All About Business Planning - Guidelines, Resources and Samples

Sections of This Topic Include

What is a Business Plan?
Core Contents of a Business Plan
How to Translate Between For-Profit and Nonprofit Plans
Preparation for Writing a Business Plan for a For-Profit or Nonprofit
How to Write a Business Plan - General Advice and Resources
Special Applications and Considerations
For-Profit Business Plans, Samples and Templates
Nonprofit Business Plans, Samples and Templates
Implementation - Follow-On After the Business Plan

General Resources
In-Depth Resources for Each Typical Component of a Business Plan

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What is a Business Plan? Strategic Plan?

Common Interpretation: It Is Used to Plan for a New Venture

A business plan is often prepared by for-profits, nonprofits or a government agency when undertaking a new venture, which is:

  • Starting a new organization, product or service or
  • Expanding, acquiring or improving any of the above.

There are numerous benefits of doing a business plan, including:

  • To identify an problems in your plans before you implement those plans.
  • To get the commitment and participation of those who will implement the plans, which leads to better results.
  • To establish a roadmap to compare results as the venture proceeds from paper to reality.
  • To achieve greater profitability in your organization, products and services -- all with less work.
  • To obtain financing from investors and funders.
  • To minimize your risk of failure.
  • To update your plans and operations in a changing world.
  • To clarify and synchronize your goals and strategies.

For these reasons, the planning process often is as useful as the business plan document itself.

Other Views on a Business Plan

Others view a Business Plan to be the same as a Strategic Plan and, thus, use the phrases interchangeably. However, this can be confusing since a Strategic Plan is conventionally interpreted to be a plan that is focused on the entire organization, including to clarify its purpose and priories and how those priorities will be addressed over a specific time. A Strategic Plan could have several associated and small plans, for example, an Implementation Plan, Financial Plan and Staffing Plan.

Others view the financial information in an overall Strategic Plan to be a business plan. However, this view can be confusing for the same reason as interpretation a Business Plan and Strategic Plan to be the same.

Also read:
What Do We Need -- Strategic or Business Plan?
Business Plans vs Strategic Plans


Core Contents of a Business Plan

Business plans appear in many different formats, depending on its purpose and audience and also the complexity of the venture. However, most business plans address the following five topic areas in one form or another.

  1. Business summary -- Describes the organization, product or service, summarizing its purpose, management, operations, marketing and finances.
  2. Market opportunity -- Concisely describes what unmet need it will (or does) fill, presents evidence that this need is genuine, and that the beneficiaries (or a third party) will pay for the costs to meet this need. Describes credible market research on target customers (including perceived benefits and willingness to pay), competitors and pricing.
  3. People -- Arguably the most important part of the plan, it describes who will be responsible for developing, marketing and operating this venture, and why their backgrounds and skills make them the right people to make this successful. Ideally, each person in the management team (and key program and technical folks) are indicated by NAME.
  4. Implementation -- This is the how-to section of the plan where the action steps are clearly described, usually in four areas: start-up, marketing, operations and financial. Marketing builds on market research presented, e.g., in a Market Opportunity section of the plan, including your competitive niche (how you will be better than your competitors in ways that matter to your target customers). Financial plan includes, e.g., costs to launch, operate, market and finance the business, along with conservative estimates of revenue typically for three years. A break-even analysis is often included in this section.
  5. Contingencies -- This section outlines the most likely things that could go wrong with implementing this plan and how management is prepared to respond to those problems if they emerge.

In many cases, an organization will already have in its possession some of the information needed for preparing a business plan. For example, in the case of nonprofits, grant proposals often contain some of this information.

What Makes a Business Plan a Business Plan?


How to Translate Between For-Profit and Nonprofit Plans

For-profit and nonprofit business plans have many similarities, even though the phrase "Business Plan" is usually associated with a for-profit organization. Some of the terms are different, but in most cases, the words in a for-profit Business Plan can be readily translated into words more commonly associated with nonprofits. For example, "balance sheet" is what nonprofit call a "statement of financial position", "profit and loss statement" (or income statement) is essentially the same as a "statement of financial activities".

Also, the core contents of a Business Plan as listed above are very similar to the core contents of a nonprofit Program Plan because a nonprofit product or service is conventionally referred to as a program. See Different Names for Similar Concepts.


Preparation for Business Planning for a For-Profit or Nonprofit

Are You Personally Ready for a New Venture?

Before you start a major venture, there are several considerations about yourself that you should address.
Entrepreneurship -- Are You Really Ready to Start a New Organization, Product or Service?
Are You an Innovator, an Entrepreneur, or a Manager?
Your Business Plan Is About You

What Do You Expect from a Business Plan?

There are some things that a Business Plan cannot do.
Case Against Business Planning
10 Common Startup Mistakes
Why So Many Startups Fail

A Manual to Guide You

The following manual guides you through the major considerations to address when completing a Business Plan. The manual includes numerous links to other free resources as the reader goes through each section of the manual.
Preparation for Planning a Business Venture


How to Write a Business Plan - General Advice and Resources

The following resources are helpful whether your planning is for a for-profit or nonprofit venture. The upcoming sections are specific to each type of organization.

The Basics

The Four Cornerstones of Every Business Plan
Structure Your Business Plan
Create Your Business Plan

Do Just Enough Business Planning
Short is Beautiful

How to Write a Great Business Plan
Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible
What Gandhi Taught Us About Business Planning
How to Write a Basic Business Plan

Special Topics

5 Page Business Plan: Wave of the Future?
Halloween Special: Five Business Plan Tricks
Business Plan in A Weekend?
20-Minute Business Model?
Executive Summary Says It All
Video Business Plans
Are Creative Business Plans a Good Thing?

Special Applications and Considerations

Plans for Business-to-Business Ventures
Low-Cost Startups and Business Plans
Intrapreneurial Business Plans
Women Entrepreneurs Bring Unique Strengths
Avoid the Silicon Valley Syndrome
Make a Business Plan and Reduce Chances of Incurring Debt


For-Profit Business Plans, Samples and Templates

How to Write a Business Plan for a For-Profit Organization

Business Plan for Small Business
Business Plan FAQ
An Introduction to Business Plans
5 Most Common Mistakes When Writing a Business Plan
Critical Steps to Writing a Business Plan
Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible
Ten Common Startup Mistakes

How to Write a Business Plan to Start Your Own Business (video)
Business Plan Writing 101 (video)
How to Write a One-Page Business Plan (video)

General Resources Specific to For-Profit Business Planning

Business Plan Writing Center
Bplans.com: The Business Planning Resource Center
Small Business Administration resources

Sample For-Profit Business Plans

sample business plans
Sample Business Plans
Business Plan Archive
Business Plan : Examples and Best Practices

Sample For-Profit Business Plan Templates

Small Business Administration online tool
PlanBuildr
LawDepot
FormSwift
Simple Business Plan Template
One-Page Business Plan Templates
Standard Business Plan Outline (Bplans)
Simple Business Plan Templates for Entrepreneurs
Top 10 Business Plan Templates You Can Download Free


Nonprofit Business Plans, Samples and Templates

How to Write a Business Plan for a Nonprofit Organization

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan
What is a Business Plan and Why Do I Need One for My Nonprofit?
Nonprofit Business Plan Tips
Business Planning for Nonprofits: The Organizational and Leadership Benefits
Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters
Business Planning for Nonprofits
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
How do I write a business plan for a nonprofit organization?

Sample Nonprofit Business Plans

Nonprofit Business Planning
numerous sample nonprofit business plans
How to Create Jobs, Save the Planet and Make Money for Your Nonprofit
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Business Plan Archive

Sample Nonprofit Business Plan Templates

21+ Non Profit Business Plan Templates
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Non-Profit Business Plan Template


Implementation -- Follow-On After the Business Plan

Business Planning Doesn't End With Your Plan: Part 1 of 2
Business Planning Doesn't End with Your Plan: Part 2 of 2
Plan Your Work Then Work Your Plan
Implementation - Turning Your BusinessPlan Into a Business
Execution Trumps Strategy
How Do We Ensure Implementation of Our New Plan?


General Resources

Business Plan Software Recommendations
Best Business Planning Books
10 Best Business Planning Websites
Online Classes for Entrepeneurs


In-Depth Resources for Each Typical Component of a Business Plan

Planning -- Basic Skills

Creativity & Innovation
Decision Making
Planning (General)
Problem Solving

Project Planning
Be Nimble, Be Quick; Be Disruptive, Too

Legal Structures of Organizations

Legal Forms and Traditional Structures of Organizations

Market Research -- Inbound Marketing

Planning Your Research
Market Research
Find and Feed the Feeling

Strategizing

Understanding Strategy and Strategic Thinking

Competitor Analysis

Porter’s Five Competitive Forces (Part I)
Porter’s Five Competitive Forces (Part 2)
Competitive Intelligence

Product Planning

Product Management
E-Commerce

Sales and Services Planning

Customer Service
Quality Management
Sales

Advertising (Planning) -- Outbound Marketing

Advertising (Planning Your)
Advertising Planning
Marketing
All About Social Networking
Gotta Have a Social Media Strategy

Staffing Analysis and Management Planning

Job Specification
Staffing (Planning)

Financial Analysis and Management

Finances (For-Profit)
Finances (Nonprofit)
Financial Projections and Other Business Planning Fantasies
Typical Revenue Models
Break-Even Analysis

Feasibility Analysis

Feasibility Testing -- Do Just Enough
Feasibility Testing -- A Lost Art
Feasibility Testing -- Top 10 tips

Pricing

Pricing Strategies Part 1
Pricing Strategies Part 2

Funding - Getting

Fundraising (For-Profit)
Fundraising (Nonprofit)
Loans (Getting)
Why Business Plans Don't Get Funded
Articulate the Value Your Business Will Deliver
Seed Money from Crowdsourcing
Crowdfunding Update
Promises and Problems With Microcredit


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