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Business Plan Template

Describing a company’s core business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals, a business plan is an invaluable tool for both startups and established enterprises. When properly crafted, business plans help new ventures get off the ground and attract investors, whereas existing organizations can use them to effectively navigate a change in direction.

For a clear illustration of the business plan concept, this page offers a series of useful resources that include definition, advantages of using such a planning tool, and answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic. We’ve also included a business plan timeline template, which you can download for free and update with your company’s specifics.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that defines a company’s objectives and lays out the roadmap for achieving those goals from a marketing, financial, and operational standpoint. Typically, a good business plan includes the following 5 essential sections:

  1. Executive summary;

  2. Products and services section;

  3. Marketing strategy and analysis;

  4. Financial planning;

  5. Budget.

Why do you need a business plan?

Aimed at a company’s both internal and external audiences, a business plan is a vital element for the success of an initiative because it helps to:

  • Attract investment before the business concerned has a proven track record.

  • Secure lending from financial institutions.

  • Align a company’s executive team members on strategic action items.

  • Keep the team on target for meeting established goals.

  • Help entrepreneurs and new businesses with critical decisions and crisis management.

  • Iron out potential gaps in the overall strategy.

  • Set better objectives and milestones.

  • Reduce risks.

Why use a visual business plan timeline?

Entrepreneurs have a wide array of frameworks at their disposal to map a venture’s trajectory through the economic landscape. However, opting for a timeline format to create a business plan has multiple advantages, such as the ability to:

  • Visually define each task and the individual or team handling it;

  • Use the linear time progression to measure strategy effectiveness;

  • Mark the critical deadlines that must be reached;

  • Evaluate the progress of the venture in real time against the prediction;

  • Easily present it to non-technical stakeholders and investors.

Furthermore, starting out with a business plan timeline example may allow you to discover things you overlooked or detect faults in the original concept. Remember, anything you build is only as strong as its foundation! Not only will you be able to avoid pouring funds into fixing issues this way, but it will also allow you to create a much stronger plan to present before your investors.

How do you create a one-page business plan template?

To write a compelling and coherent one-page business plan that you can use as a template, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What market need does your product / service address?

  • Who is the main customer base?

  • How will the products / services be marketed?

  • Who are the main competitors in this niche?

  • How will the venture earn capital and what are the anticipated costs?

  • What are the current and forecasted market conditions?

Doing your homework on these aspects will allow you to define clear goals and create an effective business plan timeline that you can then implement, and tweak on the go. Otherwise, you risk getting bogged down in redundant details and you might even miss major opportunities.

Our business plan timeline template can be downloaded free of charge and updated as needed in PowerPoint, but it’s much faster and easier to do so with the Office Timeline add-in which you can try for free for 14 days. Make an impression on your investors at the next meeting with a clear, concise, and comprehensible plan to secure funding and transform your dream into a profitable reality.

If you are interested in exploring more visual examples of how to plan your initiatives, check out our diverse collection of timeline templates.

FAQs about business plans and templates

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about business planning.

What is the format of a business plan?

In reality, there is no standard, one-size-fits-all format for the presentation of a business plan. Business plans vary in content and size depending on the nature of the business concerned and the relevance of certain critical areas as opposed to others. However, every business plan should address the following fundamental aspects which will provide a structured framework for presenting your business ideas and strategies in a clear, coherent manner:

  • Executive summary; Enterprise description (company overview); Product or service description;

  • Industry/market analysis; Customer analysis; Competition analysis; SWOT analysis;

  • Marketing strategy; Operations sub-plan; Management team;

  • Financial planning; Budget;

  • Milestone schedule.

What is the executive summary for?

The executive summary of a business plan is the section that has the purpose of defining a company in terms of its mission statement, as well as details such as the company’s leadership, employees, operations, and location.

What is a cover page of a business plan?

The cover page of a business plan is the first page of such a document and is used to provide an overview of all the key information of the initiative in question. Serving as an introductory part, the business plan cover page should have a professional, visually appealing design and communicate an informative summary of the business plan’s content.

An effective business plan cover page should include:

  • Company logo;

  • Document title;

  • Business name;

  • Business address and contact information;

  • Business completion date;

  • Confidentiality statement;

  • Any other information that defines your business.

What is a statement of confidentiality in a business plan?

A business plan’s statement of confidentiality, also called a confidentiality clause or non-disclosure agreement, represents a binding contract between two parties before they enter a deal or exchange any sensitive information which is confidential. In other words, a business plan’s statement of confidentiality states the particular business-related information that the other party must not disclose to anyone outside the agreement.

Here are the key elements you must include in an effective confidentiality statement for your business plan:

  • Date of effect;

  • Parties involved in the agreement;

  • Terms and conditions of the agreement;

  • The non-confidential part;

  • Consequences of the agreement’s breach;

  • Limits of the usage of information;

  • Date of termination;

  • Signature of all the parties involved.

What is the best font for a business plan?

Generally, business plans should use simple and standard formatting, with twelve-point font size in a standard font like Arial or Times New Roman. Additionally, it is also recommended that you:

  • use a margin size of one inch on each side;

  • number each page of the document;

  • include your company’s name on each page in the header and footer.

How do you write a one-page plan for a business?

To write a one-page business plan, you will have to stick to the core message of your business and deliver just the right amount of information that investors need to know about your venture. To this end, you should focus on describing:

  • the problem that your product/service will help solve;

  • the industry in which you operate;

  • your target market;

  • key facts about your business;

  • your launch plan (the implementation timeline);

  • how you will market your product/service;

  • the financial model;

  • the required funding.

How do you write a simple business plan?

To write a simple business plan, structure your business ideas in terms of the following aspects:

  • Business opportunity – What problem are you solving? What pain points will your product/service resolve for users?

  • Company description – What does your company do? What challenges does your company overcome?

  • Team – Who is involved in this endeavor? Who is on your team and why are you the right person(s) to launch this business?

  • Industry analysis – Who are your competitors? What are some key factors related to being successful in your industry?

  • Target market – Who are you addressing? Who makes up your target audience? Who are your target segments, buyer personas, and ideal customers?

  • Implementation timeline  – How will you roll out the business? Which phases will be involved?

  • Marketing plan – Which channels and platforms will you use to reach and convert your target audience?

  • Financial summary – What is your cost structure and what are your revenue streams? Describe your fixed and variable costs and how you will generate income. Consider your sales goals for the near future and long term.

  • Funding required – How much funding will you require from investors? Where will that funding go?

What are the four types of business plan?

Business plans can be divided roughly into four distinct types:

  1. The miniplans (or lean startup plans) – relying on an abbreviated structure and high-level format that contains only key elements, they are typically used by small-business ventures.

  2. Presentation plans – structured as decks or slides, presentation plans showcase data in a visual format.

  3. Working plans – these are generally used internally to operate a business and, therefore, would omit certain elements included in traditional business plans (such as product descriptions, or team structure).

  4. What-if plans – known as contingency plans, these are necessary as a variant to the working plan to soothe the fears of an investor/funding bank. They are based on the worst-case scenario that can affect your business (e.g., loss of market share, heavy price competition, loss of a key member of your management team) and demonstrate that you have indeed considered more than optimist circumstances.

Is there a business plan template in Word?

Yes, the text processing software Microsoft Word does offer several online business plan templates. However, these are pre-formatted as document files, which may prove unsuitable if you have a more visual output in mind.

You can find and access these business plan templates in Microsoft Word by following the steps below:

  1. Open a new MS Word document.

  2. Select File > New.

  3. Double-click to choose a template from the preview gallery or enter “business plan” in the search box above the gallery to look for alternatives. In the latter case, once the results are returned, open your preferred sample by double-clicking on it.

Does Google Docs have a business plan template?

The answer is yes – Google Docs does have a business plan template. It is structured as a document-type of file that you can use to outline the overview of your business idea.

To open and use the Google Docs business plan template, do the following:

  1. Open Google Docs.

  2. Type in “business plan” in the search box at the top of the page and choose the best result.

  3. Go to File > Make copy to edit the document.

Once you’ve finished editing the document, you may also include a visual timeline that clearly shows the major milestones and phases of your business plan to make it easier for your audience to digest the information.

Use our free customizable business plan timeline template to effortlessly create such a visual representation. Built as a native PowerPoint slide, the template can be automatically updated with the help of the intuitive Office Timeline add-in that you can try for free for 14 days.

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Updating your template is simple and fast.

Use the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in to quickly update any of these timeline templates or create your own project visuals. Easily change the texts, dates, colors, shapes and styles of your timeline, right from inside PowerPoint.

Free PowerPoint Timeline and Swimlane Maker