How to Create A Business Plan

If you’re hoping to borrow money to buy or start a business, you’ll probably need a business plan.

A business plan, which projects 3-5 years ahead, is your road map for your business. It outlines how a company plans to reach yearly milestones, including revenue projections. A well-thought-out plan also helps a business focus on its key elements and helps the owner make good decisions, according to the Small Business Administration.

The SBA’s Business Plan Tool is a free resource that guides you step-by-step to create the plan. Not only can you save your plan as a PDF file, you can also update it at any time, making this a living plan to which you can often refer. You can also use your completed business plan to discuss next steps with a mentor or counselor from an SBA resource partner such as SCORE, a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or a Women’s Business Center (WBC).

All of your information entered into this tool can only be viewed by accessing your account using the password you have specified.

Complete each section of SBA’s Business Plan Tool at your own pace. Save your work at any time and pick up where you left off the next time you log into the tool. Your information will be saved for up to six months after your last login date.

Serial entrepreneur Alejandro Cremades, author of The Art of Startup Fundraising, says you “should have a plan in order to get yourself organized, to ensure you have some type of viable commercial potential, you have focus and hopefully aren’t going to run out of money or starve before you get going.”

Writing for Forbes, Cremades says that traditional business plans can be massive, expensive, time-consuming projects. If “you don’t plan to raise money, apply for loans and don’t intend on bringing in partners, then you certainly don’t need a 25lb manuscript. Keep it simple.” Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, is famous for his one-page business plan for global domination.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) says some business plans “end up nothing more than a fable.” That because HBR says “the real key to succeeding in business is being flexible and responsive to opportunities. Entrepreneurs often have to pivot their business once it becomes clear that their original customer is not the right customer, or when it turns out that their product or service fits better in an alternate market.”

HBR also wrote that:

  • The “most successful entrepreneurs were those that wrote their business plan between 6-12 months after deciding to start a business. Stating that this “increased the probability of venture viability success by 8%.”
  • Chances of success rose by 12% for those that spent no longer than three months on their plan. Spending more time than that was futile.
  • Startups chances of venture viability rose by 27% if the plan was created at the same time that founders were talking to customers and preparing marketing.

According to and Rule’s Book of Business Plans for Startups, founders should be considering these factors when creating their plan.

  • How the business will be vested
  • Main objectives
  • Mission statement
  • Keys to success
  • Industry analysis
  • Market analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Core strategies
  • Marketing plans
  • Management
  • Organizational structure
  • Key operations
  • Projections and pro formas
  • Break-even analysis
  • Financial needs

SCORE, an SBA partner that provides free business mentoring and education, offers templates with instructions for each section of the business plan, followed by worksheets.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Plan
  • Management & Organization
  • Startup Expenses & Capitalization
  • Financial Plan
  • Appendices