Writing a business plan can be intimidating and confusing and we’re here to offer guidance. Use this post as a resource to simplify the process and help you feel more confident.
Your business plan is an opportunity to demonstrate how wisely you’ve considered all the details, opportunities and challenges that your business or its future could entail. While a business plan certainly does not guarantee funding, it is imperative for all who may play a role in the success of your business to have a copy—including your lender. We have included a brief Q&A below to tackle some questions you may have as you prepare to put together your business plan, as well as a business plan template download to help get you started.
Q: What is a business plan?
A: In simplest terms, a business plan is a formal written document that contains information on your business’s goals and timelines. This tool will be helpful not only for you but also for people you want to work with to get your business off the ground. This includes any lending institutions you may work with along the way. It shows that your business is worth investing in because you have fully prepared, organized and casted a positive vision for the direction of your endeavors. Your business plan will also help you think through where your company has been, where you plan to take it and how to organize that journey on paper. It’s an important tool in getting your business started on the right foot.
Q: Why do I need a business plan?
A: You need to prepare a business plan for multiple reasons. If you want to grow and be more competitive in your industry, you’re going to need one on hand. It will also guide you as you go about day to day operations and serve as a great reminder for why you started your business in the first place.
Q: How long should my business plan be?
A: There is no formula for exactly how long a business plan should be. Typically, it depends on the business and what you’re trying to accomplish through your written plan. The SBA says “a business plan needs to be whatever length is required to excite the financing source, prove that management truly understands the market, and detail the execution strategy.” Business plans do tend to be lengthy and can be 38 to 50 pages or as long as 80 to 100 pages if the plan is more complex.
Q: What’s the most important piece of a business plan?
A: Arguably the most important piece of the document is the executive summary – a succinct summary of your entire business plan. This portion of your plan is the very last thing you should write and should help readers gain an understanding of what the next pages will cover. The SBA recommends this piece specifically should be at least one to two pages, but no more than four pages.
As with anything in the process of starting or growing a business, taking the first step can often be the most challenging part. We’ve put together a business plan template to help! Follow the steps below to download and begin using the template.
1) Click here to download the business plan template.
2) Use the descriptions under each section to fill in information about your company. That’s right — you can type in the template as soon as you download the document! Keep in mind there are many variations of business plans. Every business is unique and so is every business plan. Feel free to adjust our example as you see fit. This template is not a “one size fits all.”
3) Refine your business plan until you are satisfied. Does it clearly portray the goals of your business? Will it give readers an accurate picture of what you are hoping to achieve? Once you have completed your plan, have a mentor or respected peer review and offer feedback. It is likely that your business plan will go through several iterations before you decide on a final version.
4) A strong business plan is crucial to your overall strategy, but keep in mind that using this template does not guarantee financing from Live Oak Bank or any other lending institution.
We hope the information above will help you better understand the business plan basics and get you started on writing your plan. If you are looking for additional information, The Small Business Administration offers a wealth of resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. One of our favorites is the SBA’s business plan checklist.