The presentation template above is a business plan template in the form of a slide deck. There is some disambiguation about what a business plan is, when is it needed and how long should it be, but we'll try to clarify some of these questions in this article.
If you got here, it is likely that you are looking to start your own business and one of your investors, or bank, or accelerator program requested a business plan for your company... Worry not, you've come to the right place.
Let's start with the basics.
What is a Business Plan?
There is consensus over the concept of Business Plan representing a formal, written statement of the goals of a new venture, and an overview of the original strategy that will be followed to achieve them.
There are several formats in which this document may be prepared. The traditional business plan you'll come across on the web is a text document, probably 20 to 40 pages long.
Typical elements of a business plan are an executive summary, business description, SWOT analysis, competitor analysis, market analysis and go-to-market strategy and finally a financial summary.
Based on that structure, a business plan may be as short as a one-page executive summary, or as long as a 50 to 100-page document outlying the specifics of the business. Again, the most common concept of a business plan is this 20 or 30 page-long document that you prepare to demonstrate that the founding team has the right mindset to venture into a new opportunity.
Do you need a Business Plan?
If you are a startup, especially a tech startup, then you might find some similarities between this concept and that of a 'pitch deck template.' The pitch deck, in the end, is the modern, simpler version of the traditional business plan.
Now, Eric Ries' Lean Startup movement revolves around skipping the step of developing a business plan and jumping directly into experimentation, and I absolutely agree with this.
I have written a couple of business plans in my lifetime, for companies that I have started. In both cases, the reality of the business, the user base, and the market have made the plan irrelevant in a matter of months, if not weeks. This meant we spent 100 or so hours putting together a document that was destined to be obsolete.
When our company raised its initial $850,000 funding, no investor ever requested a business plan; sophisticated angel investors and VCs understand that in many cases, this document is just a formality and a big waste of time.
Still, a business plan is still a fantastic exercise to:
- Force yourself to put your ideas in order.
- Provide a summary of what you intend to do, which may be useful, for example, for an investor that doesn't know you very well.
On the other hand, a business plan may be a mandatory requirement for:
- Opening a new bank account.
- Applying to some startup accelerators and government grants.
- Immigrant Visa applications for your employees.
- More traditional investors or much larger rounds of funding.
TLDR; don't make one unless someone asks you for it.
How to write a Business Plan?
Let's revisit the typical structure of a business plan.
Cover Page and Table of Contents
Not a lot to add here.
The Executive Summary is usually a one-page summary of the contents of the business plan; as I mentioned above, some business plans only consist of this section.
A mission statement summarizes a company's purpose in one or two paragraphs: why it exists. It's usually made up of a general description of the organization, its function, and its objectives.
The vision, on the other hand, talks about what the company aspires to be in the future.
Here's an excellent article from Hubspot on how to write your mission/vision.
A more detailed description of the company, what it will do and how will it make money.
The Strength-Weaknesses-Opportunites-Threats summary is a famous exercise used in business to assess the state of the industry, the market, and the competitor environment.
We have a SWOT analysis template that you can try out here.
Very much related to the SWOT Analysis mentioned above, the competitor analysis should provide a more personal review of what the company is doing, their traction and state and how the company intends to differentiate.
A market analysis is a review of the state and maturity of the market the venture intends to attack, as well as an assessment of the market size or market potential.
Marketing Plan or Go-To-Market Plan
Defining a marketing strategy early on is very hard, but it's important to note the first and second plans the company intends to experiment with.
Summarize two or three core customer acquisition and growth strategies and a basic overview of how you plan to implement them.
The operations plan is mostly a summary of your plans for the company operation: How many offices will it have? How do you plan to hire? How will you expand the productivity?
The financial plan should be a detailed 12 month projection of the business cash flow, and a simpler 4-5 year projection.
One important thing to note here is that is NOT a fundraising document, so avoid adding fundraising or round information.