A business plan is a document all about your company. A typical plan outlines the mission statement, operations, marketing strategies, financials, and executive summary. A business plan is non-negotiable. If you have a business — even if you’re just getting started or a one-person show — you need to have a business plan. Even if it’ll never reach the eyes of another soul, the plan works as a guideline for you. It keeps you grounded. It helps you focus on business objectives and future goals.
…assuming your business plan is effective, of course. And the only way to ensure your business plan is effective — that is, relevant, helpful, and true — is after you’ve looked at business plan samples. Here’s why.
Why are sample business plans relevant to you?
It’s beneficial to look at business plan samples or templates before starting your own business plan. Samples give insight about the general parts of a business plan, as well as additional beneficial add-ons you can include.
Creating a business plan from nothing can be complicated — especially if it’s your first time. You may be surprised by how much time and resources needed to create the business plan. For instance, you may need additional input from accountants and business analysts. And more resources might be necessary than originally believed.
However, if you have a sample by your side, any additional services required will be apparent early on. Thus allowing you to get everything together before starting, rather than trying to grab each piece in the middle of writing. Or be forced to do some last minute market research.
There’s plenty of samples available online based on industry and business type. If you search, you’re likely to find the perfect example for your situation.
You have the choice to follow a simple plan or one specific for your industry. I’d recommend following a specific one. The parts of a business plan can change depending on your industry and whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business, or startup. You always want to include the key elements for yours, but stray away from additional parts that may be unnecessary and unfit to be in your business plan.
What kind of business plan samples are there?
There are samples for every industry type — everything from retail to hospitality to e-commerce. Finding a sample relevant to your industry is critical before starting your business plan, as there may be some specific things to include or exclude.
For instance, some business plans include strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is ideal for all businesses (in my opinion), but may be more essential for startups or internet-based companies drowning in competition.
If you do include a SWOT analysis, think of it as a way to highlight your competitive advantages, as well as identifying realistic threats and weaknesses.
Besides analysis, other business plans may include a “business exit strategy” or a “funding request” section. The former is more often applicable for entrepreneurial business plans because it explains how the owner will sell or give ownership. It also details how, if the business goes belly-up, the owner will “exit” with the least amount of damage. Or if the business is successful, it details how the owner will make a worthwhile profit.
Although this is applicable in any business, a business exit strategy isn’t always included. Likewise, the “funding request” section is only included when the business owner is looking for investments. This is the case when the plan will land in the hands of potential investors who are in need of swaying before investing.
As you can see, business plans are customizable, but not every option is necessary. This is why looking at samples before starting is crucial.
By not looking at samples ahead of time, your risk for excluding critical pieces of information is high.
Where can you find business plan samples?
Business plan samples and templates are available all over the internet. Some ask for payment before providing access to a gallery of plans. Others only want your email. And some want nothing at all.
HubSpot, a notable marketing company, showcases several sample business plans to help you get started on your own — for free.
Although this is a Canadian site, it gives several plans for general and entrepreneurial businesses at no cost.
And Small Starter offers business plans for beauty salons, health spa clubs, plumbing businesses, and more. This is a good place to look for industry-specific samples when you’re in a rush.
I’d advise you do to more digging and look at several samples before sitting down to write out your business plan. Compare samples, see what each one includes and doesn’t include, then make an informed decision for your own planning.
A business plan is necessary for all companies, big and small. It’s a document that explains what your business is, the costs, and objective. It’s a one-stop-shop for anyone needing to know about your business.
Even if you’re not seeking investments or on the lookout for a new business partner, you need a business plan. It organizes your thoughts, goals, and can be a reference to consult before making future business decisions.
With that said, before starting or revising an existing business plan, look for a business plan sample or template. In fact, look for several! Not all business plans include the same bits of information. Some are dozens of pages in length, others are only a few. Although there are key sections all business plans should have — the executive summary, financials, and operations — there’s extras you can include. Like SWOT analysis, for example.
When searching for samples don’t just pick the first thing that pops up. Research. Compare. Then research a bit more. Your business plan should be comprehensive and explain every necessary part of your business for it to be successful.
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