How to write a business plan (with examples)

By The IFTTT Team

May 09, 2024

How to write a business plan (with examples)
  • So, you've decided to start a new business, or maybe next your company up to the next level. Either way, if you want to make it to the big leagues, it's a good idea to draft up a plan.

    In this article, we will go over the useful process that is building up a traditional business plan. With a business plan, entrepreneurs unlock a whole variety of benefits, such as a better understanding of what steps to take toward success.

    Also in this article, readers can view examples of well-thought-out business plans and marketing strategy, that led to some of the world's biggest companies today.

    Lastly, we will go over our picks for the best services to help your new business get off the ground, and how IFTTT can help streamline your business today, no matter how small.

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    Should I make a business plan?

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    The first step in determining whether or not to create a business plan for your product or service is to assess the stage of your business idea.

    If you are in the early stages of ideation, having a clear understanding of your target market, competition, and business model is essential. A business plan can help you organize your thoughts, identify gaps in your knowledge, and develop a roadmap for success.

    Some might argue that there are some people who are already past the point of needing a business plan. Why would Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos need a business plan, if they are already so wealthy and accomplished?

    Surprisingly, these two billionaires and many more pay entire teams of people to constantly create business plans to grow and network their companies.

    Regardless of the stage of your product/company, having a well-written business plan can be incredibly helpful in setting yourself up for success.

    Even those who don't own a business yet can follow the business plan model to better outline a hobby or project. Knowing how to outline your work and goals can be incredibly helpful for students, freelancers, or anyone who is looking to increase their productivity.

    Is business planning hard?

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    Business planning can be perceived as hard due to the various aspects and details involved in the process. However, it is a crucial step in establishing a strong foundation for your business and setting it up for success.

    A comprehensive business plan requires considering multiple aspects such as market research, competitive analysis, financial projections, marketing strategies, and operations. Ensuring all these components align with your overall goals can be challenging.

    Predicting the future always involves some level of uncertainty. Making assumptions about market trends, customer behavior, and other factors can be difficult, and plans may need adjustments over time.

    Developing a detailed business plan takes time and effort. Business planning often demands a diverse range of skills, including strategic thinking, financial analysis, market research, and effective communication. If you lack experience in these areas, the process may seem more challenging.

    Benefits of a business plan outline

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    Without a doubt, one of the most effective ways to develop a business plan is to use a business plan outline.

    Painters often say that the hardest part of a painting is putting down the first stroke on an empty canvas. The same is true with starting a business. When given a starting point, such as an online outline, it becomes easier to get the creative juices flowing and start jotting down some ideas.

    Here are some of the main benefits of using a business plan outline:

    Organization and structure: A business plan outline provides a clear framework for organizing your thoughts, ideas, and research, ensuring that all essential elements are covered and presented logically.

    Efficiency: By following an outline, you can save time and effort by focusing on the most critical aspects of your business plan. It helps you avoid getting sidetracked or spending too much time on less important details.

    Consistency and clarity: Using an outline can help you maintain consistency in your writing style, tone, and formatting throughout the document. This results in a clearer and more professional presentation of your ideas, which is particularly important when sharing your plan with investors or other stakeholders.

    Easier review and editing: With a well-structured outline, it becomes easier to review, edit, and update your business plan as needed. You can quickly identify areas that require additional information or revisions, ensuring your plan remains accurate and relevant over time.

    Why some choose to not use a business plan outline

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    Business plan outlines are amazing for those who are first-timers in the planning process. However, some entrepreneurs may prefer a more flexible and organic approach to business planning.

    They might feel that following a strict outline constrains their creativity or ability to adapt the plan as new ideas or market conditions emerge.

    Business plan outlines can seem complex and intimidating, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. This perception may discourage some from using an outline, even though it can ultimately simplify and streamline the planning process.

    Hopefully, you will be convinced of the effectiveness of a business plan in the next paragraph, where we will go over how easy it truly is to formulate your first business plan.

    How to use a business plan outline

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    A business plan outline serves as a framework to guide you through the process of creating a comprehensive and well-structured plan. Here's a suggested outline for a typical business plan:

    Executive Summary

    Include the following:

    • Mission statement
    • Company overview (brief)
    • Product or service description (brief)
    • Market Opportunity
    • Objectives and goals
    • Financial highlights

    Company Description

    Include the following:

    • Legal structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.)
    • Company history
    • Vision and mission statements
    • Management team and key personnel
    • Location and facilities

    Market Analysis

    Include the following:

    • Industry analysis
    • Market size and trends
    • Growth potential
    • Target market segment
    • Demographics
    • Needs and preferences
    • Market segment size
    • Market challenges and opportunities

    Competitive Analysis

    Include the following:

    • Direct competitors (list and analyze)
    • Indirect competitors (list and analyze)
    • Competitive advantages and disadvantages
    • Barriers to entry and exit

    Marketing and Sales Strategy

    Include the following:

    • Product or service positioning
    • Pricing strategy
    • Distribution channels
    • Promotion and advertising strategy
    • Sales process and strategy

    Product or Service Line

    Include the following:

    • Detailed product or service description
    • Features and benefits
    • Unique selling points or intellectual property
    • Future development plans (if applicable)

    Operations and Management

    Include the following:

    • Operational processes and workflow
    • Supply chain management
    • Production methods and facilities
    • Quality control measures
    • Staffing requirements and training
    • Administrative processes

    Financial Projections

    Include the following:

    • Projected income statement (3-5 years)
    • Projected cash flow statements (3-5 years)
    • Projected balance sheet (3-5 years)
    • Break-even analysis
    • Financial assumptions and justifications

    Appendices and Supporting Documents

    Include the following:

    • Resumes of key management team members
    • Market research data
    • Financial statements (if applicable)
    • Legal documents (e.g., contracts, agreements, licenses)
    • Any other relevant information

    Remember, this outline is a starting point and can be adapted to suit your specific business needs. The most important aspect is to ensure that your plan covers all the essential topics and provides a clear and comprehensive picture of your business's goals, strategies, and financial expectations.

    Successful business plan examples

    It's also helpful to look at successful business plan examples to get a better sense of what and how to present your own.

    Apple's executive summary

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    Apple, which is now one of the world's biggest corporations, developed an excellent executive summary for their 2016 stock report, compliments of Rutger's Business School;

    "Apple Inc is one of the most iconic companies of the recent decade. Apple has not only been developing and selling great products. More importantly the company has been building an incredible platform and an ecosystem for its loyal users within which it could further sell apps and services."

    "The company is not immune to general market trends and some of the product sales are slowing down either due to markets maturing (e.g. smartphones) or due to a general industry decline (e.g. music players and computers)."

    "Apple has a formidable competition within well established and well financed companies such as Alphabet, Samsung, Amazon, HP as well as newcomers from China like Huawei and Xiaomi.

    "Despite strong competition the company managed to grow and thrive within its industries and enjoys one of the best balance sheets and financial metrics among its peers."

    Verizon's competition section

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    Verizon, a massive mobile service and wifi provider across the United States, is often analyzed by financial experts to provide insight into stock prices. A student presented an excellent paragraph about its competition to the Minnesota State University in 2018;

    "Verizon’s main three competitors are AT&T, T-Mobile US, Inc., and Sprint Corporation. One of Verizon’s competitive advantages is their high service quality which enhances brand image."

    "Also, they have strong growth strategies which has shaped their overall approach to grow their business. To attract and retain customers, Verizon focuses on quality and differentiation. Verizon’s generic strategy is differentiating from its competitors."

    Automating your business with IFTTT

    Our automation platform IFTTT (If This Then That) is a great way for entrepreneurs to develop and promote their businesses in the digital world.

    IFTTT works by connecting multiple platforms and services through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Users can create Applets by defining a specific trigger (the "If This" part) and an action (the "Then That" part). When the trigger occurs, IFTTT automatically performs the specified action.

    IFTTT has been used by entrepreneurs to automate common tasks and create systems that help them stay organized or streamline processes. For example, with IFTTT you can create an applet that automatically posts new blog content on social media or sends a notification when an important email arrives.

    You can also use IFTTT to create integrations between different services, such as linking your customer database with your website and setting up automated tasks that are triggered based on user actions. This helps you save time and energy so that you can focus on other aspects of your business.

    Our favorite business growth automations

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