There a few things you want to consider when you use a business plan template ! First why spend any time writing one in the first place ? Great question ! There are many benefits of putting your thoughts on paper, here’s a quick view of the 3 main points you’ll get out of this exercice :
So a good business plan should help you to :
- Describe precisely the problem you’re trying to solve
- Get you to think how are you trying to solve that problem (at what costs for example)
- Help you to analyze who is already trying to solve that problem (the market – how big it is, who are your competitors)
- Get clear on how are you going to make a profit
- Get you to think about who will be your customers
- And how you will find these people (how will you market your product / service)
This is basically the core of the business and it’s what a good business plan template should help you to achieve.
Then you will need to add a few other elements regarding the context of the project you intend to carry on, like :
- what is the legal structure of your project (LTD, …)
- who are the people involved
A great example is Airbnb’s first pitch to investors, you will see it’s only 12 slides long, but has all the answers investors are waiting for !
Basically these templates are here to give you an overview of your strategy, the different milestones you’ll have to go through and some financial data.
Don’t take a business plan as a magic formula that is to be graved in stone it has to evolve all the time. It’s a reference document that will help your business to get to where you want to go. Keep in mind that you need to find a good balance between how much time you spend writing the document and the ROI you will have from spending that time.
Clearly, you have to find a good balance between the work you put wiring the document and the juice you will get out of it in real life. When writing your document, consider the fact that there’s a risk that you might never use what you have written, so be mindful of your time.
I. – One page business plan templates to keep it short
Each of these plans are short and straight to the point. They should help you to have a global vision of a project and keep some basic numbers in sight.
1. Sequoia capital’s one page business plan (the best)
If you had only one page to fill up it out it would be that one ! If you don’t know who Sequoia capital is… well time to do your homework !
This page has the most impactful questions you can ask your business ; any experienced entrepreneur will recognize that immediately :
The one question that hit me was “Describe the pain of the customer“. You can see the depth of the experience right there ! Why ? Because a business only can sell as long as they have customers in pain. It’s the pain that drives sales. So without pain, no sales. I strongly suggest you ask yourself each of these questions at any stage of your business. A must !
2. The one page business plan template by 100startup
I really like the template provided by 100startups.com (you can find it here, they also have a set of complementary resources you can check out here). It’s very short and really straight to the point. This template will help you to start by asking the right questions :
One very nice thing I like is the documents helps you to set up some basic key performance indicators (KPIs), even though the plan is one page only. KPIs are at the core of a business success, so having at least and idea of how many customers you want, how you will find them exactly and how much prospects you will convert is good business sense.
3. The one page business model canevas from Strategyzer
Strageizer has a business model canevas (not exactly a business plan template because it’s focus is more on the core business but you won’t create a good business plan without answering these questions). I think it’s a great help if you need to set up a quick project or if you want to keep a global vision of your business. Take a look :
This canevas is based on the lean startup canevas (you might want to get it from there directly) and will help to keep your work as minimal as possible and get the maximal value out of it.
I’m not the only one warning about the risk of waisting time writing a business plan :
“Business plans take too long to write, are seldom updated, and almost never read by others but documenting your assumptions are key. Lean Canvas solves this problem using a 1-page business model that takes under 20 minutes to create.”
As said in the introduction, you have to be careful of how much time you spend and how much value you create for your business by writing down how everything will function.
The main reason to put a business plan on paper is to get a vision of how the future will be and how you’ll make things happen. But things can change very fast in small business !
4. For women : Oprah’s one page business plan !
This is more women oriented
marketing but hey why not ! Personally I don’t really see a difference between women and man when it comes to writing a business plan but who knows maybe women instincts play a role we – men – are not aware here 😉
Anyway, here is the one page plan :
Oprah’s magazine also has a list of 3 one page plans that you might want to check out : small business, boutique clothing company, and a non profit organisation.
I think their strength is that they are short and to the point but also pre-filled with information. It’ll help you to give you an example of what to put in between the blanks.
You could also use this template as a vision summary you keep around. Practical to keep an eye on the main objectives you set for yourself during the year and what your company is really about.
II. – Intermediary templates for more complex project
6.Angela Rideau’s 20 pages business plan
The strength of this one is it’s impeccable presentation. It’s a good source of inspiration because if you have to present a document to a third party – an investor or a administration for example – you have very little time to make good impression. And good impressions matter a lot to the success of a project.
I would have loved the template to be editable and in a .docx version but still it’s a very good example on how to structure your plan if you need to present it to someone ! Definitely readable 😉
You will also find some pretty good questions you can ask yourself developing your business like in the back-up plan section. What if it doesn’t work ? Definitely a good question to ask yourself BEFORE you start investing money so you limit your loss. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs starting a businesses fail within the first 18 months. So better protect your assets and think before what happens if the project doesn’t work, even if it’s hard to do.
7.Uk’s Prince’s Trust business plan
The template is reasonably short and will help you to put down the most important aspects of your plan.
III. – Complete business plan templates
These are complete business plan template to help you structure a real plan and ask the tough questions we’re all trying to avoid 😉 Each of these plans do a great job at putting down the core facts you need to put down to run a business.
8. Score’s 30 page complete plan for startups
SCORE (who offers the nation’s largest, network of free, expert business mentors) has probably the most quoted business plan template you can find out there ! And there’s a reason to that : it pushes you to answer a complete set of 150 questions about your business before you start it !
The business plan template can be downloaded here in PDF :
It’s strength is that you have a very guided approche to writing your business’s structure on paper.
One thing I liked with that one is that it really pushes you to solve the problems you will have to solve before you will spend money on it (and before it will cost you anything). Take for example the section about promotion : how will you promote your products to your customers ?
Here are some really really good questions :
- Advertising: What media, why, and how often? Why this mix and not some other?
- Have you identified low-cost methods to get the most out of your promotional budget?
- Will you use methods other than paid advertising, such as trade shows, catalogs, dealer incentives, word of mouth (how will you stimulate it?), and network of friends or professionals?
- What image do you want to project? How do you want customers to see you?
- How much will you spend on the items listed above?
- Before startup? (These numbers will go into your startup budget.)
- Ongoing? (These numbers will go into your operating plan budget.)
Clearly by solving these questions this template will really help you to structure your business !
9. The complete template from the US Small business Administration
This one is big, fat and complete template !
The plan is a massive 30 pages you will need to fill up, so definitely lots of work. It has some good questions to think about like :
- Identify major customers and include a brief description and explanation of any special relationship between your company and its customers
- How do you sell your products/services?
- List those firms you have identified as primary competitors in your market(s). Identify their strengths and weaknesses.
- Describe the marketing techinques, strategies, and tools you will use in the future to promote your business
Most of these questions are here to help you put on paper a strategy that will help you in the long run. Ideally you should already have the answer to these (if not, then work needs to be done !).
10. The 100 pages business plan template
This one is a biggie, and it will cost you money ($22) but it looks pretty complete and has a very nice visual design.
Because of it’s nice graphic presentation it’s more the kind of document you would present to a third party (but again Sequoia Capital only has a one page business plan made out of few simple questions only).
Anyway, here’s what it looks like :
Amongst other things the business plan is :
- Fully Editable In Design Template
- Compatible (CS4, CS5, CS6, CC )
- 100 Pages
- A4 Portrait Format
- 10 Premade Color Variations
- Editable Charts & Graphs
- Ready Image Placeholders
- Predesigned Tables
So if you want to save time building nice graphics, this should be a good source of inspiration !
11. Bplan’s 500 business plans !
Ok, adding to the count it’s a total of 512 business plans you have at your finger tips now 😉
So Bplan has a very nice and pretty complete category you can pick business plan templates from :
Now the good thing with these business plans is they are already filled with informations, so you will have a very good idea of what other companies might have done it.
It’s a good source of inspiration, check for example the executive summary for a Nightclub business plan :
Now reading the document sometimes you feel it’s more been written by writers than entrepreneurs, because the plans don’t necessary solve tough questions you will have to solve on your business, like for example with the Sequoia one page plan, or with Score’s 150 questions template. But still it has some good sections and there’s a LOT of work that has been done that will help you to structure your own business. The financial section for example is packed with numbers and this is really good example to use to have an idea of the costs implied building your own thing.
12. LivePlan 500 business plan and tracking tool
If you’re not afraid to spend a little money to save you time, you’ll definitely want to try LivePlan’s offer ! They built an online business plan creation tool that tracks your progression (I really like that one) and integrate with accounting softwares (but not Freshbooks which is my favorite so far…).
The strength of this solution is that it will guide you step by step to create a clear (and good looking) plan. They have a variety of dos that will help you from the creation to the pitch, quickly and efficiently :
But probably my favorite how the software can help you track your projections :
Definetly a good idea if you want to go fast and if spending a little money is not a barrier for you (they have a 60 days money back guarantee, so you can try their tool). Well it’s more than a business plan template it’s a business plan template software !
There’s a lot of power getting to solve tough questions before you actually spend time and money ! Each of these business plan templates offer some value if you’re about to start a business or if you have a business idea of some sort : how will you find your customers ? How much will it costs ? What is your customer’s biggest pain point ? How do you know that ? etc.
At some point all of these questions will need to be answered.
Don’t waist your time writing for writing though. Keep it short, to the point, so you know how you offer your solution to your customers.
Next post, we’ll drop our own business plan so you see where we’re heading.
Any comments on these ? Did any of these business plan template really challenged you ?