Research shows that having a business plan positively correlates with obtaining business growth, acquiring investment capital, and securing loans.
If you're thinking of starting a business, this makes it a crucial step in your setup to success. It forces you to flesh out your idea and look into all areas that can affect your plans.
While writing a business plan is commonly associated with new ventures, a study found that business plans benefited already-existing companies even more than it did startups.
Compared to startups where projections are based on intelligent guesswork, more seasoned companies have facts and numbers. They have historical data, trends, experience, and results. This makes it more likely for forecasts to align with reality.
Done right, a business plan can help any kind of business thrive.
Whether you’re just starting, maintaining, or expanding, preparing a business plan will help you focus your efforts on the right things, allocate resources accordingly, and ultimately put you in an excellent position to succeed.
3 Tips on How To Make A Business Plan
Business plans are not created equal. Its effectiveness is reliant on 3 important factors: completeness, thoroughness, and clarity.
Let me explain.
Tip #1: Provide complete information.
When prospective partners read your business plan, it should give them an idea of how every aspect of it will operate.
First, clearly state what product and service you provide.
What are its primary benefits?
Which features stand out?
What makes it excel?
What does it do better than anyone else does?
Who is your target market?
What problem does it solve for them?
Answering these questions will shed light on your product’s strengths and weaknesses. It will also help you establish its unique selling point and its value as a solution to an existing problem.
Second, help your readers understand how you plan to carry your business through.
How will you operate?
Where will you get talent if you’re providing services?
What resources will you need to sustain it–financial or otherwise?
Do you need infrastructure and equipment?
How will you retain your competitive advantage?
Are you going to secure patents?
How do you plan to market, advertise, and sell?
Be sure to also cover your industry and competitive landscape:
What other options are available?
How does your business stand-out in its arena?
How will you position yourself against your competition?
Your readers will expect to know your products and services and your plan for operations, sales, marketing, financials, and more. They'd also want to know how likely it is for your business to thrive.
There are many business plan templates available on the internet. Some businesses will lean more heavily towards some parts more than others. Emphasis will depend on the industry. But no matter what kind of business you have, Business News Daily outlines the elements of your business plan that always have to be present:
- Executive Summary
- Company description
- Market Analysis
- Management Team
- Financial Plan
That said, there's no canon for what your business plan should contain. Still, you need to provide complete information on these data points to help your prospective partners gain a holistic and realistic view of your venture.
Tip #2: Be thorough in your research and analysis.
“Facts are better than dreams,” Winston Churchill said. This truth also applies to your business strategy.
It's one thing to have a vision and idea. But if you're planning to start a business, you'll need to be grounded on facts.
When you conduct your analysis, first be clear about internal factors available for you:
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
What resources do you have that give you an advantage?
What part of your business do you need to fortify?
Once you have a full grasp of your internal capabilities, look outside.
What are your competitors doing?
What uncontrollable forces (political, climate, economic, etc.) will affect the growth of your business?
When creating your business plan, cover all bases extensively. Validate the information you receive. Be thorough and critical, careful to not take things at face value. Read up and research on the best way to approach this for your business.
Similar to how we exist as humans, your business will not live in a bubble.
You need to prepare for all sorts of challenges. A realistic and well-rounded view of your venture will show your customers that you know what you're doing and that you're in-tune with reality.
This pragmatic approach will provide more credibility for your forecasts, projections, and overall reputation as a knowledgeable entrepreneur. Apart from business plans, consider using mind maps to strategically analyze your thought structure.
Tip #3: Communicate with clarity.
Completeness and thoroughness are essential. But it's important to understand that the goal isn't to overload your readers with information. Instead, it's to communicate your idea and help them grasp it completely.
Facts and figures are crucial. But it's in your best interest to also organize information so that it’s digestible and delightful to read. Complement it with good grammar and formatting.
Consider having videos and images that can deliver your message with one glance. Use graphs to summarize comprehensive market studies and financials. Organize appendices so your reader can choose to dive deeper or not.
When creating your business plan, have a firm grasp of the relevant nitty-gritty. But be careful! You also run the risk of losing your core message in the details.
Be concise and critical in finding the right balance of information. Be intentional in adding and deducting.
Businesses exist to solve problems for specific markets. Behind all the research, forecasts, and projections, this core message must be clear.
This clarity will make your message stick most effectively.
Business Plan Software
Let's face it. The time you spend on making your business plan is time away from running your business. Creating it will take time. In fact, some take a year to finish.
Vital as it is, so are your hours. Because of this, a lot of people struggle with its relevance. Do I need it that badly?
Still, it’s no coincidence that 71% of fast-growing companies have sound plans. Benjamin Franklin did once say that “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Luckily, there's now a way to streamline your business plan creation process so you can make one more efficiently without sacrificing quality.
Of course, one option is that you can try writing faster. But without proper practice and training, this can decrease your output’s quality.
A better way to go about it would be to use a business plan software.
Equipped with powerful features, extensive templates, and user-friendly interfaces, we'll look into 4 of the best ones available today, both for startups and more seasoned entrepreneurs.
Best Business Plan Software for Startups
If you're a new business owner, a business plan will help you ensure that you've thought through all possible scenarios that can affect its success.
A solid business plan can also help you pitch your business more effectively. If you're looking to get crowdfunding, partners, or investors, being able to share important details will be easier if you have it on hand.
To help you get started, here are the best business plan software for your new startup.
LivePlan provides a user-friendly interface with detailed prompts and instructions to guide you through your writing process.
It also stands out because of its ultra-convenient shareability. With just a few clicks, you can turn your comprehensive paperwork into a one-pager or a solid presentation ready for your next pitch.
- Step-by-step instructions
- 500+ sample plans for reference
- Benchmarking, projections, and financial forecasts
- One-pager or PowerPoint export
- Integrations with QuickBooks and Xero
- Easy to learn and user-friendly
Regardless of your experience, LivePlan can help ensure that your output is thorough and expertly made. It has a business canvas that provides useful prompts and built-in tutorials to help facilitate your writing process.
LivePlan’s business canvas guides you through the writing process.
Image from LivePlan.com
For further reference, you can check 500+ available sample plans to see if there’s anything in there that can help you.
LivePlan also has features to help you benchmark your offerings and make projections and financial forecasts. Run what-if scenarios to evaluate your decisions. This way, you can take calculated risks and adequately justify your calls to your prospective partners.
For investors and idea-sharing, LivePlan can export your business plan into a visually appealing one-pager or PowerPoint. This is a HUGE time-saver. You can now share your plans, not just with investors, but with your advisers to get feedback.
Other features include performance tracking, collaboration, and good customer service.
LivePlan allows you to handle multiple businesses and gives you access to all its features.
Try for 60 days risk-free, 100% money-back guarantee
LivePlan allows new and experienced entrepreneurs to create expertly written business plans that are thorough and visually appealing. It also has features for financial forecasts and projections to help you run scenarios for your major decisions.
Find more information about LivePlan in their official website.
BizPlan is a suitable companion for new and experienced business owners because it gives you access to an arsenal of resources from startups.com.
This web-based business plan software features a drag-and-drop interface that’s visual and easy to use.
They also have a massive arsenal of knowledge: from comprehensive articles and blogs to a supportive community and access to mentors and experts.
Subscribing to BizPlan and startups.com gives you an arsenal of tools to help you through your business operations from start to finish.
- Guided business plan creator
- Extensive learning resources
- Community support
- Shareable webpage feature
- Financial forecasting
- Easy to learn and user-friendly
BizPlan’s business plan creator makes use of a drag-and-drop interface that you can fill in with your vision and business details.
Create your business plan with a visual drag-and-drop interface with BizPlan.
Image from BizPlan.com
The software takes care of formatting and even gives you access to lovely images you can add.
It also has project management tools to manage projections for revenue, team salaries, and more. You'll also find templates for financial reports in there: balance sheets, income statements, and more.
As for shareability, BizPlan lets you convert your business plan into a one-page webpage that you can easily share with stakeholders.
While BizPlan is for planning, subscribing to this business plan software gives you access to startups.com‘s multitude of tools. While BizPlan is for business planning, there's also Clarity for access to mentors. They have Launchrock for site-building, Zirtual for virtual assistants, and Fundable: a large business crowdfunding platform.
Subscribe to BizPlan for access to an arsenal of platforms from startups.com
Image from Startups.com
Being an entrepreneur comes with a slew of difficulties, professionally and personally. Having a community that can help you feel less alone would help. With startup.com’s public blog and forums, you can connect with like-minded individuals and experts to find support as well as knowledge.
Saying that their learning resources are extensive is an understatement. It probably has everything you’ll need to learn. It has many self-guided courses, over 650 expert masterclass videos, and over 1,000 how-to guides. Playbooks and formats for every industry are also available for your use to help guide you forward.
Keep learning with abundant resources.
Image from Startups.com
They also have a podcast where you get to hear from experts or individuals such as yourself.
BizPlan also has progress tracking and integrations that allow you to import and manage your financials with Quickbooks, Xero, or others. Customer support is available through a ticket system, email, live chat, or call during business hours.
A subscription to BizPlan gives you access to all of startup.com’s tools. You’ll also get to manage unlimited business plans and have unlimited collaborators.
Enjoy access to its full features for as low as $20.75/mo, or a one-time $349 purchase.
BizPlan doesn’t offer a free trial period, but you can refund your money within 7 days of purchase if it doesn’t suit your tastes and needs.
A BizPlan subscription immerses you into the entrepreneurial world and connects you with like-minded people. This exposure can aid you greatly in your growth.
The program features a drag-and-drop interface that provides you an easy way to create and share your business plan, and create financial documents, as well as anticipate and forecast financial needs.
Find more information about BizPlan in their official website.
Best Business Plan Software for Experienced Business Owners
Business plans are usually associated with startups. But in reality, existing benefits can benefit from it too. Possibly, even more than startups can.
When you're starting, your focus is on forecasting possible scenarios and fortifying your venture so it can withstand it all. For a business that's up and running, priorities shift to staying relevant, aligning and managing a growing team, and allocating resources most optimally. For some, expansion can also be on the horizon.
The best business plan software for experienced business owners needs to have tools that help them facilitate these and leverage their tenure and historical data.
Here are my best recommendations for this phase of your business.
PlanGuru is designed with an emphasis on the financial and forecasting side of business management. It allows you to track, align, and archive budgets and expenses: be it a simple list or a comprehensive database of transactions across all departments. It also lets you create rolling forecasts every month.
Importing from QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Xero, or Excel, with the platform allows you to leverage your historical data to determine the best ways to move forward.
- Standard accounting aid
- Budgeting and reports
- Comprehensive financial forecasting
- Inventory and payroll management
PlanGuru is more a budgeting and financial forecasting software than it is a business planning software. It has pre-built features to help you create your basic balance sheet and income statement. It also automatically solves your cash flow statement. To help you stay on top of your financial commitments, you can also use PlanGuru to track your Notes Payable and Line of Credit.
Budgets and reports can also be tracked and accessed live.
PlanGuru uses 20 powerful forecasting methods (with an option to add customized ones) to help you see your decisions' implications for up to 10 years.
The tool uses assumptions and KPI's and allows you to import historical data results of up to 5 years. This way, you'll know that the projections are based on hard evidence and observable trends instead of guesswork.
Inventory and payroll features are also available in PlanGuru. You'll find this feature handy when you're anticipating additional staffing requirements and if you're handling fixed assets that'll eventually depreciate and require disposition.
As for goals and accountability, you can use PlanGuru to track your business performance, so you have a good view of your progress at any point in time.
It's available on web, desktop (Windows), or mobile, and their support team is efficient in getting back to their customers in case of issues.
You can get PlanGuru and all of its features for $99 a month or $899 per year. You'll need to add $29 a month for every additional user and $299 a year, respectively.
Try it for free for 14 days, or set up a live demo so you can see how it'll work with your business. They also give a 30-day money back guarantee.
PlanGuru is a great tool that can help you streamline your financial process. With it, you can keep your financial statements updated instead of cramming them all when it's tax season.
More importantly, it allows you to leverage your past performance to create sound and realistic decisions moving forward.
Its format is similar to Microsoft Excel, making it easy to learn for some but difficult for others. For this, the learning curve would depend on your current proficiency in similar tools and your willingness to learn how to maximize its features.
It could take more time for some than for others. But if you do decide to dive into this, the rewards will surely be worth it.
Find more information about PlanGuru in their official website.
As your business grows, it becomes harder and harder to keep everyone aligned with your company's vision and the reason for its existence.
Too often, your employees get caught up in the business of day-to-day operations. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. But for many, it can cloud priorities, lower motivation, and dull their sense of fulfillment because they have no idea how their actions contribute to the big picture.
If you want to take strides in aligning your team and keeping it that way, then StratPlan can be a suitable business plan software to look into.
- Interface for priority alignment
- Systematic analysis for internal and external factors
- Streamlined task assignment and accountability management
- Easy to use interface
StratPlan's overall interface keeps the company's vision, mission, goals, and objectives in full view as your team goes about its tasks and assignments.
From a manager or CEO perspective, that'll help you hand out tasks that can best contribute to your company objectives. This also shows your team how their day-to-day actions and decisions affect your big picture goal.
Helping everyone stay in touch with your company's vision helps give clarity to their priorities. Eventually, these small shifts will accumulate into significant changes that can facilitate leaps and bounds for progress.
StratPlan is equipped with templates for industry-standard frameworks –such as PESTEL, SWOT, Porter's 5 Forces, and others — to help you evaluate internal and external factors that affect your business. Its guided prompts allow you to maximize these even if you don't have a business degree.
See a full picture of where your business stands through inside-out analysis tools in StratPlan.
Image from GlobaBusinessConsultants.com.au
Enjoy access to hundreds of pre-made strategic plans for you to gather insights and ideas. The software also helps you create offensive or defensive strategies of your own.
For $29 a month, you can get all its features for unlimited users. You’ll also get to make unlimited strategies, tasks, and projects.
They also offer discounts for educators, students, and non-profit organizations.
Try it for free for 14 days and see if it can help you.
StratPlan makes industry-standard analysis tools available and usable for everyone, with or without a business degree. Its interface helps you and your team focus on your company vision and goal to ensure that everyone is taking small steps towards it every day.
This software focuses more on how you strategize and implement your plans as a team than on impressing external stakeholders.
Gratification for this may take time. It certainly won't happen overnight. But with a continuous focus on internal development and direction, perhaps your results will eventually speak for themselves.
Find more information about StratPlan in their official website.
A business plan can benefit your business no matter where you are in your business lifecycle.
If you're a startup, it can force you to look into all aspects of your business and fortify your systems. Gathering facts about your internal capabilities and limitations and analyzing them against the realities of your industry and competitive landscape will make you more equipped to handle the challenges ahead.
Practicing foresight and strategy will make it more likely for investors to support you. With no track record to leverage yet, you’ll have to rely on your diligence and receptiveness to establish your and your business’ credibility.
A business plan will benefit you as well if you're a seasoned business owner. Even more so, than startups, because you have historical data to leverage in achieving better results. Whether you’re maintaining or expanding, retaining a good grasp of every aspect of your business helps you stay adaptable and open to change.
The best business plan software can help you make complete, thorough, and clear business plans to aid you in the next steps for your entrepreneurial journey.