services, include a menu with each key item and its price. 7. The Operations Plan Format. Your Operations Plan identifies your key operational processes and milestones you expect to accomplish.

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    Here are some of the components of an effective business plan. 1. Executive Summary. One of the key elements of a business plan is the executive summary. Write the executive summary as part of the concluding topics in the business plan. Creating an executive summary with all the facts and information available is easier.

  16. What Should You Include in a Business Plan?

    Include the following to have a comprehensive company description: Your company's legal structure (corporation, dual proprietorship) A short history of your company. A short overview of your company's business operations. The demands your company meets for customers. A list of your company's products, services, current customers and suppliers.

  17. How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan

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  18. 10 Important Aspects of a Successful Business Plan

    Whether your business plan is for bankers, venture capitalists, or just your employees, there are main elements set by the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) that should be included in every business plan. What Are the Elements of a Business Plan? The Executive Summary This is the first section of the business plan. It can be from 1 to ...

  19. How to Create a Business Plan Timeline

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  20. Gymnastics Business Plan Examples

    To be a sure success, however, you need one more thing: a gymnastics business plan. Your business plan is your roadmap that takes you from startup to stardom. It lays out everything from your marketing strategy to your operational plan. If you've never created a business plan before, or you just need a refresher, read on. This article covers ...

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  22. How to Create a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

    A plan should also detail how a company will respond to violent incidents, including the documentation of such events, even if they do not result in injury. ... What should be included in vital training. ... reputation and business interests. California's workplace violence prevention law is a significant step towards greater awareness ...

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  24. Best Retirement Plans in April 2024

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    Shareholders as of the close of business on March 11, 2024, the record date, may vote at the meeting. ... A recommendation for a Director candidate should include the candidate's name, biographical data and a description of the candidate's ... plan for the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand its focus on safety, mobility and access ...