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Coming Up With the Perfect Name for Your Business

Coming up with a great name for your business is key to its success. The wrong name can send the wrong message about you, while the right name can give your business exactly the boost it needs. Check out the ideas of company names below.

Find a Name That Conveys User Benefit

When a business is starting out and is trying to make a name for itself, it can really benefit from a name that identifies what it does. Having the name of the type of service you provide or the product you create lets people know immediately what you do. It can help you stand out and be found by people who are looking for that specific product or service.

Choose a Name That’s Easily Searchable and Spelled Properly

It’s fun to make up or choose names that are creatively spelled, but unless you have a massive marketing budget to promote that misspelled word, you’ll be making it harder for people to find you. If you need every dime of your marketing outreach budget to be well spent, use proper spelling so that it’s easy to find you.

Choose a Name That Sounds Nice and Rolls Off the Tongue

People like saying pleasant or fun words. If your company has a name that sounds discordant or unpleasant, people won’t want to say it. They’ll subconsciously develop a negative association with the word and, by proxy, your business. Pleasant or fun words are much more important if you’re trying to make your company name pleasant or memorable.

Check Out Possible Names on Google AdWords

Google AdWords has a feature called the “find keywords” tool. Once you enter a possible company name into the tool, it will push out a list of similar search phrases. You’re then able to see how phrases similar to your company name rank.

Do a Thorough Name Search

The absolute worst thing you can do is to finally decide on a name, only to find out that there is another USA company with that name. A legal name search will help ensure that doesn’t happen. Check out the US Patent and Trademark Office for trademarks and Network Solutions for the domain name.

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How To Write the Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2023)

How to write a business plan: everything you need to know

A great business plan can help you clarify your strategy, identify potential roadblocks, decide what you’ll need in the way of resources, and evaluate the viability of your idea or your growth plans before you start a business .

Not every successful business launches with a formal business plan, but many founders find value in taking time to step back, research their idea and the market they’re looking to enter, and understand the scope and the strategy behind their tactics. That’s where writing a business plan comes in.

Table of Contents

What is a business plan?

Why write a business plan, business plan formats, how to write a business plan in 9 steps, tips for creating a small business plan, common mistakes when writing a business plan, prepare your business plan today, business plan faq.

A business plan is a document describing a business, its products or services, how it earns (or will earn) money, its leadership and staffing, its financing, its operations model, and many other details essential to its success.

We had a marketing background but not much experience in the other functions needed to run a fashion ecommerce business, like operations, finance, production, and tech. Laying out a business plan helped us identify the “unknowns” and made it easier to spot the gaps where we’d need help or, at the very least, to skill up ourselves. Jordan Barnett, Kapow Meggings

Investors rely on business plans to evaluate the feasibility of a business before funding it, which is why business plans are commonly associated with getting a loan. But there are several compelling reasons to consider writing a business plan, even if you don’t need funding.

If you’re looking for a structured way to lay out your thoughts and ideas, and to share those ideas with people who can have a big impact on your success, a business plan is an excellent starting point.

Free: Business Plan Template

Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

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Business plans can span from one page to multiple pages with detailed graphs and reports. There’s no one way to create a business plan. The goal is to convey the most important information about your company for readers.

Common types of business plans we see include, but are not limited to, the following:

Check out real-world examples of different business plans by reading The Road to Success: Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own .

Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. Starting your business plan with a structured outline and key elements for what you’ll include in each section is the best first step you can take.

Since an outline is such an important step in the process of writing a business plan, we’ve put together a high-level overview you can copy into your blank document to get you started (and avoid the terror of facing a blank page). You can also start with a free business plan template and use it to inform the structure of your plan.

Once you’ve got your business plan outline in place, it’s time to fill it in. We’ve broken it down by section to help you build your plan step by step.

1. Draft an executive summary

A good executive summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan—it’s also the last section you should write.

The executive summary’s purpose is to distill everything that follows and give time-crunched reviewers (e.g., potential investors and lenders) a high-level overview of your business that persuades them to read further.

Again, it’s a summary, so highlight the key points you’ve uncovered while writing your plan. If you’re writing for your own planning purposes, you can skip the summary altogether—although you might want to give it a try anyway, just for practice.

Screenshot of an executive summary by FIGS

An executive summary shouldn’t exceed one page. Admittedly, that space constraint can make squeezing in all of the salient information a bit stressful—but it’s not impossible. Here’s what your business plan’s executive summary should include:

2. Describe your company

This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? Answering these questions with a company description provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment bet. For example, clean makeup brand Saie shares a letter from its founder on the company’s mission and why it exists.

A letter from the Saie founder next to a picture of a woman putting on mascara

Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.

Here are some of the components you should include in your company description:

Some of these points are statements of fact, but others will require a bit more thought to define, especially when it comes to your business’s vision, mission, and values. This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.

This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.

To define your values, think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.

Once you know your values, you can write a mission statement . Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence.

As an example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Making commerce better for everyone.” It’s the “why” behind everything we do and clear enough that it needs no further explanation.

What impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision?

Next, craft your vision statement: what impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision? Phrase this impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise.

Finally, your company description should include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure all your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

3. Perform a market analysis

No matter what type of business you start, it’s no exaggeration to say your market can make or break it. Choose the right market for your products—one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product—and you’ll have a head start on success. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale.

Market analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.

This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. It should include an overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products, an analysis of your business’s position in the market, and an overview of the competitive landscape. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.

How big is your potential market?

The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. While it’s exciting to imagine sky-high sales figures, you’ll want to use as much relevant independent data as possible to validate your estimated potential market.

Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:

Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed?

These breakdowns often are presented as a grid, with bullet points in each section breaking down the most relevant information—so you can probably skip writing full paragraphs here. Strengths and weaknesses—both internal company factors—are listed first, with opportunities and threats following in the next row. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.

Here’s an example:

SWOT analysis

Free: SWOT Analysis Template

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Competitive analysis.

There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:

To understand which is the best fit, you’ll need to understand your business as well as the competitive landscape.

You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product, so it’s important to include a competitive overview in your business plan. If you’re entering an established market, include a list of a few companies you consider direct competitors and explain how you plan to differentiate your products and business from theirs.

You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product.

For example, if you’re selling jewelry, your competitive differentiation could be that, unlike many high-end competitors, you donate a percentage of your profits to a notable charity or pass savings on to your customers.

If you’re entering a market where you can’t easily identify direct competitors, consider your indirect competitors—companies offering products that are substitutes for yours. For example, if you’re selling an innovative new piece of kitchen equipment, it’s too easy to say that because your product is new, you have no competition. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems your product solves.

4. Outline management and organization

A woman does research on a laptop sitting on the floor

The management and organization section of your business plan should tell readers about who’s running your company. Detail the legal structure of your business. Communicate whether you’ll incorporate your business as an S corporation or create a limited partnership or sole proprietorship.

If you have a management team, use an organizational chart to show your company’s internal structure, including the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between people in your chart. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.

5. List your products and services

Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it’s important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers.

If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines; if you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. For example, bag shop BAGGU sells a large selection of different types of bags, in addition to home goods and other accessories. Its business plan would list out those bags and key details about each.

Screenshot of BAGGU reusable bags on its website

Describe new products you’ll launch in the near future and any intellectual property you own. Express how they’ll improve profitability.

It’s also important to note where products are coming from—handmade crafts are sourced differently than trending products for a dropshipping business, for instance.

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6. perform customer segmentation.

A man looks at graphs on an ipad

Your ideal customer, also known as your target market, is the foundation of your marketing plan , if not your business plan as a whole. You’ll want to keep this person in mind as you make strategic decisions, which is why an overview of who they are is important to understand and include in your plan.

To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:

This information will vary based on what you’re selling, but you should be specific enough that it’s unquestionably clear who you’re trying to reach—and more importantly, why you’ve made the choices you have based on who your customers are and what they value.

For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a 50-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.

7. Define a marketing plan

A screenshot of a tweet about a marketing plan

Your marketing efforts are directly informed by your ideal customer. Your marketing plan should outline your current decisions and your future strategy, with a focus on how your ideas are a fit for that ideal customer.

If you’re planning to invest heavily in > Instagram marketing , for example, it might make sense to include whether Instagram is a leading platform for your audience—if it’s not, that might be a sign to rethink your marketing plan.

Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. How much detail you present on each will depend on both your business and your plan’s audience.

Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.

8. Provide a logistics and operations plan

Brown boxes stacked to the ceiling in a warehouse

Logistics and operations are the workflows you’ll implement to make your ideas a reality. If you’re writing a business plan for your own planning purposes, this is still an important section to consider, even though you might not need to include the same level of detail as if you were seeking investment.

Cover all parts of your planned operations, including:

This section should signal to your reader that you’ve got a solid understanding of your supply chain and strong contingency plans in place to cover potential uncertainty. If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending.

9. Make a financial plan

A laptop sits open with numbers and graphs on the screen

No matter how great your idea is, and regardless of the effort, time, and money you invest, a business lives or dies based on its financial health. At the end of the day, people want to work with a business they expect to be viable for the foreseeable future.

The level of detail required in your financial plan will depend on your audience and goals, but typically you’ll want to include three major views of your financials: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. It also may be appropriate to include financial data and projections.

Here’s a spreadsheet template that includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections if needed.

Income statement

Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. If you haven’t launched your business yet, you can project future milestones of the same information.

Balance sheet

Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets (what you own), and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe). This provides a snapshot of your business’s shareholder equity, which is calculated as:

Assets - Liabilities = Equity

Cash flow statement

Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid.

When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will help you see when cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and where you might need to have a contingency plan to access funding to keep your business solvent .

It can be especially helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement to identify gaps or negative cash flow and adjust operations as required. Here’s a full guide to working through cash-flow projections for your business.

Download your copy of these templates to build out these financial statements for your business plan.

Know your audience

When you know who will be reading your plan—even if you’re just writing it for yourself to clarify your ideas—you can tailor the language and level of detail to them. This can also help you make sure you’re including the most relevant information and figure out when to omit sections that aren’t as impactful.

Have a clear goal

You’ll need to put in more work and deliver a more thorough plan if your goal is to secure funding for your business versus working through a plan for yourself or even your team.

Invest time in research

Sections of your business plan will primarily be informed by your ideas and vision, but some of the most crucial information you’ll need requires research from independent sources. This is where you can invest time in understanding who you’re selling to, whether there’s demand for your products, and who else is selling similar products or services.

Keep it short and to the point

No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices.

Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent

This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it.

Use a business plan software

Writing a business plan isn’t the easiest task for business owners. But it’s important for anyone starting or expanding a business. Fortunately, there are tools to help with everything from planning, drafting, creating graphics, syncing financial data, and more. Business plan software also have templates and tutorials to help you finish a comprehensive plan in hours, rather than days.

A few curated picks include:

For a more in-depth look at the available options, read Get Guidance: 6 Business Plan Software to Help Write Your Future .

Other articles on business plans would never tell you what we’re about to tell you: your business plan can fail. The last thing you want is for time and effort to go down the drain. Avoid these common mistakes:

Read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own business planning.

Download sample business plan example (.doc)

A business plan can help you identify clear, deliberate next steps for your business, even if you never plan to pitch investors—and it can help you see gaps in your plan before they become issues. Whether you’ve written a business plan for a new online business idea , a retail storefront, growing your established business, or purchasing an existing business , you now have a comprehensive guide and the information you need to help you start working on the next phase of your own business.

Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall

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Desirae Odjick

Desirae is a senior product marketing manager at Shopify, and has zero chill when it comes to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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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. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, 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, which should contain 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, it should cover 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

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

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.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution 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.

» 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.

You may also include 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.

» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

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.

List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. 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. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

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.

The Different Types of Business Plans

the different types of business plans

This article is part of our Business Planning Guide —a curated list of our articles that will help you with the planning process!

Business plans go by many names: Strategic plans, operational plans, internal plans, Lean Plans, and many others.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the Lean Plan . There are also one-page business plans , although those are really more summaries . Of course, there are traditional business plans , which can also be called formal business plans, or wow-do-I-really-have-to-do-all-that business plans.

You might need different kinds of business plans depending on what you plan to use to accomplish. Like so many other things in business, the principle of form follows function applies. Different situations call for different types of business plans. An effective business plan will match its intended use. Knowing the specific use of a particular type of plan will help you build a better roadmap for the future of your business.

Download the Business Plan Template today!

Let’s take a look at the types of business plans and their differences. You can click on the link to be taken directly to the section on that specific business plan if you’d like to jump ahead.

In this article, I’ll cover these different types of business plans:

The Lean Plan: Track and grow

All businesses can use a Lean Plan to manage strategy, tactics, dates, milestones , activities, and cash flow .

The Lean Plan is faster, easier, and more efficient than a formal business plan because it doesn’t include summaries, descriptions, and background details that you and your partners or employees already know.

It’s most useful if you’re trying to grow your business and want to use it as a tool to track your financials and milestones against what you projected so you can respond to opportunity and react to challenges quickly.

A Lean Plan includes specific deadlines and milestones, and the budgets allotted for meeting them, so your team is up to speed.

A Lean Plan includes four essential elements—all of them functions of general business management:

1. Your guiding strategy

Use simple bullet points to define your  target market , business offering, underlying business identity, and long-term goals. No additional text is needed. These serve as a reminder for owners and managers.

2. Tactics you’ll use to execute strategy

Use bullet points again. These include marketing decisions such as pricing, channels, website, social media, promotion, and advertising.

Product or service tactics also apply here, including pricing, launch dates, bundles, configuration, new versions, and delivery or packaging. Other tactics might define positions to recruit, training required, and so forth.

3. Concrete specifics to measure your progress

List of assumptions, milestones, objective measurements of performance, task responsibilities, and what numbers to track.

4. Essential numbers

This is your company’s basic financial plan , including your sales forecast , spending budget, and cash flow .

You can monitor each of these areas using basic excel spreadsheets, but a business dashboard that quickly and easily shows you the difference between your forecast and your actuals can save you time. Ideally, you have software that compares your plan to actual results automatically.

The value of the Lean Plan starts with the plan, but that’s just the beginning. Real management is steering your business with a Lean Plan that you review and revise regularly , tracking progress and performance, and making regular course correction.

You can download our free Lean Plan Template for a jump start on the Lean Planning process.

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The standard business plan: Get funding

These days, the standard business plan is shorter than ever before, and it’s also just as likely to be an online document as it is to be printed. You’ll need to put together a stand business plan if you have a business plan event, which is what we call it when a business needs to present a business plan to a bank, prospective investor, vendor, ally, partner, or employee.

The most standard business plan starts with an executive summary and includes sections or chapters covering the company , the product or service it sells, the target market , strategy and implementation  milestones and goals , management team, and financial forecasting , and analysis. The exact order of topics is not important, but most people expect to see all of these topics covered as part of the standard plan.

Think of your Lean Plan as a good first draft of a standard plan. Those complete projections include the three essential financial projections (also called pro-forma statements): profit and loss , balance sheet , and cash flow . Every standard business plan needs sales plus these three essentials.

The projected cash flow is an essential part of a standard business plan. Businesses need cash to stay open, period. Even if a business can survive temporarily without profits, it still needs the cash to pay its bills. And since profits alone don’t guarantee cash in the bank, projected cash flow is essential.

Many standard plans also include a table for personnel spending. Some standard plans will need additional projections to meet the needs of the specific business plan event. For example, plans for seeking outside investment should include a discussion of an eventual exit for investors , and of course the planned use of the invested funds. Plans supporting a bank loan application might include projected ratios the bank wants to see, such as debt to equity, quick, or current ratios.

You can download our free business plan template to complete your standard business plan. Bplans also offers a library of free, downloadable sample plans to give you a better sense of what the finished product will look like.

One-page business plan: A quick summary

Some people refer to what they call a one-page business plan. This is a one-page summary that includes highlights only, used to offer a very quick overview of a business.

It is possible to summarize the target market, business offering, main milestones, and essential sales forecast in a single page. Such a summary can be useful as a summary for banks, potential investors, vendors, allies, and employees. A one-page business plan can also be called a business pitch . Download a one-page business plan template here .

What kind of business plan does a startup need?

Every startup deserves a business plan to break out the steps and requirements with educated guesses for important lists and numbers.

The business plan for a startup is sometimes called a startup plan, but some people think all business plans are for startups, and that only startups use business plans. That’s not the case, as planning should be part of business management.

In most cases, the best kind of business plan for a startup is a Lean Plan that, includes projected startup costs, startup steps, and milestones. Startup costs include expenses incurred before launch, such as legal expenses , branding costs , like logo and graphics, websites, signage, and fixing up the office or store; plus assets required, such as starting inventory, vehicles, equipment, office furniture, and—the hardest to estimate and most important—starting money in the bank.

While the Lean Plan with extra startup information is fine for most startups, when a startup requires funding from banks or investors , then its business plan looks more like the standard business plan, including a discussion of exit strategies for investors, and almost always stating the planned use of the funds required.

You can use this startup plan to discuss your options with potential partners and associates. This kind of no-frills plan is good for deciding whether or not to proceed with an idea, to help gauge whether this is a business worth pursuing. If you do decide to go into business, over time you can always go back to your business plan and make necessary edits and additions. As your business grows, you can flesh sections out and add details.

When the startup plan will be read by outsiders, it’s common courtesy to add an executive summary, a company overview, management team, and descriptions of the market, marketing plan, and product plan. Even if you don’t have the exact numbers yet, it’s always a smart idea to include a preliminary analysis of costs, pricing, and probable expenses.

Is a startup plan the same as a feasibility plan?

Some experts use the phrase “feasibility plan” to mean the same thing as a startup plan. Others use it to refer to specific steps taken to validate a technology, product, or market. For example, the feasibility plan for a new kind of brick kiln might include the steps to establish a working version in a laboratory, then a small prototype in the field, and then a first working product.

A feasibility plan for a product solution for a new market might involve getting early users and validating the idea with people willing to pay money for it. In some cases a feasibility plan involves getting a product or service posted onto a site like Kickstarter or its competitors, offering the product in advance of availability to people willing to commit to buying it later.

Feasibility plans rarely include the full range of topics one would expect in a standard business plan or even a Lean Plan. They tend to be focused on whether or not a product will work or a market exists, without the additional strategy, tactics, and financial projections. However, the term is used differently by different people, so if you hear this term from someone or plan to use it yourself, it’s best to get clarification.

How is an internal plan different from a standard business plan?

Internal plans are for the most part another name for what we call a Lean Plan.

Like the Lean Plan, they will reflect the needs of the members of your company. Since the purpose of an internal plan is specific to the people directly involved with the company, it will most likely be shorter and more concise than a fully detailed standard plan that you’d take to the bank.

Internal plans are not intended for banks, outside investors, or other third parties.

Operations plan or annual plan: Track goals and monitor progress

Operations plans or annual plans tend to be a lot like a Lean Plan with another name. Like the Lean Plan, an operations plan includes specific implementation milestones, project deadlines, and responsibilities of team members and managers.

This is the plan used for staying on track to meet your goals as a business. Planning for your goals as a business allows your company to assign priorities, focus on results, and track your progress. Your operations plan covers the inner workings of your business. It outlines the specifics of who should be doing what, and when they should be doing it.

Of course, cash flow figures prominently here as well. For example, your milestones will need to have sufficient funding for their implementation, and you’ll need to track your progress so you know how much you’re spending.

A growth or expansion plan

These could be Lean Plans or even standard business plans, but focusing on a specific area of a business, or a subset of the business.

For example, a plan for the creation of a new product is a growth plan. These plans could be internal plans or not, depending on whether they are being linked to loan applications or new investment. An expansion plan requiring new outside investment would probably need to include full company descriptions and background on the product, market, and management team, just the same as a standard plan for investors would. Loan applications would require this much detail as well.

However, an internal growth plan used to set up the steps for growth or expansion that is funded internally could skip these descriptions, just like a Lean Plan. It might not be necessary to include detailed financial projections for the company overall, but it should at least include detailed forecasts of sales and expenses for the new venture or product.

Strategic plan

The strategic plan is yet another phrase that people use differently, depending on the exact context.

Usually, a strategic plan is an internal plan, but without much detail about specifics and financial projections. It generally goes into more detail on strategy and tactics than the Lean Plan does, so it has more description and explanation. However, strategy is useless without execution , so a good strategic plan has to take implementation into account, which means some consideration for resources and time.

As you build the strategy for your company and decide how to implement it, you will want to examine your strengths and weaknesses as a business—you should include a SWOT analysis in your strategic plan. Here are some SWOT examples .

What does your company do well? As your company grows, you want to play to your strengths. Strategy is often a matter of selecting the right opportunities. Resources should be funneled strategically to the areas where they will provide the biggest overall benefits.

Strategy plans are much more likely to be something for the larger enterprise, in which teams of high-level management and sometimes expensive consultants develop a broad-brush, high-level strategy.

In businesses that don’t have thousands of employees, strategy rarely exists in a vacuum and is almost always developed as part of a business plan, lean or standard. Once you have an idea of your strategy, you must have a plan for implementing it. This is where the milestones portion of the plan becomes key.

To effectively execute your strategies, it’s critical to assign responsibilities and have a schedule for following through. The implementation tactics you use will actively move you in the right direction toward achieving your goals. And that is essentially the function of a business plan.

Resources for moving forward

Reading about the different types of business plans is a good jumping-off point in the process of creating a business plan.

If you’re looking for more information about business plans and how to write them, you’ll find our sample business plan library and our guide to writing a detailed business plan to be helpful resources.

You might also want to check out our business plan template available through our software, LivePlan . Or, if you’d rather leave it up to the pros, you can always have an MBA write your business plan for you in five business days with LivePlan’s business plan consulting.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry .

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6 Types of Business Plans

What Are the Six Elements of a Business Plan?

What are the benefits of a business plan, examples of business feasibility reports.

Business plans guide owners, management and investors as businesses start up and grow through stages of success. A business owner or prospective business owner writes a business plan to clarify each aspect of his business, describing the objectives that will anticipate and prepare for growth. Savvy business owners write a business plan to guide management and to promote investment capital.

Types of business plans include, but are not limited to, start-up, internal, strategic, feasibility, operations and growth plans.

Start-Up Business Plans

New businesses should detail the steps to start the new enterprise with a start-up business plan. This document typically includes sections describing the company, the product or service your business will supply, market evaluations and your projected management team. Potential investors will also require a financial analysis with spreadsheets describing financial areas including, but not limited to, income, profit and cash flow projections.

Internal Business Plans

Internal business plans target a specific audience within the business, for example, the marketing team who need to evaluate a proposed project. This document will describe the company’s current state, including operational costs and profitability, then calculate if and how the business will repay any capital needed for the project. Internal plans provide information about project marketing, hiring and tech costs. They also typically include a market analysis illustrating target demographics, market size and the market’s positive effect on the company income.

Strategic Business Plans

A strategic business plan provides a high-level view of a company’s goals and how it will achieve them, laying out a foundational plan for the entire company. While the structure of a strategic plan differs from company to company, most include five elements: business vision, mission statement, definition of critical success factors, strategies for achieving objectives and an implementation schedule. A strategic business plan brings all levels of the business into the big picture, inspiring employees to work together to create a successful culmination to the company’s goals.

Feasibility Business Plans

A feasibility business plan answers two primary questions about a proposed business venture: who , if anyone, will purchase the service or product a company wants to sell, and if the venture can turn a profit. Feasibility business plans include, but are not limited to, sections describing the need for the product or service, target demographics and required capital. A feasibility plan ends with recommendations for going forward.

Operations Business Plans

Operations plans are internal plans that consist of elements related to company operations . An operations plan, specifies implementation markers and deadlines for the coming year. The operations plan outlines employees’ responsibilities.

Growth Business Plans

Growth plans or expansion plans are in-depth descriptions of proposed growth and are written for internal or external purposes. If company growth requires investment, a growth plan may include complete descriptions of the company, its management and officers. The plan must provide all company details to satisfy potential investors. If a growth plan needs no capital, the authors may forego obvious company descriptions, but will include financial sales and expense projections.

Alyson Paige has a master's degree in canon law and began writing professionally in 1998. Her articles specialize in culture, business and home and garden, among many other topics.

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18 Best Sample Business Plans & Examples to Help You Write Your Own

Clifford Chi

Published: December 01, 2022

Reading sample business plans is essential when you’re writing your own. As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, you’ll learn how to write one that gets your business off on the right foot, convinces investors to provide funding, and ensures your venture is sustainable for the long term.

Business plan sample: Image shows a hand writing a plan and a notepad.

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But what does a business plan look like? And how do you write one that is viable and convincing? Let's review the ideal business plan formal, then take a look at business plan samples you can use to inspire your own.

Business Plan Format

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. The same logic applies to business. If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. Referencing one will keep you on the path toward success. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, you might be wondering, "Where do I start? How should I format this?"

Typically, a business plan is a document that will detail how a company will achieve its goals.

Free Business Plan Template

Fill out the form to get your free template..

Most business plans include the following sections:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is arguably the most important section of the entire business plan. Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan (which may be dozens or hundreds of pages long).

Most executive summaries include:

However, many of these topics will be covered in more detail later on in the business plan, so keep the executive summary clear and brief, including only the most important take-aways.

If you’re planning to start or expand a small business, preparing a business plan is still very crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business. You can check out this small business pdf to get an idea of how to create one for your business.

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example
  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

It can be helpful to build a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be crystal clear on why you're targeting them.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. You might consider including information on:

  • The brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

It can help to already have a marketing plan built out to help you inform this component of your business plan.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services. Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use . It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. For this reason, you might outline:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

8. Financials

This section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to determine funding strategies, investment opportunities, etc. According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to provide insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details you'll want to include.

Keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others will be in charts.

Sample Business Plan Templates

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline gives this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow. Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why We Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue. We included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

When it came to including marketing strategy into its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives. This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact.

“Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration,” explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more. Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission. The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s also essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your “Why?” In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

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Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just beginning to think about  starting a business , demands come at you fast. Amidst the rush of to-do lists and meetings, determining how to write a business plan—much less following a business plan template—often feels time-consuming and intimidating.

But nearly 70% of business owners who have been there and done that recommend writing a business plan before you start a business, according to  a recent QuickBooks survey . After all, when done right, business plans have enormous payoffs.

And yet, more than 10% of prospective business owners said they do not intend to write a business plan. Another 10% aren’t sure if they need a plan.

It’s more than the old cliche: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. In fact, a wealth of data now exists on the difference a written business plan makes, especially for small or growing companies.

Executive summary

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to write a successful business plan, step-by-step, and turn your idea into a reality. Even better, if you’re pressed for time, we’ve compiled the  10 steps and examples into a downloadable (PDF) template . The 10 steps to write a business plan are:

  • Create an executive summary
  • Compose your company description
  • Summarize market research and potential
  • Conduct competitive analysis
  • Describe your product or service
  • Develop a marketing and sales strategy
  • Compile your business financials
  • Describe your organization and management
  • Explain your funding request
  • Compile an appendix for official documents

But, first things first.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a comprehensive road map for your small business’s growth and development. It communicates who you are, what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it. It also helps you attract talent and investors.

But remember that a  business idea  or  business concept  is not a plan.

3 Ws of a business plan: Who, what, and why

Investors want to know you have:

  • Product-market fit:  Have you done the research to determine the demand for your product or service?
  • A solid team in place:  Do you have the people you need to support your goals and objectives?
  • Scalability:  Can you grow sales volume without proportional growth in headcount and fixed costs?

A templated business plan gives investors a blueprint of what to expect from your company and tells them about you as an entrepreneur.

Why do you need a business plan?

You need a business plan because the majority of venture capitalists (VCs) and all banking institutions will not invest in a startup or small business without a solid, written plan. Not only does a business plan help you focus on concrete objectives, but it gives outside parties reassurance that you’ve thought ahead.

In 2018, entrepreneurial resource center Bplans worked with the University of Oregon to compile and analyze research around the  benefits of business planning . Here’s what they found:

  • Businesses with a business plan  grow 30% faster  than those without.
  • Owners with business plans are  twice as likely  to grow, get investments, or secure loans than those without.
  • Entrepreneurs with a business plan have a  129% increased likelihood  of growing beyond the startup phase and a  260% increased likelihood  of growing from “idea” to “new business.”

Perhaps the strongest evidence comes from the  Journal of Business Venturing’s  2010 meta-analysis of 46 separate studies on 11,046 organizations: Its findings confirm that “business planning increases the performance of both new and established small firms.”

When do you need a business plan?

Before you leave a nine-to-five income, your business plan can tell you if you’re ready. Over the long term, it’ll keep you focused on what needs to be accomplished.

It’s also smart to write a business plan when you’re:

  • Seeking funding, investments, or loans
  • Searching for a new partner or co-founder
  • Attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent
  • Experiencing slow growth and need a change

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You're never too small, and it's never too soon to know you're on track for success.

How to write a business plan in 10 steps

Start with a clear picture of the audience your plan will address. Is it a room full of angel investors? Your local bank’s venture funding department? Or is it you, your leaders, and your employees?

Internal business plan vs external business plan

Defining your audience helps you determine the language you’ll need to propose your ideas as well as the depth to which you need to go to help readers conduct due diligence.

Now, let’s dive into the 10 key elements of your business plan.

1. Create an executive summary

Even though it appears first in the plan, write your executive summary last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.

What is an executive summary?

The executive summary lays out all the vital information about your business within a relatively short space.  An executive summary is typically one page or less.  It’s a high-level look at everything and summarizes the other sections of your plan. In short, it’s an overview of your business.

How do I write an executive summary?

Below, you’ll find an example from a fictional business, Laura’s Landscapers. (We’ll use that same company throughout this guide to make each step practical and easy to replicate.)

This executive summary focuses on what’s often called the value proposition or unique selling point: an extended motto aimed at customers, investors, and employees.

You can follow a straightforward “problem, solution” format, or a fill-in-the-blanks framework:

  • For [target customers]
  • Who are dissatisfied with [current solutions]
  • Our [product or service] solves [key customer problems]
  • Unlike [competing product], we have [differentiating key features]

This framework isn’t meant to be rigid, but instead to serve as a jumping-off point.

Example of an executive summary

Market research indicates that an increasing number of wealthy consumers in Richmond are interested in landscape architecture based on sustainable design. However, high-end firms in the area are scarce. Currently, only two exist—neither of which focus on eco-friendly planning nor are certified by green organizations.

Laura’s Landscapers provides a premium, sustainable service for customers with disposable incomes, large yards, and a love of nature.

2. Compose your company description

Within a business plan, your company description contains three elements:

  • Mission statement

These elements give context to the bigger picture in your business plan, letting investors know the purpose behind your company so the goals make sense as well.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is your business’s reason for existing. It’s more than what you do or what you sell, it’s about why exactly you do what you do. Effective mission statements should be:

  • Inspirational  to make others believe in your vision
  • Emotional  to captivate readers and grab their interest

Throughout every part of your plan, less is more. Nowhere is that truer than your mission statement. Think about what motivates you, what causes and experiences led you to start the business, the problems you solve, the wider social issues you care about, and more.

Tip:  Review your mission statement often to make sure it matches your company’s purpose as it evolves. A statement that doesn’t fit your core values or what you actually do can undermine your marketing efforts and credibility.

How do you describe a company’s history?

Don’t worry about making your company history a dense narrative. Instead, write it like you would a profile:

  • Founding date
  • Major milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Number of employees
  • Executive leadership roles
  • Flagship products or services

Then, translate that list into a few short paragraphs (like the example below).

Why do business objectives matter?

Business objectives give you clear goals to focus on, like the North Star. These goals must be SMART, which stands for:

They must also be tied to key results. When your objectives aren’t clearly defined, it’s hard for employees and team members to work toward a common purpose. What’s worse, fuzzy goals won’t inspire confidence from investors, nor will they have a profitable impact on your business.

Example of a company description

Laura’s Landscapers’ mission is to change the face of our city through sustainable landscaping and help you create the outdoor living space of your dreams.

Founded in 2021 by sisters Laura and Raquel Smith, we have over 25 years of combined landscape architecture experience. Our four employees work in teams of two and have already completed 10 projects for some of Richmond’s most influential business and community leaders.

Our objectives over the next three years are to:

  • Solidify a glowing reputation as a service-based business that always exceeds customers’ expectations and honors the environment
  • Complete at least 18 projects during year one, 24 in year two, and 36 in year three generated through word of mouth, referrals, and home shows
  • Increase revenue from $360,000 in FY2021 to $972,000 in FY2023 based upon 10 completed projects in the last nine months

3. Summarize market research and potential

The next step is to outline your ideal potential customer as well as the actual and potential size of your market. Target markets—also known as personas—identify demographic information like:

By getting specific, you’ll illustrate expertise and generate confidence.  If your target market is too broad, it can be a red flag for investors.

  • Example:  If your product is perfect for people with money to hire landscape architects, listing “anyone with a garden” as your target market might not go over so well.

The same is true with your market analysis when you estimate its size and monetary value. In addition to big numbers that encompass the total market, drill down into your business’s addressable market—meaning, local numbers or numbers that apply the grand total to your specific segments. You may even  map your customer’s journey  to get a better understanding of their wants and needs.

Example of market research and potential

Laura’s Landscapers’ ideal customer is a wealthy baby boomer, a member of Gen X, or a millennial between the ages of 35 and 65 with a high disposable income. He or she—though primarily, she—is a homeowner. They’re a working professional or have recently retired. In love with the outdoors, they want to enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature in their own backyard, but don’t have the time or skill to do it for themselves.

Market research shows the opportunity for Laura’s Landscapers has never been better:

  • In the U.S., total revenue for landscaping services increased from $69.8 billion in 2013 to $99 billion in 2019. ( 1 )
  • Among landscaping contractors, designing and building is the second fastest growing service offering. ( 2 )
  • What’s more, landscape design and construction is the number one “new service” existing companies plan to add over the next year. ( 3 )

In Richmond, leading indicators for interest in green, eco-friendly, and sustainable landscaping have all increased exponentially over the last five years:

  • Online search volume for those terms is up 467%
  • 10 new community organizations have been formed
  • 73 high-profile projects have been covered by local media
  • And currently 13% of Richmond’s residents have a household income of $125,000 or more (compared to the U.S. average of 5%)

4. Conduct competitive analysis

Competitive research begins with identifying other companies that currently sell in the market you’re looking to enter. The idea of carving out enough time to learn about every potential competitor you have may sound overwhelming, but it can be extremely useful.

Answer these additional questions after you’ve identified your most significant competitors:

  • Where do they invest in advertising?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • How good is their customer service?
  • What are their sales and pricing strategies?
  • How do they rank on third-party rating platforms?

Spend some time thinking about what sets you apart. If your idea is truly novel, be prepared to explain the customer pain points you see your business solving. If your business doesn’t have any direct competition, research other companies that provide a similar product or service.

How to distinguish your business plan from competitors

Next, create a table or spreadsheet listing your competitors to include in your plan, often referred to as a competitor analysis table.

Example of competitive analysis

Within Richmond’s residential landscaping market, there are only two high-end architectural competitors: (1) Yukie’s Yards and (2) Dante’s Landscape Design. All other businesses focus solely on either industrial projects or residential maintenance.

Yukie’s Yards

  • Average cost per project: $12,000
  • Ongoing maintenance fee: $200 per month
  • Google My Business: 3.1 stars from 163 reviews
  • Environmental certifications: None
  • Primary marketing channels: Google Ads

Dante’s Landscape Design

  • Average cost per project: $35,000
  • Ongoing maintenance fee: $500 per month
  • Google My Business: 3.7 stars from 57 reviews
  • Primary marketing channels: Home shows

5. Describe your product or service

This section describes the benefits, production process, and life cycle of your products or services, and how what your business offers is better than your competitors.

When describing benefits, focus on:

  • Unique features
  • Translating features into benefits
  • Emotional and practical payoffs to your customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents that protect differentiation

For the production process, answer how you:

  • Create existing and new products or services
  • Source raw materials or components
  • Assemble them through manufacturing
  • Maintain quality control and quality assurance
  • Receive and deliver them (supply chain logistics)
  • Manage your daily operations, like bookkeeping and inventory

Within the product life cycle portion, map elements like:

  • Time between purchases
  • Up-sells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Future plans for research and development

Example of product or service description

Laura’s Landscapers’ service—our competitive advantage—is differentiated by three core features.

First, throughout their careers, Laura and Raquel Smith have worked at and with Richmond’s three leading industrial landscaping firms. This gives us unique access to the residents who are most likely to use our service.

Second, we’re the only firm certified green by the Richmond Homeowners Association, the National Preservation Society, and Business Leaders for Greener Richmond.

Third, of our 10 completed projects, seven have rated us a 5 out of 5 on Google My Business and our price points for those projects place us in a healthy middle ground between our two other competitors.

  • Average cost per project:  $20,000
  • Ongoing maintenance fee:  $250 per month
  • Google My Business:  5 stars from 7 reviews
  • Environmental certifications:  Three (see Appendix)
  • Primary marketing channels:  Word of mouth, referrals, and home shows

6. Develop a marketing and sales strategy

Your marketing strategy or marketing plan can be the difference between selling so much that growth explodes or getting no business at all. Growth strategies are a critical part of your business plan.

You should briefly reiterate topics such as your:

  • Value proposition
  • Ideal target markets
  • Existing customer segments

Then, add your:

  • Launch plan to attract new business
  • Growth tactics for established businesses to expand
  • Retention strategies like customer loyalty or referral programs
  • Advertising and promotion channels such as search engines, social media, print, television, YouTube, and word of mouth

You can also use this section of your business plan to reinforce your strengths and what differentiates you from the competition. Be sure to show what you’ve already done, what you plan to do given your existing resources, and what results you expect from your efforts.

Example of marketing and sales strategy

Laura’s Landscapers’ marketing and sales strategy will leverage, in order of importance:

  • Word of mouth
  • Reviews and ratings
  • Local Google Ads
  • Social media
  • Direct mail

Reputation is the number one purchase influencer in high-end landscape design. As such, channels 1-4 will continue to be our top priority.

Our social media strategy will involve YouTube videos of the design process as well as multiple Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards showcasing professional photography. Lastly, our direct mail campaigns will send carbon-neutral, glossy brochures to houses in wealthy neighborhoods.

7. Compile your business financials

If you’re just starting out, your business may not yet have  financial data , financial statements, or comprehensive reporting. However, you’ll still need to prepare a budget and a financial plan.

If your company has been around for a while and you’re seeking investors, be sure to include:

  • Income statements
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets

Other figures that can be included are:

  • How much of your revenue you retain as your net income
  • Your ratio of liquidity to debt repayment ability
  • How often you collect on your invoices

Ideally, you should  provide at least three years’ worth of reporting.  Make sure your figures are accurate and don’t provide any profit or loss projections before carefully going over your past statements for justification.

Avoid underestimating business costs

Costs, profit margins, and sale prices are closely linked, and many business owners set sale prices without accounting for all costs. New business owners are particularly at risk for this mistake.  The cost of your product or service must include all of your costs, including overhead.  If it doesn’t, you can’t determine a sale price to generate the profit level you desire.

Underestimating costs can catch you off guard and eat away at your business over time.

  • Example:  Insurance premiums tend to go up annually for most forms of coverage, and that’s especially true with business insurance. If an employee gets injured, Laura’s Landscapers’ workmen’s compensation insurance to cover this risk will increase.

Example of business financials

Given the high degree of specificity required to accurately represent your business’s financials, rather than create a fictional line item example for Laura’s Landscapers, we suggest using one of our free Excel templates and entering your own data:

  • For new businesses:  Start up budget template
  • For existing businesses:  Income statement template

Once you’ve completed either one, then create a big picture representation to include here as well as in your objectives in step two.

In the case of Laura’s Landscapers, this big picture would involve steadily increasing the number of annual projects and cost per project to offset lower margins:

Current revenue for FY2022:  $200,000

  • 10 completed projects
  • ~$20,000 per project
  • 15% profit margins
  • $30,000 net

FY2022 projections:  $360,000

  • 18 completed projects
  • $54,000 net

FY2023 projections:  $552,000

  • 24 completed projects
  • ~$23,000 per project
  • 12% profit margins
  • $66,240 net

FY2024 projections:  $972,000

  • 36 completed projects
  • ~$27,000 per project
  • 10% profit margins
  • $97,200 net

8. Describe your organization and management

Your business is only as good as the team that runs it. Identify your team members and explain why they can either turn your business idea into a reality or continue to grow it.  Highlight expertise and qualifications throughout —this section of your business plan should show off your management team superstars.

You should also note:

  • Roles you still need to hire to grow your company
  • The cost of hiring experts to assist operations

To make informed business decisions, you may need to budget for a  bookkeeper , a CPA, and an attorney. CPAs can help you review your monthly  accounting  transactions and prepare your annual tax return. An attorney can help with client agreements, investor contracts (like shareholder agreements), and with any legal disputes that may arise.

Ask your business contacts for referrals (and their fees), and be sure to  include those costs in your business plan.

Example of organization and management

Laura Smith, Co-founder and CEO

  • Professional background
  • Awards and honors
  • Notable clients

Raquel Smith, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer

Laura’s Landscapers’ creative crews

  • Cumulative years of experience

9. Explain your funding request

When outlining how much money your small business needs, try to be as realistic as possible. You can provide a range of numbers if you don’t want to pinpoint an exact number. However,  include a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.

Since a new business doesn’t have a track record of generating profits, it’s likely that you’ll sell equity to raise capital in the early years of operation. Equity means ownership—when you sell equity to raise capital, you are selling a portion of your company.

Most small business equity sales are private transactions. The investor may also expect to be paid a dividend, which is a share of company profits, and they’ll want to know how they can sell their ownership interest. Additionally, you can raise capital by borrowing money, but you’ll have to repay creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on the debt.

If you look at the capital structure of any large company, you’ll see that most firms issue both equity and debt. When drafting your business plan, decide if you’re willing to accept the trade-off of giving up total control and profits before you sell equity in your business.

The founder can access cash by contributing their own money into the business by securing a line of credit (LOC) at a bank or applying for  QuickBooks Capital . If you raise cash through a LOC or some other type of loan, it needs to be paid off ASAP to reduce the interest cost on debt.

Example of a funding request

Laura’s Landscapers has already purchased all necessary permits, software, and equipment to serve our existing customers. Once scaled to $972,000 in annual revenue—over the next three years and at a 10% profit margin—our primary ongoing annual expenses (not including taxes) will total $874,800.

While already profitable, we are requesting $100,000 in the form of either a business loan or in exchange for equity to purchase equipment necessary to outfit two additional creative crews.

10. Compile an appendix for official documents

Finally, assemble a well-organized appendix for anything and everything readers will need to supplement the information in your plan. Consider any info that:

Useful details to cover in an appendix include:

Your appendix should be a living section of the business plan, whether the plan is a document for internal reference only or an external call for investors.

How to make a business plan that stands out

Investors have little patience for poorly written documents. You want your business plan to be as attractive and readable as possible.

3 tips to update your business plan

It’s a good idea to periodically revisit your business plan, especially if you are looking to expand. Conducting new research and updating your plan could also provide answers when you hit difficult questions.

Mid-year is a good time to refocus and revise your original plans because it gives you the opportunity to refocus any goals for the second half of the year. Below are three ways to update your plan.

1. Refocus your productivity

When you wrote your original business plan, you likely identified your specific business and personal goals. Take some time now to assess if you’ve hit your targets.

If you only want to work a set number of hours per week, you must identify the products and services that deliver the returns you need to make that a reality. Doing so helps you refocus your productivity on the most lucrative profit streams.

Also, use what you’ve achieved and the hard lessons you’ve learned to help you re-evaluate what is and isn’t working.

2. Realign with your goals

Do a gut check to determine whether all of your hard work is still aligned with your original goals and your mission statement. Ask yourself these questions:

These questions may be tough to answer at first glance, but they reveal your ties to your goals and what most likely needs to change to achieve new wins.

3. Repurpose your offerings

If your time has become more focused on small projects rather than tangible growth and building a valuable client list, consider packaging your existing products or services differently. Can you bundle a few things together?

You must deliberately manage your revenue streams, and that might require shuffling things around a little to focus on what is working for you.

Business plan template

Even if you don’t plan on seeking investments early on, there are other important reasons to use a business plan template to write a great business plan:

Download the following template to build your business plan from the ground up, considering all the important questions that will help your investors and employees.

Business plan template download

The old cliche is still true today: A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Your business plan is crucial to the growth of your business, from giving direction, motivation, and context to employees, to providing thoughtful reassurance and risk mitigation to financers. Before you get your small business up and running , put down a plan that instills confidence and sets you up for success.

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Guide to Creating a Business Plan With Template

Skye Schooley

To make your business idea a reality, you need a business plan. These simple business plan templates will get you started.

Having a road map helps you reach your journey’s end successfully. Business plans do the same for small businesses. They lay out the milestones you need to reach to build a profitable small business. They are also essential for identifying and overcoming obstacles along the way. Each part of a business plan helps you reach your goals, including the financial aspects, marketing, operations and sales.

Plenty of online business plan templates are available to take some of the pain out of the writing process. You may benefit from simple, easy-to-follow business plan tools so you spend less time writing and more time launching your venture.

What is a business plan?

With most great business ideas , the best way to execute them is to have a plan. A business plan is a written outline that you present to others, such as investors, whom you want to recruit into your venture. It’s your pitch to your investors, sharing with them what the goals of your startup are and how you expect to be profitable. 

It also serves as your company’s roadmap, keeping your business on track and ensuring your operations grow and evolve to meet the goals outlined in your plan. As circumstances change, a business plan can serve as a living document – but it should always include the core goals of your business.

Why do I need a business plan?

Starting a new business comes with headaches. Being prepared for those headaches can greatly decrease their impact on your business. One important step in preparing for the challenges your startup may face is writing a solid business plan.

Writing a business plan helps you understand more clearly what you need to do to reach your goals. The finished business plan also serves as a reminder to you of these goals. It’s a valuable tool that you can refer back to, helping you stay focused and on track.

What are the three main purposes of a business plan? 

Before you write your business plan, it’s important to understand the purpose of creating it in the first place. These are the three main reasons you should have a business plan:

Your business plan can be written as a document or designed as a slideshow, such as a PowerPoint presentation. It may be beneficial to create both versions. For example, the PowerPoint can be used to pull people in, and the document version that contains more detail can be given to viewers as a follow-up.

Free downloadable business plan template

Business News Daily put together a simple but high-value business plan template to help you create a business plan. The template is completely customizable and can be used to attract investors, secure board members, and narrow the scope of your company.

Business plans can be overwhelming to new entrepreneurs, but our template makes it easy to provide all of the details required by financial institutions and private investors. The template has eight main sections, with subsections for each topic. For easy navigation, a table of contents is provided with the template. As you customize each section, you’ll receive tips on how to correctly write the required details.

Here is our free business plan template you can use to craft a professional business plan quickly and easily.

Types of business plans

There are two main types of business plans: simple and traditional. Traditional business plans are long, detailed plans that expound on both short-term and long-term objectives. In comparison, a simple business plan focuses on a few key metrics in concise detail so as to quickly share data with investors.

Simple business plan

Business model expert Ash Maurya has developed a simple type of business plan called a lean canvas . The model, which was developed in 2010, is still one of the most popular types of business plans emulated today.

A lean canvas comprises nine sections, with each part of the plan containing high-value information and metrics to attract investors. This lean business plan often consists of a single page of information with the following listed:

Traditional business plan 

Traditional plans are lengthy documents, sometimes as long as 30 or 40 pages. A traditional business plan acts as a blueprint of a new business, detailing its progress from the time it launches to several years in the future when the startup is an established business. The following areas are covered in a traditional business plan:

We lay out each area of a traditional business plan in detail below.

1. Executive summary 

The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan, because it needs to draw your readers into your plan and entice them to continue reading. If your executive summary doesn’t capture the reader’s attention, they won’t read further, and their interest in your business won’t be piqued.

Even though the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, you should write it last. When you are ready to write this section, we recommend that you summarize the problem (or market need) you aim to solve, your solution for consumers, an overview of the founders and/or owners, and key financial details. The key with this section is to be brief yet engaging.

2. Company description 

This section is an overview of your entire business. Make sure you include basic information, such as when your company was founded, the type of business entity it is – limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietorship, partnership , C corporation or S corporation – and the state in which it is registered. Provide a summary of your company’s history to give the readers a solid understanding of its foundation. Learn more about articles of incorporation , and what you need to know to start a business.

3. Products and services 

Next, describe the products and/or services your business provides. Focus on your customers’ perspective – and needs – by demonstrating the problem you are trying to solve. The goal with this section is to prove that your business fills a bona fide market need and will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

4. Market analysis 

In this section, clearly define who your target audience is, where you will find customers, how you will reach them and, most importantly, how you will deliver your product or service to them. Provide a deep analysis of your ideal customer and how your business provides a solution for them. 

You should also include your competitors in this section, and illustrate how your business is uniquely different from the established companies in the industry or market. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how will you differentiate yourself from the pack?

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to conduct a competitor analysis and what details it should include.

You will also need to write a marketing plan based on the context of your business. For example, if you’re a small local business, you want to analyze your competitors who are located nearby. Franchises need to conduct a large-scale analysis, potentially on a national level. Competitor data helps you know the current trends in your target industry and the growth potential. These details also prove to investors that you’re very familiar with the industry.

For this section, the listed target market paints a picture of what your ideal customer looks like. Data to include may be the age range, gender, income levels, location, marital status and geographical regions of target consumers.

A SWOT analysis is a common tool entrepreneurs use to bring all collected data together in a market analysis. “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses analyze the advantages and disadvantages unique to your company, while opportunities and threats analyze the current market risks and rewards.

5. Management team 

Before anyone invests in your business, they want a complete understanding of the potential investment. This section should illustrate how your business is organized. It should list key members of the management team, the founders/owners, board members, advisors, etc.

As you list each individual, provide a summary of their experience and their role within your company. Treat this section as a series of mini resumes, and consider appending full-length resumes to your business plan.

6. Financial plan 

The financial plan should include a detailed overview of your finances. At the very least, you should include cash flow statements, and profit and loss projections, over the next three to five years. You can also include historical financial data from the past few years, your sales forecast and balance sheet. Consider these items to include:

Make sure this section is precise and accurate. It’s often best to create this section with a professional accountant. If you’re seeking outside funding for your business , highlight why you’re seeking financing, how you will use that money, and when investors can expect a return on investment .

Struggling for cash flow? Here are eight cash flow strategies for survival.

If you really want to master your financial plan, Jennifer Spaziano, vice president of business development at Accion, offers these helpful tips:

7. Operational plan

The operational plan section details the physical needs of your business. This section discusses the location of the business , as well as required equipment or critical facilities needed to make your products. Some companies – depending on their business type – may also need to detail their inventory needs, including information about suppliers. For manufacturing companies, all processing details are spelled out in the operational plan section.

For startups, you want to divide the operational plan into two distinct phases: the developmental plan and the production plan. 

Free vs. paid business plan templates

You have your option of choosing between free and paid business templates. Both come with their own benefits and limitations, so the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. Evaluating the pros and cons of each can help you decide.

Free templates

The biggest advantage of using a free template is the cost savings it offers to your business. Startups are often strapped for cash, making it a desirable choice for new business owners to access a free template. Although it’s nice to use templates at no cost, there are some drawbacks to free business plan templates – the biggest one being limited customizability.

“The process of writing a business plan lets you personally find the kinks in your business and work them out,” Attiyya Atkins, founder of A+ Editing, told Business News Daily. “Starting with an online template is a good start, but it needs to be reviewed and targeted to your market. Downloadable business plans may have dated market prices, making the budget inaccurate. If you’re looking to get money from investors, you need a customized business plan with zero errors.” 

Janil Jean, head of overseas operations at LogoDesign.net, agreed that free templates offer limited customization – such as the company name and some text. She added that they are often used by a ton of people, so if you use one to secure funds, investors might be tired of seeing that business plan format.

Paid templates

The benefit of paying for business plan templates – or paying for an expert to review your business plan – is the accuracy of information and high customization.

“Your audience gets thousands of applications per day. What’s to make your business plan stand out from the crowd when you’re not there in the room when they make the decisions about your enterprise?” Jean said. “Visuals are the best way to impress and get attention. It makes sense to get paid templates that allow you maximum customization through design, images and branding.”

On the contrary, the limitation to using a paid template is the cost. If your startup doesn’t have the funds to pay for a business plan template, it may not be a feasible option.

The best business plan software

In case you take the route of investing money in your business plan, there are several great software programs available. Software takes the legwork out of writing a business plan by simplifying the process and eliminating the need to start from scratch. They often include features like step-by-step wizards, templates, financial projection tools, charts and graphs, third-party application integrations, collaboration tools and video tutorials.

After researching and evaluating dozens of business plan software providers, we narrowed down these four of the best options available:

LivePlan is a cloud-hosted software application that provides many tools to create your business plan, including more than 500 templates, a one-page pitch builder, automatic financial statements, full financial forecasting , industry benchmark data and KPIs . Annual plans start at $15 per month.

Bizplan is cloud-hosted software that features a step-by-step builder to walk you through each section of the business plan. Annual plans start at $20.75 per month.

GoSmallBiz is a cloud-based service that offers industry-specific templates, a step-by-step wizard that makes creating a detailed business plan an easy one, and video tutorials. Monthly plans start at $15 per month.

Enloop focuses on financial projections. It provides you with everything you need to demonstrate how financially viable your business can be, and walks you through the process of generating financial forecasts. Annual plans start at $11 per month.

Common challenges of writing a business plan

The challenges of writing a business plan vary. Do you have all the information about your business that you need? Does your industry have strict guidelines that you must adhere to? To help you prepare, we identified 10 of the most common issues you may face:

Crafting a business plan around these 10 challenges can prepare your business – and anyone who joins it – for a prosperous future.

How to overcome the challenges of writing a business plan

Although you won’t accurately predict everything for your business, you can take preemptive steps to reduce the number of complications that may arise. For example, familiarize yourself with the business plan process by researching business plans and identifying how others successfully executed their plans.

You can use these plans as a basis; however, Rick Cottrell, CEO and founder of BizResults.com, recommends taking it one step further: Talk to small business owners and others who have experience.

“The business owner should talk to an accountant, banker, and those who deal with these plans on a daily basis and learn how others have done it,” Cottrell said. “They can join startup and investment groups, and speak to peers and others who are getting ready to launch a business, and gain insights from them. They can seek out capital innovation clubs in their area and get additional expertise.”

If you research how to write a business plan and still don’t feel comfortable writing one, you can always hire a consultant to help you with the process.

“It is simply a time-consuming process that cannot be rushed,” Cottrell added. “Millions of dollars can be at stake and, in many cases, requires a high level of expertise that either needs to be learned or executed in conjunction with an experienced business consultant.” 

Sean Peek, Jennifer Post, Chad Brooks, Howard Wen and Joshua Stowers contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article and related articles.

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Plan Your Business

Plan your business, are you considering starting a business.

Starting a business is a big decision. If you’ve never owned a business before, you may be unaware of all the things you need to do to get your business going. Careful planning and research will improve your chances of success.

First, ask yourself - "Why Start a Business?"

Asking and answering this question will help to frame your motivation for everything you will need to do and learn to start a business. Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone. In business, there are no guarantees. There is simply no way to eliminate all of the risks. It takes a special person with a strong commitment and specific skills to be successful as an entrepreneur. Understanding what it takes to be entrepreneurial is an important part of preparing yourself for the commitment and workload required to be successful. Are you ready to start your own business? Use the Readiness Assessment Guide to better understand how prepared you are. This guide is designed to help you better understand your readiness for starting a small business. It is not a scientific assessment tool. Rather, it is a tool that will prompt you with questions and assist you in evaluating your skills, characteristics and experience – as they relate to your readiness for starting a business. The Assessment Guide has twenty five questions. Your responses will be evaluated at completion of the questions.

There is also a great quick read provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce with additional assessment tools.

Business training

You don’t need a degree in business to start one, but knowledge is power. Taking classes and attending workshops are excellent ways to gain the knowledge you will need to be successful.

 Training Opportunities:

Business planning

Writing a comprehensive business plan is the first step in starting a business. Your business plan will:

The most valuable part of writing a business plan is the education you gain by researching and writing it. While it may be tempting to hire someone to prepare your plan, or to buy an off-the-shelf plan for your type of business, it is in your best interest to do the work yourself. That doesn’t mean you should do it alone. It would be wise to work with mentors, consultants, or advisors through the process. Their guidance can save you a lot of time and effort. Below is a list of organizations that can help as you develop your plan.

 A typical business plan includes the following:

1. Mission & vision statements

A mission statement is a brief description of what you do. It helps you and those working with you to stay focused on what’s important. A vision statement answers the question “What do we want to become?” It provides you direction as you make decisions that will impact the future of your business.

2. Business description

Your business description provides the “who, what, when, where” of your business, including the type of business structure, start date, and the location.

Your business structure will be included in this section. A business is a legal entity or a sole proprietorship. It can own property, hold bank accounts and is required to pay taxes. There are different types of business entities, each with unique benefits and limitations.

The “right” choice for you depends on your interests and needs. You’ll need sound counsel to understand your obligations regarding your business. Get to know the business structure options and discuss them with your advisors to determine which will be best for you. Find   legal , tax and business ( SCORE , Small Business Development Centers ) advisors. Things to consider when making your decision include:

Sole Proprietorships are owned by a single person or a married couple. These businesses are inexpensive to form and there are no special reporting requirements. The owner is personally responsible (liable) for all business debts and for federal taxes.

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are very popular. The business has limited legal liability like a corporation, but has fewer governance requirements. LLC owners are called “members.” Creating an LLC requires filing with the Washington Secretary of State . For federal taxes, LLCs are typically treated like sole proprietorships if there is one owner, or like partnerships if there is more than one owner. However, by filing an entity classification election form with the IRS, LLCs can be treated like corporations for federal tax purposes. Although not required, forming an LLC should be done with the help of a qualified legal professional. Among other requirements, LLCs must create a governance document called an Operating Agreement.

General Partnerships are like sole proprietorships with more than one owner. Partners share managerial duties, profits and losses, and each is personally responsible (liable) for all business debt. Because the actions of one partner can result in personal liability for the others, partnerships have become less popular since LLCs have been around. For federal tax purposes, the business is required to file a partnership return, with the income or loss going to each partner based on how much of the business each owns.

Corporations are more complex structures than the others. As with LLCs, corporations have limited legal liability. To form a corporation, you must file with the Washington Secretary of State and you must create a governance document – which, in this case, would be bylaws. Corporations also have other requirements, such as issuing stock certificates, holding annual meetings and keeping minutes, electing directors, etc. Corporation owners are called “shareholders” or “stockholders.” Working owners of corporations are employees and must have federal payroll taxes withheld and reported the same as other employees. Corporations file federal corporate tax returns with the IRS. If qualified and applied for on a timely basis, corporations may choose pass-through taxation (“ S-Corporation ”). Although not required, forming a corporation should be done with the assistance of a qualified legal professional.

Limited Partnerships (LPs) are not used very often for small businesses, although they are common for real estate ownership. LPs are composed of one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. The general partners manage the entity and share fully in its profits and losses. To protect themselves from liability, general partners are often corporations or LLCs rather than individuals. Limited partners share in the profits of the business, but their losses are limited to the extent of their investment. Limited partners are usually not involved in the day-to-day operations of the entity. Get legal advice before choosing an LP structure for your business. Like LLCs and corporations, creating an LP requires filing with the Washington Secretary of State .

Washington State Business and Organization Structure Considerations:

NOTE: This information is for reference only, for detailed considerations contact your trusted legal or tax advisors.

3. Market analysis

A market analysis will help you determine if there is a need in the marketplace for your product or service, who would be most likely to buy your offerings, and where your customers are located. Include:

4. Marketing plan

Once you’ve identified your customer, you need to explain how you will get your customers to buy your product or service. Include:

5. Operations plan

This reflects all the basics of operating your business and includes:

6. Personnel plan

Most new businesses start small and grow. When you do hire, having employees with the right attributes and skills for your business will be very important to your success. There are resources to help you with employment planning, including Labor Market Information .

Employment is an area that has a lot of regulation, including minimum wage, overtime pay, leave and benefits, pregnancy accommodations, employment of minors and family members, workplace safety, etc.

The use of independent contractors is a frequently misunderstood area. Generally, state and federal law would require that an individual be treated as an employee unless the individual:

Being an employer also requires you to keep detailed records and fulfill your tax reporting obligations.  It is important that you understand the regulations and costs as you plan your business. The links below can help you understand your responsibilities.

Worker Benefits

Note: If you have workers in Seattle, Tacoma or SeaTac, check with your city for minimum wage and other employment requirements.

Include in your Personnel Plan:

7. Employee benefits

Health Insurance Offering benefits, such as health insurance, can help you attract and retain good employees. When looking for a health plan for yourself or your employees, it is important to know your goals for providing health coverage. For example, do you wish to contribute to your employees’ monthly health premiums, or do you want to support your employees in finding their own coverage? Whatever your goals or resources may be, the  Washington Health Benefit Exchange  can help you and/or your employees learn about your options.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange operates the state’s official online health insurance marketplace,  Washington Healthplanfinder .

On  Washington Healthplanfinder , employers and employees can:

Wondering what your options are? Employers and/or employees can submit a no obligation application on  Washington Healthplanfinder  to see the individual plans and tax credits available to them.

Enrollment Times You and/or your employees can enroll in individual plans during open enrollment (starting Nov. 1) for the following coverage year. If trying to enroll outside of open enrollment, individuals need a qualifying life event. Examples of qualifying life events are loss of employer coverage, addition to your family, permanent move to WA state, ( see full list of qualifying life events ). Qualifying life events must be reported within 60 days of when the life event occurred.

Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) is available to those who qualify year-round (i.e. does not require a special enrollment period).

Group Plans and More Looking to support your employees by providing or subsidizing their health coverage? Certified brokers at our Enrollment Centers can help you compare group plan options, health reimbursement accounts and health savings account options.

Need Help Our certified brokers can help you and your employees  free of charge  understand your coverage options, the financial assistance available and even help you apply for coverage.

To learn more about your coverage options or to be connected to a broker, email  [email protected] .

8. Financing plan

Projections:

You need to have a well-researched estimate of the start-up and operating costs of your business. You also need to have a realistic expectation of the amount of money your business will bring in. These projections will help you prepare financially for starting your business, whether you finance the business yourself or seek outside loans or investors.

Include projections of:

Once you know how much money your business will require to reach the point where it can begin supporting itself, you can determine how to get the needed funds.

9. Need assistance?

State of Washington Small Business Liaisons  can help you get the information and resources you need. Also, help us improve the Small Business Guide by filling out a short, confidential survey .

Researching the city of Bellevue

Your success in starting and running a business depends on making informed decisions. Informed decisions require information, knowledge and understanding. This requires research.

About Our City

About our economy.

About our Schools

About our Work Force

Entrepreneurial culture, job creation, business climate, major companies, planning to start in bellevue.

Researching the city of Bothell

Planning to start in Bothell

You can find the information and insight you need in the following locations.

Researching the city of Kirkland

Planning to start in Kirkland

Kirkland is filled with successful and innovative businesses that sustain our local economy, provide services we need to maintain our exceptional quality of life and family-wage jobs for our residents. Cities thrive when people with commitment, energy and ideas get together to make great places even better. To ensure the economic vitality of the city continues to thrive the city hosts a CEO-level Business Roundtable representing major Kirkland business clusters and the institutions that support them. Learn more

Researching the city of Redmond

Planning to start in Redmond

Redmond is a quickly-growing local economy, boosted by a large number of thriving small businesses operating in a diverse range of industries. Well known as a center of technology, Redmond is also the location for a number of nationally known high-tech, gaming, aerospace and biomedical companies, as well as innovative start-ups. The daytime employment population is approximately 84,547 and estimated to grow to 119,000 by 2030.

Planning to start in Algona

Algona is a city in King County, Washington, United States, and the Seattle metropolitan area, surrounded by the suburbs of Auburn to the north and east, Pacific to the south, and unincorporated King County to the west. The population was 3,014 as of the 2010 census and an estimated 3,223 in 2018.

Planning to start in Auburn

Auburn is a city in King County, with a small portion in Pierce County. The population was 70,180 at the 2010 United States Census. Auburn is a suburb in the Seattle metropolitan area, currently ranked the fifteenth largest city in the state of Washington.

Planning to start in Beaux Arts

Beaux Arts is a town located in the Eastside region of King County, Washington. It is the smallest municipality in the county, with a population of 299 as of the 2010 census and a land area of 0.1 sq mi. It has no town hall, meetings of official city business take place in private homes. The town is zoned residential. Businesses that meet residential zoning codes are allowed.

Planning to start in Black Diamond

Black Diamond is a city in King County. The population was 4,151 at the 2010 census. Based on per capita income, one of the more reliable measures of affluence, Black Diamond ranks 64th of 522 areas in the state of Washington to be ranked.

Planning to start in Burien

Burien is a suburban city in King County, located south of Seattle on Puget Sound. As of the 2010 Census, Burien's population was 33,313, which is a 49.7% increase since incorporation in 1993.

Planning to start in Carnation

Carnation is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,786 at the 2010 census.

Planning to start in Clyde Hill

Clyde Hill is a city located in King County. It is part of the Eastside region, located to the east of Seattle, and is bordered by the cities and towns of Bellevue, Kirkland, Medina, Yarrow Point and Hunts Point. The population was 2,984 at the 2010 census.

Planning to start in Covington

Covington is a city in King County. The population was 17,575 at the time of the 2010 census. Prior to the 2010 census, Covington was counted as part of Covington-Sawyer-Wilderness CDP.

Planning to start in Des Moines

Des Moines is a city in King County. The population was 29,673 as of the 2010 census. Des Moines is located on the east shore of Puget Sound, approximately halfway between the major cities of Seattle and Tacoma.

Planning to start in Duvall

Duvall is a city in King County, located on SR 203, halfway between Monroe and Carnation. The population was 6,695 at the 2010 census and is estimated to be 8,061 as of 2018.

Planning to start in Enumclaw

Enumclaw is a city in King County. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census. The 2018 estimate is 11,878. The Enumclaw Plateau, on which the city resides, was formed by a volcanic mudflow from Mount Rainier approximately 5,700 years ago.

Planning to start in Federal Way

Federal Way is a city in King County. It is a coastal city within the Seattle metropolitan area. The population was 89,306 at the 2010 census and an estimated 97,044 in 2018.

Planning to start in Hunts Point

Hunts Point is a town in the Eastside, a region of King County, Washington. It is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. The town is on a small peninsula surrounded by Lake Washington, and is near the suburbs of Medina, Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, and Kirkland, as well as the city of Bellevue. The town is zoned residential. Businesses that meet residential zoning codes are allowed.

Planning to start in Issaquah

Issaquah is a city in King County. The population was 30,434 at the 2010 census and an estimated 39,378 in 2018. Located in a valley and bisected by Interstate 90, the city is bordered by the Sammamish Plateau to the north and the "Issaquah Alps" to the south.

Planning to start in Kenmore

Kenmore is a city in King County, Washington, United States, along the northernmost shores of Lake Washington.

Planning to start in Kent

Kent is a city located in King County, Washington, United States. It is the sixth largest city in the state. Kent is in the heart of the Seattle–Tacoma metropolitan area, located 19 miles south of Seattle and 19 miles northeast of Tacoma.

Planning to start in Lake Forest Park

Lake Forest Park is a city in King County, Washington, United States, just north of Seattle. A bedroom community by design, most of the city consists of single-family housing on medium to large-sized lots.

Planning to start in Maple Valley

Maple Valley is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 22,684 at the 2010 census, and is estimated to be 27,114 as of 2018. The city functions as a commuter town for residents, though there is an increasing amount of commercial activity in the area.

Planning to start in Medina

Medina is a mostly residential city in Eastside, King County, Washington, United States. The city is on a peninsula in Lake Washington, on the opposite shore from Seattle, bordered by Clyde Hill and Hunts Point to the east and water on all other sides. The city's population was 2,969 at the 2010 census.

Planning to start in Mercer Island

Mercer Island is a city in King County, Washington, United States, located on an island of the same name in the southern portion of Lake Washington. Mercer Island is in the Seattle Metropolitan Area, with Seattle to its west and Bellevue to its east.

Planning to start in Milton

Milton is a city in King and Pierce counties in the state of Washington. The population was 6,968 at the 2010 census. The median income for a household in the city was $48,166, and the median income for a family was $64,105. The per capita income for the city was $22,400.

Planning to start in Newcastle

Newcastle is an Eastside city in King County, Washington. The population was 10,380 at the 2010 census and an estimated 11,823 in 2018. Newcastle was one of the region's first coal mining areas in King County. Coal delivered by rail from Newcastle's mines to Seattle fueled the growth of the Port of Seattle and attracted more railroads.

Planning to start in Normandy Park

Normandy Park is a city in King County, Washington, is a beautiful waterfront community located along the shores of Puget Sound. The population was 6,335 at the 2010 census. Based on per capita income, Normandy Park ranks 31st of 614 areas in the state of Washington. The community places its highest priorities on maintaining and enhancing its quiet pedestrian-friendly setting and providing a healthy and safe environment in which residents can raise their families.

Planning to start in North Bend

North Bend is a city in King County, Washington, on the outskirts of the Seattle metropolitan area. It is a scenic and thriving community filled with stunning views, hiking and biking trails, dining, art, live music, wine, shopping and fun events for the whole family. The population was 5,731 at the 2010 census and an estimated 7,136 in 2018.

Planning to start in Pacific

Pacific is a city in King and Pierce counties in Washington. A vibrant community conveniently situated between Seattle and Tacoma, the City of Pacific is an inviting place to live, work, or locate your business. The city offers available land, professional governance, good schools and proactive economic development. Experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest in our friendly community. Located primarily in King County, the population was 6,606 at the 2010 census. Like its northern neighbor Algona, Pacific is sometimes mistaken for a part of Auburn.

Planning to start in Renton

Renton is a city in King County, Washington, and a suburb of Seattle. Situated 11 miles southeast of downtown Seattle, Renton straddles the southeast shore of Lake Washington, at the mouth of the Cedar River. It is the center of opportunity where families and businesses thrive. With over 2,000 software companies within a 30-mile radius, over 2,800 acres of parks and playgrounds, and a school district that boasts four Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence (deemed by the U.S. Department of Education), Renton continues to position itself as a stand out city. There is palpable growth in the region, and the business and community environments are strong.

Planning to start in Sammamish

Sammamish is a city located on a plateau, in King County, Washington. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, the town of Sammamish is one of Seattle’s most distant suburbs. Its close proximity to the opportunities held in Redmond and Bellevue, however, make it an ideal spot for people who work on the east side. The population was 45,780 at the 2010 census and an estimated 65,733 in 2018. The city is bordered by Lake Sammamish to the west and the Snoqualmie Valley to the east.

Planning to start in SeaTac

SeaTac is a city in southern King County, Washington. An inner-ring suburb of Seattle, the city boundaries surround the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, which is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle. The name SeaTac is a portmanteau of Seattle and Tacoma, and is derived from the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. The city has a population of 26,909 according to the 2010 census. The city includes the communities of Angle Lake, Bow Lake, McMicken Heights and Riverton Heights.

Planning to start in Seattle

Seattle is a city in King County, Washington. It is Washington State’s largest city, and home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area. The futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, is its most iconic landmark. On the Puget Sound, the city is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland. It is the seat of King County. With an estimated 744,955 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state and the Pacific Northwest region. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area's population stands at 3.94 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate.

Seattle Public Library Services

Whether you have a long-established business or are just beginning to plan a new business, we have great resources for you to use for free through our Library to Business program. We offer dozens of classes and workshops every year in partnership with local organizations. Our business librarians are trained to help you with all aspects of business research, from licensing to hiring. You can access our online research tools for free with your Library card.

Planning to start in Shoreline

Shoreline is a city in King County, Washington. August 31, 1995 Shoreline was officially incorporated as a city, and it adopted the council-manager form of government. As of the 2010 census, the population was 53,007, making it the 20th largest city in the state of Washington.

Planning to start in Skykomish

Skykomish is a town in King County, Washington. Located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, on the South Fork of the Skykomish River, Skykomish was founded as a railroad town. Today, it is mainly a stopping point for recreational access to the surrounding mountains, including skiing at nearby Stevens Pass. The population was 198 as of the 2010 census, down from an estimated peak of "several thousand" in the 1920s. The town is zoned residential. Businesses that meet residential zoning codes are allowed.

Planning to start in Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie is a city next to Snoqualmie Falls in King County, Washington. It is 28 miles east of Seattle. Snoqualmie city is home to the Northwest Railway Museum. The population was 10,670 at the 2010 census and an estimated 13,752 in 2018.

Planning to start in Tukwila

Tukwila is a suburban city in King County, Washington. The population was 19,107 at the 2010 census and an estimated 20,294 in 2018. Tukwila is a community of communities, with residents of many diverse origins living in the city.

Planning to start in Woodinville

Woodinville is a city in King County, Washington. The population was 10,938 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. There is also a much larger population with Woodinville mailing addresses in adjacent unincorporated areas of King and Snohomish counties.

Planning to start in Yarrow Point

Yarrow Point is a town in King County, Washington. The population was 1,001 at the 2010 census. Based on per capita income, one of the more reliable measures of affluence, Yarrow Point ranks fifth of 522 areas in the state. The town is zoned residential. Businesses that meet residential zoning codes are allowed.

Planning to start in Kennewick

Kennewick is a city in Benton County in the southeastern part of the State of Washington, along the southwest bank of the Columbia River, just southeast of the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers and across from the confluence of the Columbia and the Snake River.

Planning to start in Richland

Richland is a city in Benton County in the southeastern part of the State of Washington, at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 48,058. July 1, 2017, estimates from the Census Bureau put the city's population at 57,303.

Planning to start in Benton City

Benton City is a city in Benton County, Washington, United States. The population was 3,038 at the 2010 census. The city shares a school district with the adjacent unincorporated community of Kiona.

Planning to start in Prosser

Prosser is a city in and the county seat of Benton County, Washington, United States, along the Yakima River with only one zip code 99350. The population was 5,714 at the 2010 census.

Planning to start in West Richland

West Richland is a 22-square-mile city in Benton County, Washington, United States. The population was 11,811 at the 2010 census. The city is located within the Tri-Cities metropolitan area, which is centered on the cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.

Planning to start in Pasco

Pasco is a city in, and the county seat of, Franklin County, Washington, United States. Pasco is one of three cities that make up the Tri-Cities region of the state of Washington.

Planning to start in Connell

Connell is a city in Franklin County, Washington. The population was 4,209 at the 2010 census. The Washington State Office of Financial Management's 2018 estimate placed the population at 5,566.

Planning to start in Kahlotus

Kahlotus is a city in Franklin County, Washington. The population was 193 at the 2010 census. The Washington State Office of Financial Management's 2015 estimate placed the population at 190.

Planning to start in Mesa

Mesa is a city in Franklin County, Washington. The population was 489 at the 2010 census. The Washington State Office of Financial Management's 2015 estimate placed the population at 488.

Planning to start in Spokane

Spokane is a city in eastern Washington state. It's home to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, which explores the region’s history through exhibits on art, culture and Native American heritage. Next door, Tudor-style Campbell House dates from the early 1900s. Vast Riverfront Park, site of the 1974 World's Fair, has a sculpture walk. In the park, a cable car offers views over tumbling Spokane Falls.

Planning to start in Spokane Valley

Spokane Valley is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States, and the largest suburb of Spokane. It is located east of Spokane, west of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and surrounds the city of Millwood on three sides.

Planning to start in Liberty Lake

Liberty Lake is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States located adjacent to the eponymous lake. Located just over a mile west of the Washington–Idaho border, Liberty Lake is both a suburb of Spokane, Washington and a bedroom community to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The population was 7,591 at the 2010 census.

Planning to start in Airway Heights

Airway Heights is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States, just west of Spokane. The population was 6,114 at the 2010 census. The city's name was taken from its close proximity to the runways at Fairchild Air Force Base and Spokane International Airport.

Planning to start in Cheney

Cheney is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States. The full-time resident population was 10,590 as of 2010 census. Eastern Washington University is located in Cheney. When classes are in session at EWU, the city's population reaches approximately 17,600 people on a temporary basis.

Planning to start in Deer Park

Deer Park is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States. The population was 3,652 at the 2010 census, up from 3,017 in 2000.

Planning to start in Medical Lake

Medical Lake is a city in Spokane County, eastern Washington, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 5,060. The city is the site of a psychiatric hospital, Eastern State Hospital, and of Fairchild Air Force Base, two major employers.

Planning to start in Millwood

Millwood is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,786 at the 2010 census. Millwood is a suburb of Spokane, and is surrounded on three sides by the city of Spokane Valley.

Planning to start in Bellingham

Bellingham is the county seat and most populous city of Whatcom County in the state of Washington. Located 52 miles southeast of Vancouver, 90 miles north of Seattle, and 21 miles south of the Canada-US border, Bellingham is in between two major metropolitan areas, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. The city's population was 80,885 at the 2010 United States Census. With a 2018 population estimate of 90,665 per the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Bellingham is the twelfth-most populous city in the state of Washington.

Planning to start in Blaine

Blaine is a city in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. The city's northern boundary is the Canada–US border. The Peace Arch international monument lies partly in Blaine and partly in Canada. The population was 4,684 at the 2010 census.[2] Since Blaine is located right on the border with Canada, it is the northernmost city on Interstate 5, while the southernmost city is San Ysidro, California.

Planning to start in Everson

Everson is a city in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. The population was 2,481 at the 2010 census. Everson is near the foothills of the Cascade mountains in Northwest Washington. Located on the banks of the Nooksack River, the businesses support the surrounding farms and logging industries. The valley is heavily influenced by Dutch settlers who established dairy farms on the fertile flood prone land. Fruit orchards and berry fields also play an important part of the town's economy. The town's small business district provides all the basic services. There are restaurants, a pharmacy and groceries, auto-repair, and agricultural supply stores. The City Park is located a 1/2 block south off the W. Main St. and Riverside Park is on the banks of the Nooksack River featuring picnic tables and ball fields.

Planning to start in Ferndale

Ferndale is a city in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. The population was 14,354 at the 2010 census. It is the third largest city in Whatcom County and borders the Lummi Nation on its southern border.

Planning to start in Lynden

Lynden is the second largest city in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. Located within the Metropolitan Area of Bellingham. Named and established in 1874 near the site of the Nooksack Indian village Squahalish. Lynden is approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of the Canada–US border, with Lynden-Aldergrove operation and port of entry hours between 8:00 a.m. and midnight. It is also located about 15 miles (24 km) north of Bellingham, and about 95 miles (153 km) north of Seattle. And about 38 miles (61 km) from Vancouver. The population of Lynden is about 14,259 according to the United States Census Bureau. Residents of Lynden are known as "Lyndenites". Lynden is also home to the Northwest Washington Fair.

Planning to start in Nooksack

Nooksack is a city in Whatcom County, Washington, close to the border with Canada. The population was 1,338 at the 2010 census. This town shares Nooksack Valley School District with Sumas and Everson. The town is just a handful of buildings built around the highway that runs through it. The post office lost its official status in 1992 (and is now a department of neighboring town, Everson), but still exists across from a small city park. The USPS has since closed the remote office. Other noticeable remains are the two gas stations and several churches. It has no major geographic features except a small creek on the edge of town, near a cemetery containing many old graves.

Planning to start in Sumas

Sumas is a small town in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,307 at the 2010 census. Sumas is located adjacent to the Canada–US border and borders the city of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Sumas-Huntingdon port of entry at the north end of State Route 9 operates 24 hours a day. Sumas shares Nooksack Valley School District with the towns of Nooksack and Everson. Sumas is the northernmost settlement on Washington State Route 9 and experiences Astronomical Twilight for 22 days during the months of June and July.

Planning to start in Unincorporated King County

King County is a county located in the state of Washington. The population was 2,233,163 in the 2018 census estimate, making it the most populous county in Washington, and the 12th-most populous in the United States. The county seat is Seattle, also the state's most populous city.

Planning to start in Unincorporated Whatcom County

Whatcom County is located in the state of Washington. As of the 2010 census, the population was 201,140. It is bordered by Canada on the north, Okanogan County on the east, Skagit County on the south, and the Strait of Georgia on the west. The county seat and largest city is Bellingham.

Planning to start in Unincorporated Franklin County

Franklin County is a county located in the state of Washington. As of the 2010 census, its population was 78,163. The county seat and largest city is Pasco. The county was formed out of Whitman County on November 28, 1883 and is named for Benjamin Franklin.

Unincorporated Franklin County does not require a county business license other than what is required by the cities and the state. Businesses operating in unicorporated Franklin County are required to have a state business license which can be obtained here: https://bls.dor.wa.gov

Planning to start in Unincorporated Spokane County

Spokane County is a county located in the state of Washington. As of the 2010 census the population was 471,221, making it the fourth-most populous county in Washington state. The largest city and county seat is Spokane, the second largest city in the state after Seattle.

Unincorporated Spokane County does not require a county business license other than what is required by the cities and the state. Businesses operating in unicorporated Franklin County are required to have a state business license which can be obtained here: https://bls.dor.wa.gov

Planning to start in Unincorporated Benton County

Benton County is a county in the south-central portion of the state of Washington. As of the 2010 census, its population was 175,177. The county seat is Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. The Columbia River demarcates the county's north, south, and east boundaries.

Unincorporated Benton County does not require a county business license other than what is required by the cities and the state. Businesses operating in Unincorporated Benton County are required to have a state business license which can be obtained here: https://bls.dor.wa.gov

King County Library Services

The King County Library System is a library system serving the residents of King County, Washington, United States. Headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, KCLS is currently the busiest library in the United States, circulating 22.4 million items in 2010.

Small Business Resources: At every stage of your business, the library can save you time and money. Whether you’re expanding a thriving business or are still deciding if entrepreneurship is right for you, we’re here to connect you to the people and information you need.

Whatcom County Library

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How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)

Kelly Main

Reviewed By

Updated: Aug 20, 2022, 2:21am

How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)

Table of Contents

Brainstorm an executive summary, create a company description, brainstorm your business goals, describe your services or products, conduct market research, create financial plans, bottom line, frequently asked questions.

Every business starts with a vision, which is distilled and communicated through a business plan. In addition to your high-level hopes and dreams, a strong business plan outlines short-term and long-term goals, budget and whatever else you might need to get started. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to write a business plan that you can stick to and help guide your operations as you get started.

Drafting the Summary

An executive summary is an extremely important first step in your business. You have to be able to put the basic facts of your business in an elevator pitch-style sentence to grab investors’ attention and keep their interest. This should communicate your business’s name, what the products or services you’re selling are and what marketplace you’re entering.

Ask for Help

When drafting the executive summary, you should have a few different options. Enlist a few thought partners to review your executive summary possibilities to determine which one is best.

After you have the executive summary in place, you can work on the company description, which contains more specific information. In the description, you’ll need to include your business’s registered name , your business address and any key employees involved in the business. 

The business description should also include the structure of your business, such as sole proprietorship , limited liability company (LLC) , partnership or corporation. This is the time to specify how much of an ownership stake everyone has in the company. Finally, include a section that outlines the history of the company and how it has evolved over time.

Wherever you are on the business journey, you return to your goals and assess where you are in meeting your in-progress targets and setting new goals to work toward.

Numbers-based Goals

Goals can cover a variety of sections of your business. Financial and profit goals are a given for when you’re establishing your business, but there are other goals to take into account as well with regard to brand awareness and growth. For example, you might want to hit a certain number of followers across social channels or raise your engagement rates.

Another goal could be to attract new investors or find grants if you’re a nonprofit business. If you’re looking to grow, you’ll want to set revenue targets to make that happen as well.

Intangible Goals

Goals unrelated to traceable numbers are important as well. These can include seeing your business’s advertisement reach the general public or receiving a terrific client review. These goals are important for the direction you take your business and the direction you want it to go in the future.

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 providing something necessary or entirely new. If you have any patents or trademarks, this is where you can include those too.

If you have any visual aids, they should be included here as well. This would also be a good place to include pricing strategy and explain your materials.

This is the part of the business plan where you can explain your expertise and different approach in greater depth. Show how what you’re offering is vital to the market and fills an important gap.

You can also situate your business in your industry and compare it to other ones and how you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Other than financial goals, you want to have a budget and set your planned weekly, monthly and annual spending. There are several different costs to consider, such as operational costs.

Business Operations Costs

Rent for your business is the first big cost to factor into your budget. If your business is remote, the cost that replaces rent will be the software that maintains your virtual operations.

Marketing and sales costs should be next on your list. Devoting money to making sure people know about your business is as important as making sure it functions.

Other Costs

Although you can’t anticipate disasters, there are likely to be unanticipated costs that come up at some point in your business’s existence. It’s important to factor these possible costs into your financial plans so you’re not caught totally unaware.

Business plans are important for businesses of all sizes so that you can define where your business is and where you want it to go. Growing your business requires a vision, and giving yourself a roadmap in the form of a business plan will set you up for success.

How do I write a simple business plan?

When you’re working on a business plan, make sure you have as much information as possible so that you can simplify it to the most relevant information. A simple business plan still needs all of the parts included in this article, but you can be very clear and direct.

What are some common mistakes in a business plan?

The most common mistakes in a business plan are common writing issues like grammar errors or misspellings. It’s important to be clear in your sentence structure and proofread your business plan before sending it to any investors or partners.

What basic items should be included in a business plan?

When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business,  an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.

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Julia is a writer in New York and started covering tech and business during the pandemic. She also covers books and the publishing industry.

Kelly is an SMB Editor specializing in starting and marketing new ventures. Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Additionally, she manages a column at Inc. Magazine.

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