Five simple business plan templates
[toc]A simple business plan template is something that everyone who runs a small business or is planning to start one needs to have . Templates are very convenient — they enable us to write up a word processing file without having to start from scratch each time. Five such templates will be discussed here (pretty obvious right?). Much of the sections on each template will deal more generally with the activities that businesses engage in and the problems that they need to solve, which is natural, as the purpose of a template is to aid the businessman with these things.
Business plan templates cannot be studied in isolation.
1. A simple business plan template for the startup company
The entrepreneur who is just starting out in the world of business will naturally have different needs from the one who is well established therein. Our first simple business plan template is perfect for the startup business. It consists of the following elements:
- an executive summary — This is where you put the fundamentals of your business, including who owns it, the products you have to offer, the types of customers who you hope will buy them and what you think the future holds in store for you and your business. The executive summary should be both professional — giving all the necessary information — and concise, covering no more than three pages. It should also be enthusiastic.
- a general company description — There should be two parts to this section: a brief mission statement describing the guiding principles behind your company and its essential raison d’être, and a more elaborate statement of company goals and objectives. These, it should be noted, are not really the same thing — a goal is where you want to be, whereas an objective is what you want to attain as part of your progress toward that destination.
- the ownership form of your company (sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation) and your reason for choosing it
- the major strengths and competencies of your business — how you expect to compete with other businesses of the same or a similar type and the skills that you, as the owner, will be personally bringing to the table
- what products and services your company has to offer, the pricing structures thereof, your level of quality and other competitive advantages in this area and any unique features that distinguish yours
- a marketing plan — Market research, both primary and secondary, is an indispensable part of any business plan. Primary research means gathering your own data, while secondary research is when you use periodicals and other sources of information.
- facts about the industry in which your company operates — its size, your share in it, demands and trends, etc.
- customer demographics — the age, gender, income level, social class and other characteristics of the typical customer of your company
- competition — major competitors and how specifically they will be competing with you
- advertising and promotional strategy — includes how much you will spend on advertising
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2. A simple business plan template for the experienced businessman
For the person who has been in business for some time and gotten a leg up in his or her chosen niche, things are somewhat different. The simple business plan template still requires the same basic elements listed in the previous section — the executive summary, the general company description and so on — but certain features need to be adjusted to take the experience of the business thus far into account. For example, you want to indicate whether the marketing strategy you have chosen has proven effective and what changes, if any, need to be made. You will also need to prepare a sales forecast, and it might be a good idea to prepare two — one where you give what you actually expect, and one where you give an estimate of the minimum amount they you think you can achieve even under the worst conditions. Your sales record should be considered in making any forecast and attempt to account for any past discrepancies between projected and actual sales.
Also on your template should be a list of all the people who form your support personnel. These include your attorney, accountant, boards of directors and management advisors, banker, insurance agent, consultants and mentors. All of these members should be put on a management chart that indicates who takes care of the day-to-day management tasks, the kind of experience that person brings to the business, what plans are in effect to make sure that the business functions continue if he or she should die or become incapacitated. Companies that employ more than ten persons should, in addition, have a diagram that indicates the chain of command and describes the function of each employee.
Finally, your simple business plan template should include a financial history and ratios spreadsheet that brings together information recorded on other financial statements. There should be a way of refining plans, too.
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3. A simple business plan template for the nonprofit organization
Nonprofit organizations, by definition, do not pay any dividends, so there are no financial benefits to be gained from investing in them. They receive their support from religious and other charities and from grants supplied by government organizations and individuals. If you are in charge of such an organization, your planning process should involve several planning teams that include board members, employees, managers, sponsors and prominent leaders in your community. All these people should be presented with the planning process — everything you are expecting, and when — and from there you should all gather information relevant to the planning process, which includes the articles of incorporation.
“Charity work is very important to me and gives me an opportunity to give back to my community. I’ve always been a big supporter of many different charities, have donated millions of dollars to them, and it just feels great to do and be able to help others, especially children”.-Richard MacDonald
Since much of the time your nonprofit will be seeking donations from people, your business plan should include material of importance to potential investors. Thus, if the purpose of the donation you are seeking is to fund a major building project, you will want to explain why that project is so important to the community and how it will benefit the donor. Part of the business plan should be devoted to requests for grants, contributions and financial aid. Unlike a for-profit organization, a nonprofit does not have tax liabilities that can override community concerns. Much of the activity of the business also involves searching for volunteers.
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4. A simple business plan template for organizing an advisory board
An advisory board, it must be realized, is not an official, formal body like a board of directors. Its members do not form part of the business and have no financial interest in it. Nonetheless, it is important to have a simple business plan template for putting one together. The knowledge and expertise that they contribute can help your business to compete better in the market, and they can provide invaluable advice in certain key areas.
To be included on your advisory board, a person must satisfy a number of criteria. He or she must be honest and willing to keep secrets, as anything that transpires at board of advisors meetings is to be kept strictly confidential — for that reason, every member should sign a non-disclosure agreement. The members must also be genuinely interested in helping your business to succeed, knowledgeable in areas with which you are not familiar, widely respected in their fields, good at solving problems and communicating, and representative of a wide range of professional backgrounds with a wide range of skills.
It is important to let the members of your board of advisors know that you value their time. At each meeting, tell them what results you expect and provide a meeting agenda. Above all, be sure to thank them for having taken time out from their busy schedules to help you with your business needs.
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5. A simple business plan template for competitive analysis
Our final template is for what is known as competitive analysis, by which is meant an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of one’s competitors, both actual and potential.
The knowledge gained through such an assessment can be used to formulate one’s offensive and defensive strategies for dealing with economic problems.
A template for competitive analysis should take the form of a table that has a separate column for your business’s strengths, weaknesses and importance to the customer — as well as those of your competitors, each of which should have its own column — in each of the following areas:
- company reputation
- sales methods
- credit policies
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Knowing how you stand in each of these key areas in relation to each of your competitors can help you determine what are the strong points of your business and what could use improvement. In the world of economics, to know one’s competitors is to know oneself. Unfortunately, many economists feel that competitor analysis is an area of corporate strategy that is all too often neglected. It should not be.
So you can see that there is a simple business plan template, not only for different types of business, but also for different stages of business development and different types of business activities. Having these templates can help you to think more clearly and to see what’s what.
If you want to run a business or you are planning to start one, you can also enrich your knowledge seeing this sample business plans.
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