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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 does business plan entail

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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what does business plan entail

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What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates

AJ Beltis

Published: June 07, 2023

In an era where more than 20% of small enterprises fail in their first year, having a clear, defined, and well-thought-out business plan is a crucial first step for setting up a business for long-term success.

Business plan graphic with business owner, lightbulb, and pens to symbolize coming up with ideas and writing a business plan.

Business plans are a required tool for all entrepreneurs, business owners, business acquirers, and even business school students. But … what exactly is a business plan?

businessplan_0

In this post, we'll explain what a business plan is, the reasons why you'd need one, identify different types of business plans, and what you should include in yours.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a documented strategy for a business that highlights its goals and its plans for achieving them. It outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, business purpose, and mission statement. Key staff who are responsible for achieving the goals may also be included in the business plan along with a timeline.

The business plan is an undeniably critical component to getting any company off the ground. It's key to securing financing, documenting your business model, outlining your financial projections, and turning that nugget of a business idea into a reality.

What is a business plan used for?

The purpose of a business plan is three-fold: It summarizes the organization’s strategy in order to execute it long term, secures financing from investors, and helps forecast future business demands.

Business Plan Template [ Download Now ]

businessplan_2

Working on your business plan? Try using our Business Plan Template . Pre-filled with the sections a great business plan needs, the template will give aspiring entrepreneurs a feel for what a business plan is, what should be in it, and how it can be used to establish and grow a business from the ground up.

Purposes of a Business Plan

Chances are, someone drafting a business plan will be doing so for one or more of the following reasons:

1. Securing financing from investors.

Since its contents revolve around how businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit, a business plan is used as a tool for sourcing capital. This document is an entrepreneur's way of showing potential investors or lenders how their capital will be put to work and how it will help the business thrive.

All banks, investors, and venture capital firms will want to see a business plan before handing over their money, and investors typically expect a 10% ROI or more from the capital they invest in a business.

Therefore, these investors need to know if — and when — they'll be making their money back (and then some). Additionally, they'll want to read about the process and strategy for how the business will reach those financial goals, which is where the context provided by sales, marketing, and operations plans come into play.

2. Documenting a company's strategy and goals.

A business plan should leave no stone unturned.

Business plans can span dozens or even hundreds of pages, affording their drafters the opportunity to explain what a business' goals are and how the business will achieve them.

To show potential investors that they've addressed every question and thought through every possible scenario, entrepreneurs should thoroughly explain their marketing, sales, and operations strategies — from acquiring a physical location for the business to explaining a tactical approach for marketing penetration.

These explanations should ultimately lead to a business' break-even point supported by a sales forecast and financial projections, with the business plan writer being able to speak to the why behind anything outlined in the plan.

what does business plan entail

Free Business Plan Template

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Free Business Plan [Template]

Fill out the form to access your free business plan., 3. legitimizing a business idea..

Everyone's got a great idea for a company — until they put pen to paper and realize that it's not exactly feasible.

A business plan is an aspiring entrepreneur's way to prove that a business idea is actually worth pursuing.

As entrepreneurs document their go-to-market process, capital needs, and expected return on investment, entrepreneurs likely come across a few hiccups that will make them second guess their strategies and metrics — and that's exactly what the business plan is for.

It ensures an entrepreneur's ducks are in a row before bringing their business idea to the world and reassures the readers that whoever wrote the plan is serious about the idea, having put hours into thinking of the business idea, fleshing out growth tactics, and calculating financial projections.

4. Getting an A in your business class.

Speaking from personal experience, there's a chance you're here to get business plan ideas for your Business 101 class project.

If that's the case, might we suggest checking out this post on How to Write a Business Plan — providing a section-by-section guide on creating your plan?

What does a business plan need to include?

  • Business Plan Subtitle
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • The Business Opportunity
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Target Market
  • Marketing Plan
  • Financial Summary
  • Funding Requirements

1. Business Plan Subtitle

Every great business plan starts with a captivating title and subtitle. You’ll want to make it clear that the document is, in fact, a business plan, but the subtitle can help tell the story of your business in just a short sentence.

2. Executive Summary

Although this is the last part of the business plan that you’ll write, it’s the first section (and maybe the only section) that stakeholders will read. The executive summary of a business plan sets the stage for the rest of the document. It includes your company’s mission or vision statement, value proposition, and long-term goals.

3. Company Description

This brief part of your business plan will detail your business name, years in operation, key offerings, and positioning statement. You might even add core values or a short history of the company. The company description’s role in a business plan is to introduce your business to the reader in a compelling and concise way.

4. The Business Opportunity

The business opportunity should convince investors that your organization meets the needs of the market in a way that no other company can. This section explains the specific problem your business solves within the marketplace and how it solves them. It will include your value proposition as well as some high-level information about your target market.

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5. Competitive Analysis

Just about every industry has more than one player in the market. Even if your business owns the majority of the market share in your industry or your business concept is the first of its kind, you still have competition. In the competitive analysis section, you’ll take an objective look at the industry landscape to determine where your business fits. A SWOT analysis is an organized way to format this section.

6. Target Market

Who are the core customers of your business and why? The target market portion of your business plan outlines this in detail. The target market should explain the demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, and geographics of the ideal customer.

7. Marketing Plan

Marketing is expansive, and it’ll be tempting to cover every type of marketing possible, but a brief overview of how you’ll market your unique value proposition to your target audience, followed by a tactical plan will suffice.

Think broadly and narrow down from there: Will you focus on a slow-and-steady play where you make an upfront investment in organic customer acquisition? Or will you generate lots of quick customers using a pay-to-play advertising strategy? This kind of information should guide the marketing plan section of your business plan.

8. Financial Summary

Money doesn’t grow on trees and even the most digital, sustainable businesses have expenses. Outlining a financial summary of where your business is currently and where you’d like it to be in the future will substantiate this section. Consider including any monetary information that will give potential investors a glimpse into the financial health of your business. Assets, liabilities, expenses, debt, investments, revenue, and more are all useful adds here.

So, you’ve outlined some great goals, the business opportunity is valid, and the industry is ready for what you have to offer. Who’s responsible for turning all this high-level talk into results? The "team" section of your business plan answers that question by providing an overview of the roles responsible for each goal. Don’t worry if you don’t have every team member on board yet, knowing what roles to hire for is helpful as you seek funding from investors.

10. Funding Requirements

Remember that one of the goals of a business plan is to secure funding from investors, so you’ll need to include funding requirements you’d like them to fulfill. The amount your business needs, for what reasons, and for how long will meet the requirement for this section.

Types of Business Plans

  • Startup Business Plan
  • Feasibility Business Plan
  • Internal Business Plan
  • Strategic Business Plan
  • Business Acquisition Plan
  • Business Repositioning Plan
  • Expansion or Growth Business Plan

There’s no one size fits all business plan as there are several types of businesses in the market today. From startups with just one founder to historic household names that need to stay competitive, every type of business needs a business plan that’s tailored to its needs. Below are a few of the most common types of business plans.

For even more examples, check out these sample business plans to help you write your own .

1. Startup Business Plan

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As one of the most common types of business plans, a startup business plan is for new business ideas. This plan lays the foundation for the eventual success of a business.

The biggest challenge with the startup business plan is that it’s written completely from scratch. Startup business plans often reference existing industry data. They also explain unique business strategies and go-to-market plans.

Because startup business plans expand on an original idea, the contents will vary by the top priority goals.

For example, say a startup is looking for funding. If capital is a priority, this business plan might focus more on financial projections than marketing or company culture.

2. Feasibility Business Plan

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This type of business plan focuses on a single essential aspect of the business — the product or service. It may be part of a startup business plan or a standalone plan for an existing organization. This comprehensive plan may include:

  • A detailed product description
  • Market analysis
  • Technology needs
  • Production needs
  • Financial sources
  • Production operations

According to CBInsights research, 35% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. Another 10% fail because of mistimed products.

Some businesses will complete a feasibility study to explore ideas and narrow product plans to the best choice. They conduct these studies before completing the feasibility business plan. Then the feasibility plan centers on that one product or service.

3. Internal Business Plan

businessplan_5

Internal business plans help leaders communicate company goals, strategy, and performance. This helps the business align and work toward objectives more effectively.

Besides the typical elements in a startup business plan, an internal business plan may also include:

  • Department-specific budgets
  • Target demographic analysis
  • Market size and share of voice analysis
  • Action plans
  • Sustainability plans

Most external-facing business plans focus on raising capital and support for a business. But an internal business plan helps keep the business mission consistent in the face of change.

4. Strategic Business Plan

businessplan_8

Strategic business plans focus on long-term objectives for your business. They usually cover the first three to five years of operations. This is different from the typical startup business plan which focuses on the first one to three years. The audience for this plan is also primarily internal stakeholders.

These types of business plans may include:

  • Relevant data and analysis
  • Assessments of company resources
  • Vision and mission statements

It's important to remember that, while many businesses create a strategic plan before launching, some business owners just jump in. So, this business plan can add value by outlining how your business plans to reach specific goals. This type of planning can also help a business anticipate future challenges.

5. Business Acquisition Plan

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Investors use business plans to acquire existing businesses, too — not just new businesses.

A business acquisition plan may include costs, schedules, or management requirements. This data will come from an acquisition strategy.

A business plan for an existing company will explain:

  • How an acquisition will change its operating model
  • What will stay the same under new ownership
  • Why things will change or stay the same
  • Acquisition planning documentation
  • Timelines for acquisition

Additionally, the business plan should speak to the current state of the business and why it's up for sale.

For example, if someone is purchasing a failing business, the business plan should explain why the business is being purchased. It should also include:

  • What the new owner will do to turn the business around
  • Historic business metrics
  • Sales projections after the acquisition
  • Justification for those projections

6. Business Repositioning Plan

businessplan_6 (1)

When a business wants to avoid acquisition, reposition its brand, or try something new, CEOs or owners will develop a business repositioning plan.

This plan will:

  • Acknowledge the current state of the company.
  • State a vision for the future of the company.
  • Explain why the business needs to reposition itself.
  • Outline a process for how the company will adjust.

Companies planning for a business reposition often do so — proactively or retroactively — due to a shift in market trends and customer needs.

For example, shoe brand AllBirds plans to refocus its brand on core customers and shift its go-to-market strategy. These decisions are a reaction to lackluster sales following product changes and other missteps.

7. Expansion or Growth Business Plan

When your business is ready to expand, a growth business plan creates a useful structure for reaching specific targets.

For example, a successful business expanding into another location can use a growth business plan. This is because it may also mean the business needs to focus on a new target market or generate more capital.

This type of plan usually covers the next year or two of growth. It often references current sales, revenue, and successes. It may also include:

  • SWOT analysis
  • Growth opportunity studies
  • Financial goals and plans
  • Marketing plans
  • Capability planning

These types of business plans will vary by business, but they can help businesses quickly rally around new priorities to drive growth.

Getting Started With Your Business Plan

At the end of the day, a business plan is simply an explanation of a business idea and why it will be successful. The more detail and thought you put into it, the more successful your plan — and the business it outlines — will be.

When writing your business plan, you’ll benefit from extensive research, feedback from your team or board of directors, and a solid template to organize your thoughts. If you need one of these, download HubSpot's Free Business Plan Template below to get started.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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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.

Bizee

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 does business plan entail

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.

How much do you need?

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

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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What Is a Business Plan? Definition and Planning Essentials Explained

Posted february 21, 2022 by kody wirth.

what does business plan entail

What is a business plan? It’s the roadmap for your business. The outline of your goals, objectives, and the steps you’ll take to get there. It describes the structure of your organization, how it operates, as well as the financial expectations and actual performance. 

A business plan can help you explore ideas, successfully start a business, manage operations, and pursue growth. In short, a business plan is a lot of different things. It’s more than just a stack of paper and can be one of your most effective tools as a business owner. 

Let’s explore the basics of business planning, the structure of a traditional plan, your planning options, and how you can use your plan to succeed. 

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that explains how your business operates. It summarizes your business structure, objectives, milestones, and financial performance. Again, it’s a guide that helps you, and anyone else, better understand how your business will succeed.  

Why do you need a business plan?

The primary purpose of a business plan is to help you understand the direction of your business and the steps it will take to get there. Having a solid business plan can help you grow up to 30% faster and according to our own 2021 Small Business research working on a business plan increases confidence regarding business health—even in the midst of a crisis. 

These benefits are directly connected to how writing a business plan makes you more informed and better prepares you for entrepreneurship. It helps you reduce risk and avoid pursuing potentially poor ideas. You’ll also be able to more easily uncover your business’s potential. By regularly returning to your plan you can understand what parts of your strategy are working and those that are not.

That just scratches the surface for why having a plan is valuable. Check out our full write-up for fifteen more reasons why you need a business plan .  

What can you do with your plan?

So what can you do with a business plan once you’ve created it? It can be all too easy to write a plan and just let it be. Here are just a few ways you can leverage your plan to benefit your business.

Test an idea

Writing a plan isn’t just for those that are ready to start a business. It’s just as valuable for those that have an idea and want to determine if it’s actually possible or not. By writing a plan to explore the validity of an idea, you are working through the process of understanding what it would take to be successful. 

The market and competitive research alone can tell you a lot about your idea. Is the marketplace too crowded? Is the solution you have in mind not really needed? Add in the exploration of milestones, potential expenses, and the sales needed to attain profitability and you can paint a pretty clear picture of the potential of your business.

Document your strategy and goals

For those starting or managing a business understanding where you’re going and how you’re going to get there are vital. Writing your plan helps you do that. It ensures that you are considering all aspects of your business, know what milestones you need to hit, and can effectively make adjustments if that doesn’t happen. 

With a plan in place, you’ll have an idea of where you want your business to go as well as how you’ve performed in the past. This alone better prepares you to take on challenges, review what you’ve done before, and make the right adjustments.

Pursue funding

Even if you do not intend to pursue funding right away, having a business plan will prepare you for it. It will ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit a loan application and pitch to investors. So, rather than scrambling to gather documentation and write a cohesive plan once it’s relevant, you can instead keep your plan up-to-date and attempt to attain funding. Just add a use of funds report to your financial plan and you’ll be ready to go.

The benefits of having a plan don’t stop there. You can then use your business plan to help you manage the funding you receive. You’ll not only be able to easily track and forecast how you’ll use your funds but easily report on how it’s been used. 

Better manage your business

A solid business plan isn’t meant to be something you do once and forget about. Instead, it should be a useful tool that you can regularly use to analyze performance, make strategic decisions, and anticipate future scenarios. It’s a document that you should regularly update and adjust as you go to better fit the actual state of your business.

Doing so makes it easier to understand what’s working and what’s not. It helps you understand if you’re truly reaching your goals or if you need to make further adjustments. Having your plan in place makes that process quicker, more informative, and leaves you with far more time to actually spend running your business.

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What should your business plan include?

The content and structure of your business plan should include anything that will help you use it effectively. That being said, there are some key elements that you should cover and that investors will expect to see. 

Executive summary

The executive summary is a simple overview of your business and your overall plan. It should serve as a standalone document that provides enough detail for anyone—including yourself, team members, or investors—to fully understand your business strategy. Make sure to cover the problem you’re solving, a description of your product or service, your target market, organizational structure, a financial summary, and any necessary funding requirements.

This will be the first part of your plan but it’s easiest to write it after you’ve created your full plan.

Products & Services

When describing your products or services, you need to start by outlining the problem you’re solving and why what you offer is valuable. This is where you’ll also address current competition in the market and any competitive advantages your products or services bring to the table. Lastly, be sure to outline the steps or milestones that you’ll need to hit to successfully launch your business. If you’ve already hit some initial milestones, like taking pre-orders or early funding, be sure to include it here to further prove the validity of your business. 

Market analysis

A market analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the current market you’re entering or competing in. It helps you understand the overall state and potential of the industry, who your ideal customers are, the positioning of your competition, and how you intend to position your own business. This helps you better explore the long-term trends of the market, what challenges to expect, and how you will need to initially introduce and even price your products or services.

Check out our full guide for how to conduct a market analysis in just four easy steps .  

Marketing & sales

Here you detail how you intend to reach your target market. This includes your sales activities, general pricing plan, and the beginnings of your marketing strategy. If you have any branding elements, sample marketing campaigns, or messaging available—this is the place to add it. 

Additionally, it may be wise to include a SWOT analysis that demonstrates your business or specific product/service position. This will showcase how you intend to leverage sales and marketing channels to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of any opportunities.

Check out our full write-up to learn how to create a cohesive marketing strategy for your business. 

Organization & management

This section addresses the legal structure of your business, your current team, and any gaps that need to be filled. Depending on your business type and longevity, you’ll also need to include your location, ownership information, and business history. Basically, add any information that helps explain your organizational structure and how you operate. This section is particularly important for pitching to investors but should be included even if attempted funding is not in your immediate future.

Financial projections

Possibly the most important piece of your plan, your financials section is vital for showcasing the viability of your business. It also helps you establish a baseline to measure against and makes it easier to make ongoing strategic decisions as your business grows. This may seem complex on the surface, but it can be far easier than you think. 

Focus on building solid forecasts, keep your categories simple, and lean on assumptions. You can always return to this section to add more details and refine your financial statements as you operate. 

Here are the statements you should include in your financial plan:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • Balance sheet

The appendix is where you add additional detail, documentation, or extended notes that support the other sections of your plan. Don’t worry about adding this section at first and only add documentation that you think will be beneficial for anyone reading your plan.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. So, to get the most out of your plan, it’s best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. 

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you’ll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual. 

This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. We recommend only starting with this business plan format if you plan to immediately pursue funding and already have a solid handle on your business information. 

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. 

The structure ditches a linear structure in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It’s faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations. This is really best for those exploring their business idea for the first time, but keep in mind that it can be difficult to actually validate your idea this way as well as adapt it into a full plan.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan. This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. It basically serves as a beefed-up pitch document and can be finished as quickly as the business model canvas.

By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan. This plan type is useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Now, the option that we here at LivePlan recommend is the Lean Plan . This is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it’s even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it’s tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn’t to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and stable through times of crisis.

It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Try the LivePlan Method for Lean Business Planning

Now that you know the basics of business planning, it’s time to get started. Again we recommend leveraging a Lean Plan for a faster, easier, and far more useful planning process. 

To get familiar with the Lean Plan format, you can download our free Lean Plan template . However, if you want to elevate your ability to create and use your lean plan even further, you may want to explore LivePlan. 

It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you cover everything necessary while reducing the time spent on formatting and presenting. You’ll also gain access to financial forecasting tools that propel you through the process. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. 

Check out how LivePlan streamlines Lean Planning by downloading our Kickstart Your Business ebook .

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Kody Wirth

Posted in Business Plan Writing

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What Is a Business Plan?

Business Plan Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes

what does business plan entail

Definition and Examples of a Business Plan

How a business plan works, types of business plans, business plan vs. business model.

Geber86 / Getty Images

A business plan is a detailed written document that describes your business’s activities, goals, and strategy. A strong plan outlines everything from the products a company sells to the executive summary to the overall management. In essence, a business plan should guide a founder’s actions through each stage of growth

Think of your business plan as a road map. It documents the various stages of starting and running your business, including business activities and objectives. Business plans create the structure you need to make decisions by outlining the financial and operational goals you’re striving toward. 

One of the most common reasons for crafting a business plan is to attract investors—and, in return, receive funding. As an early stage company, for example, you may leverage your business plan to convince investors or banks that your entity is credible and worthy of funding. The business plan should prove that their money will be returned . 

A business plan can also be useful for when a well-developed company goes through a merger or acquisition . As outlined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a merger creates a new entity via the combination of two businesses. An acquisition, on the other hand, is when a company is purchased and absorbed into an existing business. In either case, a business plan helps establish relationships between business entities, making a merger or acquisition more likely.

  • Alternate name : Strategic plan

A business plan is a formalized outline of the business operations, finances, and goals you aim to achieve to be a successful company. When designing a business plan, companies have leeway for how long, short, or detailed it can be. So long as it outlines the foundational aspects of the business, in most cases, it will be effective.

The most common type of business plan is a traditional business plan. This style tends to have the following common elements, generally in this order.

  • Executive summary : Tells your reader why your company will be successful. Includes the company’s mission statement , product information, and basics regarding the business structure. 
  • Company description : Where you brag about your entity’s strengths. Answer the question, what problem is your team solving?
  • Market analysis : A deep dive into your industry and the competition. Consider why competitors are successful. How can your offering do it better? If applicable, how can you enhance the experience for the consumer? 
  • Management plan : Outlines leadership structure of the company and may be best detailed as a chart. This way, readers can see exactly who is planning to run the company and how they will impact growth. 
  • Marketing and sales plan : Details how you’ll attract consumers with your product or service, and how you will retain those customers. All strategies outlined in this section, such as the use of digital marketing , will be referenced in your financial plan. 
  • Funding request : For those companies asking for funding, this is where you’ll detail the amount of funding you’ll need to achieve your goals. Clearly explain how much you need and what it will be used for.
  • Financial plan : Convinces the reader that your company is financially stable and can turn a profit . You will need to include a balance sheet , an income statement, and the cash flow statement (or cash flow projection, in the case of a new venture). 
  • Appendix : Where any supporting documents, such as legal documents, licenses of employees, and pictures of the product will be included. 

Your company’s business plan should fit your needs, which will often depend on what stage of growth you are in. If you are considering starting a new venture, for example, writing a detailed business plan can help prove if your concept is viable or not. 

If your business is seeking financial capital, though, you will want your business plan to be investor-ready. This will require you to have a funding request section, which would be placed right above your financial plan.

You should avoid using lofty terms or technical jargon that those outside your team won’t understand. A business plan is meant to be shared with those inside and outside your organization. Simple and effective language is best.

Your business’s stage impacts the length and detail of a business plan. As discussed, a traditional plan follows a detailed structure, from the executive summary to the appendix. It is a lengthier document, often amounting to dozens of pages, and is often used when seeking funding to prove business viability. In most cases, crafting a traditional plan will take lots of due diligence work.

The other main type of business plan is a lean startup plan. A lean startup plan is much more high-level and shorter than the traditional version. Companies just starting development will often create a lean startup plan to help them navigate where they should start. These can be as short as one or two pages. 

A lean plan will include the following elements.

  • Key partnerships : Notes other services or businesses you will work with, such as manufacturers and suppliers. 
  • Key activities and resources : Outlines how your company will gain a competitive advantage and create value for your consumers. Resources you may leverage include capital, staff, or intellectual property.
  • Value proposition : Clearly defines the unique value your company offers.
  • Customer relationships : Details the customer experience from start to finish. 
  • Channels : How will you stay connected with your customers? Detail those methods here.
  • Cost structure and revenue streams : Details the most significant costs you will face as well as how your business will actually make money.  

Remember that business plans are meant to change as your company grows or pivots. You should actively review and edit your business plan to keep it up to date with business activities. For example, you may start with a lean plan and move to a traditional plan when you hit the fundraising stage.

A business plan may often be confused with a business model, and it is easy to understand why. Simply put, a business plan is the holistic overview of the business, while a business model is a skeleton for how money will be made.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a business’s operations, finances, and goals. It guides the business’s day-to-day decisions.
  • A business plan is necessary for your company’s success, as it creates a path to scalability.
  • There are two main types of business plans: a traditional business plan and a lean startup plan.
  • A traditional business plan will be essential when you begin to seek debt or equity capital for your company.

U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Merge and Acquire Businesses .” Accessed June 8, 2021.

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ." Accessed June 8, 2021.

How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needing to write a business plan to get there.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated February 2, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: How to collaborate with AI on your business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

Free business plan templates and examples

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

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

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

what does business plan entail

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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Start » startup, writing a business plan here’s how to do it, step by step.

At the foundation of every strong business is a solid business plan. Looking to develop a business plan for your new venture? Here’s what to include in each step.

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At the foundation of every strong business is a solid business plan. A business plan outlines important information regarding a company’s operations and goals, and serves as a blueprint for how to achieve those goals. This document not only helps entrepreneurs think through and research their venture thoroughly, it also demonstrates to investors the viability of the business idea.

If you’re looking to develop a business plan for your new venture, it’s important to include all the necessary information. Here are the nine sections to include in a strong business plan, step by step.

1. Executive summary.

Your business plan should begin with an executive summary, which outlines what your company is about and why it will succeed. This section includes your mission statement, a brief description of the product or service you are offering, a summary of your plans and basic logistical details about your team.

2. Company description.

Your company description should further detail the logistics of your business, such as its registered name, address and key people involved. Here, you should also provide specific information about your product or service, including who your business serves and what problem you solve for that population.

3. Market analysis.

Conducting thorough market research can help you understand the nature of your industry, as well as how to stand out from competitors. Include a summary of your research findings in this section. Consider any trends or themes that emerge, what other successful businesses in the field are doing (or failing to do) and how your business can do better.

[Read: How to Conduct a Market Analysis ]

4. Organization and management.

This section should include your business’s legal structure — for example, whether you are incorporating as an S or C corporation, forming a partnership or operating as an LLC or sole proprietor. Provide pertinent information on your leadership team and other key employees, including each relevant individual’s percent of ownership and extent of involvement.

Describe how you will attract and retain your customer base, including what makes you stand out from competitors, and detail the actual sales process.

5. Products/services.

Your product or service is the crux of your business idea, so you’ll want to ensure you make a strong case for it being on the market. Use this section to elaborate on your product or service throughout its life cycle, including how it works, who it serves, what it costs and why it is better than the competition. If you have any pending or current intellectual property, include this information here. You can also detail any research and development for your product or service in this section.

6. Marketing and sales.

In this section, you should explain what your marketing and sales strategies are, and how you will execute them. (Note that these strategies will likely evolve over time, and you can always make adjustments as needed.) Describe how you will attract and retain your customer base, including what makes you stand out from competitors, and detail the actual sales process.

[Read: 5 KPIs to Measure Your Business’s Marketing Success ]

7. Funding request.

If you’re seeking funding, this section is critical for investors to understand the level of funding you need. Specify what type of funding you need (debt or equity) and how much, as well as how that capital will be used. You should also include information on any future financial plans, such as selling your business or paying off debts.

8. Financial projections.

The goal of your financial projections section is to show that your business is viable and worth the investment. Offer a financial forecast for the next five years, using information from current or projected income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements to support it. Graphs and charts can be an especially helpful tool in visualizing your business’s finances.

9. Appendix.

Finally, use the appendix for any information that could not fit or did not apply to other sections of the document. Information such as employee resumes, permits, credit history and receipts are often included in this section. If you have a long appendix, consider adding a table of contents to make it easier for the reader.

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Business Plan

By Entrepreneur Staff

Business Plan Definition:

A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement

A business plan is also a road map that provides directions so a business can plan its future and helps it avoid bumps in the road. The time you spend making your business plan thorough and accurate, and keeping it up-to-date, is an investment that pays big dividends in the long term.

Your business plan should conform to generally accepted guidelines regarding form and content. Each section should include specific elements and address relevant questions that the people who read your plan will most likely ask. Generally, a business plan has the following components:

Title Page and Contents A business plan should be presented in a binder with a cover listing the name of the business, the name(s) of the principal(s), address, phone number, e-mail and website addresses, and the date. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a fancy binder or cover. Your readers want a plan that looks professional, is easy to read and is well-put-together.

Include the same information on the title page. If you have a logo, you can use it, too. A table of contents follows the executive summary or statement of purpose, so that readers can quickly find the information or financial data they need.

Executive Summary The executive summary, or statement of purpose, succinctly encapsulates your reason for writing the business plan. It tells the reader what you want and why, right up front. Are you looking for a $10,000 loan to remodel and refurbish your factory? A loan of $25,000 to expand your product line or buy new equipment? How will you repay your loan, and over what term? Would you like to find a partner to whom you'd sell 25 percent of the business? What's in it for him or her? The questions that pertain to your situation should be addressed here clearly and succinctly.

The summary or statement should be no more than half a page in length and should touch on the following key elements:

  • Business concept describes the business, its product, the market it serves and the business' competitive advantage.
  • Financial features include financial highlights, such as sales and profits.
  • Financial requirements state how much capital is needed for startup or expansion, how it will be used and what collateral is available.
  • Current business position furnishes relevant information about the company, its legal form of operation, when it was founded, the principal owners and key personnel.
  • Major achievements points out anything noteworthy, such as patents, prototypes, important contracts regarding product development, or results from test marketing that have been conducted.

Description of the Business The business description usually begins with a short explanation of the industry. When describing the industry, discuss what's going on now as well as the outlook for the future. Do the necessary research so you can provide information on all the various markets within the industry, including references to new products or developments that could benefit or hinder your business. Base your observations on reliable data and be sure to footnote and cite your sources of information when necessary. Remember that bankers and investors want to know hard facts--they won't risk money on assumptions or conjecture.

When describing your business, say which sector it falls into (wholesale, retail, food service, manufacturing, hospitality and so on), and whether the business is new or established. Then say whether the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, C or Sub chapter S corporation. Next, list the business' principals and state what they bring to the business. Continue with information on who the business' customers are, how big the market is, and how the product or service is distributed and marketed.

Description of the Product or Service The business description can be a few paragraphs to a few pages in length, depending on the complexity of your plan. If your plan isn't too complicated, keep your business description short, describing the industry in one paragraph, the product in another, and the business and its success factors in two or three more paragraphs.

When you describe your product or service, make sure your reader has a clear idea of what you're talking about. Explain how people use your product or service and talk about what makes your product or service different from others available in the market. Be specific about what sets your business apart from those of your competitors.

Then explain how your business will gain a competitive edge and why your business will be profitable. Describe the factors you think will make it successful. If your business plan will be used as a financing proposal, explain why the additional equity or debt will make your business more profitable. Give hard facts, such as "new equipment will create an income stream of $10,000 per year" and briefly describe how.

Other information to address here is a description of the experience of the other key people in the business. Whoever reads your business plan will want to know what suppliers or experts you've spoken to about your business and their response to your idea. They may even ask you to clarify your choice of location or reasons for selling this particular product.

Market Analysis A thorough market analysis will help you define your prospects as well as help you establish pricing, distribution, and promotional strategies that will allow your company to be successful vis-à-vis your competition, both in the short and long term.

Begin your market analysis by defining the market in terms of size, demographics, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. Next, determine how often your product or service will be purchased by your target market. Then figure out the potential annual purchase. Then figure out what percentage of this annual sum you either have or can attain. Keep in mind that no one gets 100 percent market share, and that a something as small as 25 percent is considered a dominant share. Your market share will be a benchmark that tells you how well you're doing in light of your market-planning projections.

You'll also have to describe your positioning strategy. How you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill is called "positioning." Positioning helps establish your product or service's identity within the eyes of the purchaser. A positioning statement for a business plan doesn't have to be long or elaborate, but it does need to point out who your target market is, how you'll reach them, what they're really buying from you, who your competitors are, and what your USP (unique selling proposition) is.

How you price your product or service is perhaps your most important marketing decision. It's also one of the most difficult to make for most small business owners, because there are no instant formulas. Many methods of establishing prices are available to you, but these are among the most common.

  • Cost-plus pricing is used mainly by manufacturers to assure that all costs, both fixed and variable, are covered and the desired profit percentage is attained.
  • Demand pricing is used by companies that sell their products through a variety of sources at differing prices based on demand.
  • Competitive pricing is used by companies that are entering a market where there's already an established price and it's difficult to differentiate one product from another.
  • Markup pricing is used mainly by retailers and is calculated by adding your desired profit to the cost of the product.

You'll also have to determine distribution, which includes the entire process of moving the product from the factory to the end user. Make sure to analyze your competitors' distribution channels before deciding whether to use the same type of channel or an alternative that may provide you with a strategic advantage.

Finally, your promotion strategy should include all the ways you communicate with your markets to make them aware of your products or services. To be successful, your promotion strategy should address advertising, packaging, public relations, sales promotions and personal sales.

Competitive Analysis The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine:

  • the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market.
  • strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage.
  • barriers that can be developed to prevent competition from entering your market.
  • any weaknesses that can be exploited in the product development cycle.

The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify both direct and indirect competition for your business, both now and in the future. Once you've grouped your competitors, start analyzing their marketing strategies and identifying their vulnerable areas by examining their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine your distinct competitive advantage.

Whoever reads your business plan should be very clear on who your target market is, what your market niche is, exactly how you'll stand apart from your competitors, and why you'll be successful doing so.

Operations and Management The operations and management component of your plan is designed to describe how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan highlights the logistics of the organization, such as the responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business.

Financial Components of Your Business Plan After defining the product, market and operations, the next area to turn your attention to are the three financial statements that form the backbone of your business plan: the income statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet.

The income statement is a simple and straightforward report on the business' cash-generating ability. It is a scorecard on the financial performance of your business that reflects when sales are made and when expenses are incurred. It draws information from the various financial models developed earlier such as revenue, expenses, capital (in the form of depreciation), and cost of goods. By combining these elements, the income statement illustrates just how much your company makes or loses during the year by subtracting cost of goods and expenses from revenue to arrive at a net result, which is either a profit or loss. In addition to the income statements, include a note analyzing the results. The analysis should be very short, emphasizing the key points of the income statement. Your CPA can help you craft this.

The cash flow statement is one of the most critical information tools for your business, since it shows how much cash you'll need to meet obligations, when you'll require it and where it will come from. The result is the profit or loss at the end of each month and year. The cash flow statement carries both profits and losses over to the next month to also show the cumulative amount. Running a loss on your cash flow statement is a major red flag that indicates not having enough cash to meet expenses-something that demands immediate attention and action.

The cash flow statement should be prepared on a monthly basis during the first year, on a quarterly basis for the second year, and annually for the third year. The following 17 items are listed in the order they need to appear on your cash flow statement. As with the income statement, you'll need to analyze the cash flow statement in a short summary in the business plan. Once again, the analysis doesn't have to be long and should cover highlights only. Ask your CPA for help.

The last financial statement you'll need is a balance sheet. Unlike the previous financial statements, the balance sheet is generated annually for the business plan and is, more or less, a summary of all the preceding financial information broken down into three areas: assets, liabilities and equity.

Balance sheets are used to calculate the net worth of a business or individual by measuring assets against liabilities. If your business plan is for an existing business, the balance sheet from your last reporting period should be included. If the business plan is for a new business, try to project what your assets and liabilities will be over the course of the business plan to determine what equity you may accumulate in the business. To obtain financing for a new business, you'll need to include a personal financial statement or balance sheet.

In the business plan, you'll need to create an analysis for the balance sheet just as you need to do for the income and cash flow statements. The analysis of the balance sheet should be kept short and cover key points.

Supporting Documents In this section, include any other documents that are of interest to your reader, such as your resume; contracts with suppliers, customers, or clients, letters of reference, letters of intent, copy of your lease and any other legal documents, tax returns for the previous three years, and anything else relevant to your business plan.

Some people think you don't need a business plan unless you're trying to borrow money. Of course, it's true that you do need a good plan if you intend to approach a lender--whether a banker, a venture capitalist or any number of other sources--for startup capital. But a business plan is more than a pitch for financing; it's a guide to help you define and meet your business goals.

Just as you wouldn't start off on a cross-country drive without a road map, you should not embark on your new business without a business plan to guide you. A business plan won't automatically make you a success, but it will help you avoid some common causes of business failure, such as under-capitalization or lack of an adequate market.

As you research and prepare your business plan, you'll find weak spots in your business idea that you'll be able to repair. You'll also discover areas with potential you may not have thought about before--and ways to profit from them. Only by putting together a business plan can you decide whether your great idea is really worth your time and investment.

More from Business Plans

Financial projections.

Estimates of the future financial performance of a business

Financial Statement

A written report of the financial condition of a firm. Financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in net worth and statement of cash flow.

Executive Summary

A nontechnical summary statement at the beginning of a business plan that's designed to encapsulate your reason for writing the plan

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what does business plan entail

What is a business plan and why your business needs it

Q1: firstly, let us define the following: what is a business plan.

A business plan is a guide and a roadmap for your business that outlines goals, how you plan to achieve then, how it will work and succeed.

Q2: How to write a business plan?

These are simple guidelines or rules if you want to know how to write a business plan:

Keep it short and concise, as you want your business plan to be read. A business plan should be a tool you use to run and grow your business, something you continue to use and refine over time. An excessively long business plan is a huge hassle to revise.

Know your audience. Write your plan using language that your audience will understand. Accommodate your investors and keep explanations of your product simple and direct, using terms that everyone can understand. You can always use the appendix of your plan to provide the full definitions if needed.

Don’t be intimidated. Most business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t business experts. Just like you, they’re learning as they go and don’t have degrees in business. Think about the option of hiring a business coach or advisor.

You know your business, you’re the expert on it. For that reason alone, writing a business plan and then leveraging your plan for growth won’t be nearly as challenging as you think.

Start with a simple, one-page lean business plan and then come back and build a slightly longer, more detailed business plan later.

Q3: What do you need to include in a business plan?

Starting with a lean business plan makes the planning process much less daunting. You start simple and grow it organically.

The lean plan has just a few bullet points to focus strategy, tactics, milestones to track tasks and responsibilities, and the basic financial projections you need to plan cash flow, budget and expenses.

If you do need a formal business plan document there are business plan templates, business plan examples and business plan sample s available online. They should include these elements for a good plan:

1. An overview or an executive summary business plan . It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. It is key and shows just the highlights of your business, including the details of what funding you need in the executive summary.

2. A company overview which contains information about your products and/or services.

3. A section on what the opportunities are. Start the opportunity chapter by describing the problem that you are solving for your customers. Define what you are selling, your target market and competition. What advantages does your product or service have over the competition? Go out and talk to potential customers to get the broad view on this.

4. Execution will cover your marketing and sales plan, operations, and your milestones and metrics for success. Set specific times to review your progress toward your goals. The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. Your positioning strategy will often be a major driver of how you price your offerings. Price sends a very strong message to consumers and can be an important tool to communicate your positioning to consumers. Look at your promotion strategy. If you are selling a product, the packaging of that product is critical. Your business plan should include an overview of the kinds of advertising you plan to spend money on. Public relations, content marketing and social media are other considerations. Strategic alliances—you may rely on working closely with another company in a form of partnership. The operations section is how your business works. It’s the logistics, technology, and other nuts and bolts. For product companies, a distribution plan is an important part of the complete business plan. While the milestones and metrics section of your business plan may not be long, it’s critical that you take the time to look forward and schedule the next critical steps for your business. Finally, you should detail the key assumptions you have made that are important for your business’s success.

5. Company and management summary. Investors look for great teams in addition to great ideas. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire. You will also provide a quick overview of your legal structure, location, and history if you’re already up and running, as well as some information about each member of the management team and their role in the company.

6. Details of your financial plan . Ideally include a chart that shows your planned sales, expenses and profitability. Funding requirements to get a bank loan or venture capitalists for funding. Your sales forecast is your projections of how much you are going to sell over the next few years. Your personnel plan details how much you plan on paying your employees. The profit and loss (P&L) is where your numbers all come together and show if you’re making a profit or taking a loss. Cash flow statements keep track of how much cash (money in the bank) you have at any given point. The balance sheet provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It lists the assets in your company, the liabilities and your (the owner’s) equity. If you subtract the company’s liabilities from assets, you can determine the net worth of the company. A brief section of your business plan that details exactly how you plan on using your investors’ cash. An exit strategy is your plan for eventually selling your business, either to another company or to the public in an IPO.

Finally, an Appendix. If you need more space for product images or additional information or definitions, use the appendix for those details.

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What Is an MBA? About the Degree, Programs, Jobs, and More

Learn about this graduate-level business degree, how to get one, and what you can do with it.

[Featured image] Smiling woman in a business suit sitting at a table with her laptop and smartphone.

What does “MBA” stand for?

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA degree , is a graduate-level business and management degree with a focus on leadership and managerial skills. By earning this degree, you can equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to accelerate your career, transition to new industries, or even launch your own businesses. 

It’s the most common and one of the most versatile graduate degrees available.

Who should get an MBA?

MBA students may enter their programs from a variety of backgrounds, and there are different types of programs to suit a range of needs. Typically, MBA students enter their programs after gaining a few years of work experience (in nearly any field) and have long-term goals of working in any area of business, and particularly in leadership roles.

MBA degrees are not the only type of advanced business degrees. Some students instead pursue a Master of Science (MS) business degree. Learn more about deciding whether an MBA or MS is right for you .

Types of MBA programs

An MBA degree program isn’t one-size-fits-all. Consider your lifestyle, career goals, and current employment situation to decide which program is right for you. Here’s a look at some common types of MBA degrees :

Full-time MBA: Traditional two-year programs typically involve taking a full course load, much like an undergraduate degree. These programs are best suited to students who don’t have to work full time and can comfortably fund their degree without bringing in a regular paycheck. 

Part-time MBA: Part-time MBA programs, sometimes called professional MBAs, offer flexibility and enhanced work-life balance for students who wish to pursue a degree over several years while working or raising a family. Students with an established career can continue earning valuable work experience while learning job skills that can be applied right away. Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for employees who pursue a graduate degree while working. 

Executive MBA: Executive MBA programs, also known as EMBAs, are two-year programs geared toward leaders and executives with several years of managerial experience. Since most students in these programs are working professionals, the format tends to be part time with classes on evenings and weekends. Expect a faster-paced learning environment with less immersion than a typical program. With the skills you learn from an EMBA, you can often build off of your work experience to maximize your impact in your organization.

Global MBA: Global MBAs (sometimes called international MBAs) are similar to traditional two-year MBAs but with a focus on international business principles and strategies. Students tend to come from countries around the world. This could be a good option for students who wish to work at international companies. Sometimes global MBA programs offer or require a study abroad component. 

Learn more about the different types of MBA programs and how long they take to complete .

Earning your MBA online vs. on campus

No matter which type of degree you decide to pursue, you might have the option to complete your coursework on a college campus, online, or a hybrid of the two. Each method comes with its own set of benefits. This decision is all about how an MBA program best fits into your lifestyle.

Online MBAs

Online MBA programs through accredited universities, like the iMBA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , offer access to the same professors and learning materials as on-campus programs with the added benefit of a flexible schedule. You can learn from virtually anywhere on a desktop or mobile device—no need to quit your job or relocate to attend a highly ranked business school.

These programs are sometimes less expensive than their on-campus counterparts. Since you can learn at your own pace, you’ll have the option to work full time (and bring in a regular paycheck). 

“If a student is comfortable in joining and being fully engaged in an online setting, then an online degree will provide them with more opportunities to establish connections,” says Fataneh Taghaboni-Dutta , Clinical Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois. “I say more because in terms of time needed to ‘speak’ or ‘meet’ others in an online environment, it’s less taxing than doing the same for in-person settings.”

On-campus MBAs

If you choose to pursue an on-campus MBA, you’ll typically attend classes in person on a fixed schedule. These traditional MBA programs often attract candidates who want to take advantage of the facilities, extracurricular activities, and overall community of a university campus. 

Networking often takes place face to face, both with professors and other students. But you may have to consider relocating, particularly if you have your eye on a specific school or specialization. 

MBA coursework

As you pursue an MBA, you can learn a wide variety of business fundamentals, including economics, marketing, finance, strategy, organizational behavior, and accounting. Outside the core curriculum, you can typically customize your experience through concentrations, elective classes, and internships with actual companies. This can help you to develop some of the leadership skills necessary to run a business—and these skills transfer to many career paths. 

While curriculums vary from school to school, here’s a look at some classes you might see in an MBA curriculum:

Digital marketing

Foundations of leadership

Business strategy

Organizational management

Managerial accounting

Operations management

Investments

Corporate finance

Cultural psychology

Business ethics

Common MBA concentrations

MBA concentrations , also called specializations or majors, are focus areas that you pursue as part of your degree. To complete a concentration, you'll typically need to pass a series of courses in your desired focus area. Though not all MBA programs require that students choose a concentration, they can help demonstrate deeper knowledge in your focus area and set you up for success in that area of business.

Some common MBA concentrations include:

Business analytics

MBA jobs: What can you do with an MBA?

By earning this degree, you can build a foundation for a new career or prepare yourself for better, often higher-paying opportunities. You can gain functional job skills and a well-recognized credential to potentially attract recruiters and hiring managers in a variety of fields.

MBA graduates can work across a variety of industries, though a 2023 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey of corporate recruiters found that there is high demand for MBA graduates in the energy, consulting, products and services, and manufacturing industries [ 1 ].

Some jobs you may be qualified to pursue with an MBA include:

Financial analyst

Human resources manager

Operations manager

Management consultant

Marketing manager

Business development manager

MBA degree salary

People with an MBA degree tend to earn more money than people who don't hold the credential, and people who earn an MBA tend to receive a salary increase upon completing their program. According to a GMAC survey, the median starting salary projected for 2023 MBA graduates in the US was $125,000 [ 1 ].

Factors that can influence your post-graduate salary include your industry, location, school attended, and total years of work experience.

Learn more about MBA degree salaries .

Is an MBA worth it?

Pursuing an MBA can be a significant financial commitment. It’s important to define your goals when deciding whether the investment is right for you. Through an MBA program, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your professional network, elevate your career prospects, and increase your earning potential.

Weighing the cost against the return, most MBA graduates agree that earning their MBA was worth it. In a 2022 survey from GMAC, over 85 percent of MBA graduates reported a positive return on investment from their graduate education. A majority found their business school education to be professionally, personally, and financially rewarding (84, 72, and 68 percent, respectively) [ 2 ].

“The training you receive in an MBA Program prepares you to deal with ambiguity and provides a buffer against uncertainty,” says Hayden Noel , Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois. “You would be better equipped to take advantage of changing opportunities post-COVID. You will also become more effective as a leader and better understand the different functions of your organization. This leads to more positive outcomes in your current job.”

The training you receive in an MBA Program prepares you to deal with ambiguity and provides a buffer against uncertainty.

Learn more: Is an MBA Worth It?

Do I need an MBA degree?

While there are plenty of good  reasons to pursue an MBA degree , not every person (or professional field) requires one. Be sure to find out what hiring managers in your desired field are looking for by checking out current job postings on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed.

If you’re planning to pivot into a new industry, you might find less expensive, less time-consuming ways to build the skills you need. Consider if alternatives like individual courses,  professional certificates , or bootcamps might be a better fit. If you’re feeling unsure, some online MBA programs let you try out a course (sometimes for academic credit) before committing to the full degree.

MBA application requirements

Admission requirements vary by school, but applications may require the following:

Academic transcripts

Resume to show professional experience

GRE or GMAT test scores

Essay or personal statement

Letters of professional recommendation

In-person or video interview

While professional experience is not always necessary, some programs have specific work experience requirements. Previous experience could help you better gauge what you want from your degree and equip you to apply what you’re learning to your career. Other programs may allow recent graduates or even current bachelor’s students to participate in a combined Bachelor's and MBA program if they are looking to launch their careers quickly.

Standardized test scores, including the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), were once standard, heavily weighted requirements. Today, more and more schools are moving to a test-optional policy, particularly for executive and online MBA programs.

Some programs, like the iMBA from the University of Illinois and the Global MBA from Macquarie University , allow students to enroll through a performance-based admission process. Learners who want to try out the program or are unsure if they meet the minimum requirements can take classes and earn academic credit before fully enrolling as a degree-seeking student.

Learn more about how to get an MBA degree .

Get started with Coursera

You’ve learned about what an MBA degree is and what you can do with it. Now it’s time to take the next step on your career journey:

Learn more about earning your business degree online .

Hear what program graduates have to say .

Try an open course from the University of Illinois or Macquarie University to see if an MBA is right for you.

Give your team access to a catalog of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about  Coursera for Business .

Article sources

Graduate Management Admission Council. " Corporate Recruiters Survey: 2023 Summary Report " Accessed August 4, 2023.

Graduate Management Admission Council. " The Value of Graduate Management Education: From the Candidate's Perspective " Accessed August 4, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

ABC News

Trump was fined $355 million, barred from his NY business temporarily. What's next?

With a 92-page order issued late Friday, Judge Arthur Engoron dealt Donald Trump a legal and financial blow that could permanently damage the business empire that propelled him to the presidency.

Beyond the staggering $355 million Trump was ordered to pay -- likely to climb to over $450 million with interest -- Engoron temporarily stripped Trump and his sons of the ability to lead their own businesses or apply for financing.

The penalties -- which New York Attorney General Letitia James applauded as effective ways to "ensure this fraud cannot continue" -- leave the Trump Organization in legal, financial and personnel limbo, as the former president embarks on a costly presidential campaign amid his ongoing legal battles.

"We will get back to work," Trump vowed Friday. "We'll appeal, we'll be successful, I think because frankly, if we're not successful, New York State is gone."

Trump's lawyers plan to appeal the ruling, vowing that higher courts would reverse Engoron's ruling.

"If allowed to stand, this ruling will only further expedite the continuing exodus of companies from New York," a Trump Organization spokesperson said in a statement.

Lengthy appeal

Trump and his lawyers have already vowed to appeal Engoron's ruling to New York's Appellate Division, First Judicial Department.

That same court handed Trump an early victory in his case last year by pausing the cancellation of Trump's business certificates, which Engoron ordered in his September summary judgment ruling. On Friday, Engoron reversed course on that penalty -- nullifying part of his past order -- but placed the Trump Organization under an independent monitor for at least three years.

"That was a very carefully crafted remedy that the judge put in place," said former federal prosecutor Josh Naftalis, who said the early penalty was likely vulnerable to an appeal.

"It's also much harder for the president to get [the new ruling] thrown out on appeal," Naftalis said.

Engoron's lengthy opinion also leaned heavily on the facts of the case -- including lengthy portions on the testimony from each witness -- in a manner that could strengthen the case on appeal, according to trial attorney Ryan Saba.

"This court sat one yard away from the witnesses on the stand, had a clearer view of the witnesses and was able to assess their credibility," Saba said about Engoron's role as a factfinder during the jury trial. "The findings in this opinion, if the appeal is based upon a factual challenge, are going to be very difficult to overturn."

Even if the initial appeal is unsuccessful, Trump could ask New York's Court of Appeals – the state's highest court -- to weigh in, possibly making the appeal a yearslong process. While that approach would give Trump more time to find money for the fine, the penalty will accrue annual interest and only becomes pricier over time.

Trump's lawyers have expressed confidence in their future appeal, lauding the First Department's past rulings limiting the statute of limitations for conduct in the case.

"President Trump will of course appeal and remains confident the Appellate Division will ultimately correct the innumerable and catastrophic errors made by a trial court untethered to the law or to reality," Trump's attorney Chris Kise told ABC News.

Not-so-family business

While Trump's lawyers fight Engoron's opinion in court, the former president's namesake business faces its own challenges -- beginning with a lack of leadership.

Currently run by senior vice presidents Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the Trump Organization lost its top executives on Friday when Engoron banned them from leading New York corporations for two years. Engoron also barred Trump from applying to loans from any New York banks, severely limiting Trump's access to capital.

"He's being choked on a personnel level, and he's being choked on a capital level," Naftalis said.

According to Trump's most recent financial disclosure, the former president still owes money to Deutsche Bank but took new loans from California-based Axos Bank, potentially offering the president a workaround from the penalty.

Moreover, Engoron's decision presents a red flag for potential lenders who might distrust any financial statement prepared by the Trump Organization, according to Naftalis.

"I think practically what this means is that a bank is not going to want to do business with them because he effectively has a scarlet letter on his chest," Naftalis said.

Engoron ordered Judge Barbara Jones to continue monitoring the company as well as appoint a director of compliance for the company, increasing the independent oversight of the company. In addition to Jones’ past responsibilities, Engoron ordered that the Trump Organization would need to get prior approval from Jones before issuing any financial disclosure to a third party.

Potential cash crunch

If Trump's appeal is unsuccessful in limiting the fines imposed by Engoron, the former president might be unable to find the cash to cover the fine, potentially forcing him to sell off some of his prized buildings. Trump also was ordered to pay columnist E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million last month in a civil suit, adding to his financial obligations.

"That's a pretty significant hit towards anybody's overall liquidity, regardless of the total amount of money that you have," Saba said.

Even if Trump is elected president in nine months, he faces no way out of the disgorgement if his fraud trial appeal fails -- and declaring bankruptcy would be unlikely to resolve the financial troubles since legal fines are generally not dischargeable, according to Illinois College of Law Professor Robert Lawless.

"There are remedies the person holding the judgment can do to force payment, everything from, you know, seizing property to taking the wages of the person that owes the money," Lawless said.

Trump was fined $355 million, barred from his NY business temporarily. What's next?

Watch CBS News

When will the Fed cut interest rates in 2024? Here's what experts now say and the impact on your money.

By Aimee Picchi

Edited By Anne Marie Lee

February 14, 2024 / 12:03 PM EST / CBS News

A top question on the minds of investors and consumers alike is when might the Federal Reserve make its first interest rate cut after two years of rapid hikes, which have sent mortgage and credit card rates soaring. But after Tuesday's hotter-than-forecast inflation report , economists have a partial answer: Expect to wait longer.

Even before Tuesday's inflation data, the Federal Reserve had signaled that it would take a cautious approach. Fed chair Jerome Powell told CBS News' "60 Minutes" earlier this month that the central bank wants to have more confidence that inflation is receding "before we take that very important step of beginning to cut interest rates."

The Federal Reserve began hiking rates in March 2022 to battle red-hot inflation, relying on an effective tool to depress consumer spending and tamp down price increases. The central bank's 11 rate hikes since then have helped bring down the annual inflation rate to 3.1% in January from a high of 9.1% in June 2022, but January's number was higher than economists had projected — and remains above the Fed's goal of driving inflation down to 2%. 

The Fed is "being very cautious when it comes to its decision making regarding rate cuts," noted Jacob Channel, an economist at LendingTree, in an email. "The reason for this is because they don't want to start cutting prematurely and end up making inflation worse."

January's hot inflation data illustrates the difficulty for the Fed in timing its first cut, he added. "For this reason, if you're convinced that deep cuts are just over the horizon, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment," Channel added. 

When will the first cut happen?

Economists have revised their forecasts following Tuesday's sticky inflation report, with many of them now projecting the Fed's first cut will come later in 2024 than they had earlier forecast. In other words, don't hold your breath for a cut at either of its next two meetings, in March and May.

Earlier in the year, most economists pegged the first rate cut of 2024 for the Fed's March 20 meeting. But as of Wednesday, only 1 in 10 continued to forecast a March rate cut. 

"The initial market reaction sent expectations for a March rate cut to a below 10% probability — quite a shift after starting the year at 80%," PNC Bank said in a Tuesday investment note. 

Likewise, fewer economists are now predicting that the Fed will cut rates at its May 1 meeting. Currently, about one-third are still penciling in a May rate reduction, down from 90% earlier this year. 

Instead, you'll most likely need to wait until the Fed's June 12 meeting to see the first rate cut, according to economists polled by FactSet.

"In our view, expectations for rate cuts are, and have been, too aggressive. Our base case does not anticipate rate cuts until closer to mid-year," PNC noted.

What does this mean for your money?

With economists pushing back their rate-cut forecasts to mid-2024, the initial impact was on the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 525 points , or 1.4%, on Tuesday. 

Investors had been pushing stocks higher on expectations that the Fed would soon cut rates, which could lower costs for businesses and spur consumers to spend more — potentially juicing corporate profits. 

See Managing Your Money for more information on mortgage rates

  • What the latest inflation numbers mean for mortgage rates
  • Is a 1% drop in mortgage rates worth refinancing? Experts weigh in
  • Why some experts say you shouldn't wait for mortgage rates to fall

For now, borrowers aren't likely to get a break on loan terms anytime soon. Auto loans, credit card rates and other credit products that are based on the Fed's benchmark rate will likely remain at or near their current levels until the first rate cut.

Mortgages are slightly different because they are influenced by the 10-year Treasury yield and economic indicators including inflation. 

"When inflation growth is worse than expected, mortgage rates often rise," Channel said. "With that in mind, we may see somewhat higher mortgage rates over the coming weeks."

After a bounce, however, mortgage rates "will most likely settle toward 6% by the year end," predicted NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun in an email.

  • Mortgage Rates
  • Interest Rates
  • Federal Reserve

Aimee Picchi is the associate managing editor for CBS MoneyWatch, where she covers business and personal finance. She previously worked at Bloomberg News and has written for national news outlets including USA Today and Consumer Reports.

More from CBS News

What homebuyers should do if mortgage rates don't fall

What will the 2024 spring homebuying season look like?

Is a mortgage rate half a percentage point lower worth it?

4 expert tips for choosing the right CD in today's rate environment

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    The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are ...

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    A business plan is a formalized outline of the business operations, finances, and goals you aim to achieve to be a successful company. When designing a business plan, companies have leeway for how long, short, or detailed it can be. So long as it outlines the foundational aspects of the business, in most cases, it will be effective.

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    Step 7: Financial Analysis and Projections. It doesn't matter if you include a request for funding in your plan, you will want to include a financial analysis here. You'll want to do two things here: Paint a picture of your business's performance in the past and show it will grow in the future.

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    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 ...

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    A business plan is an effective way of communicating with potential investors, and the level of expertise and time used in preparing a business plan also gives professional credibility to entrepreneurs. It analyzes and predicts the chances of success for the investor and helps to raise capital. Features of a Good Business Plan 1. Executive Summary

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    Describe how you will attract and retain your customer base, including what makes you stand out from competitors, and detail the actual sales process. 5. Products/services. Your product or service is the crux of your business idea, so you'll want to ensure you make a strong case for it being on the market.

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    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 ...

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