Creating a Business Plan


A well-researched business plan is an essential roadmap for your business that outlines goals and details how you plan to achieve these goals. It is also a great tool in communicating your business’ potential to investors and financial institutions.

Business Plan Outline & Guidelines

Every business venture can benefit from the preparation of a carefully written business plan. The purpose of the business plan is to:

  1. Help you think through the venture and ensure that you have considered all your options and anticipated any potential difficulties.
  1. Convince potential lenders and investors that you are in control of the project and that their money will be safe with you.
  1. Serve as an operating guide as you turn your ideas into a viable business.

The following provide a suggested outline of the material that should be included in your business plan. The final product should be tailored to fit the circumstances and personality of you and your business.

To download this outline, click here.

Business Plan Outline

  1. Cover: Name, address, and phone number of business. Give your plan a businesslike appearance by typing it on high quality paper and putting it in a vinyl or cardstock binder or a three-ring notebook.
  1. Title Page: The business name, address, and phone number, and add the names and addresses of the principal owners. Also show the date of issue of the plan and type “copy number ________” so you can number and control the copies.

  2. Executive Summary: A brief (one page) statement of the business plan objectives. Address the following questions and add additional information that will help you achieve your goals. (You may choose to write this page last.)
  1. What is the purpose of this plan? Will it be used as:
    1. an operating guide?
    2. a financing proposal?
  2. What business structure have you chosen (i.e. sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability, corporation, S corporation
  3. Who are the principals and what are their proportions of ownership?
  4. Why will the venture be successful?

    For a financing proposal:

  5. Who is requesting the funds and how much is needed?
  6. What will the money be needed for?
  7. How will the funds be repaid?
  8. What collateral will be offered to secure the loan?
  9. Why does a loan or an investment make sense?
    1. impact on local economy
    2. job creation
    3. increased tax base
    4. investment in the future of the community
  1. Table of Contents: A single page showing major topics and page references
  1. Description of Business: Answer as many of the following questions as are appropriate:
  1. What business are you in?
    1. type of business: primarily merchandising, manufacturing, or service?
    2. what is the nature of the product(s) or service(s)?
    3. what will be special about your business
  2. What market do you intend to service? What is the total market, and what is your expected share?
  3. How can you serve the market better than your competition?
  4. Present status of the business: start-up, expansion of a going concern, or take-over of an existing business?
  5. If you will be doing any contract work, what are the terms? Reference any firm contracts and include them as supporting documents.
  6. Do you have letters of intent from prospective suppliers?

    For an existing business:

  7. What is the history of the business?
  8. What does the owner wish to see at this time?
  9. If the business is going downhill, why? How can you turn it around?
  10. How will your management make the business more profitable?
  11. What changes do you plan to make in the business?
  12. What is the purchase price formula? Give breakdown for building, improvements, equipment, inventory, and goodwill.

Note: If yours will be a seasonal business, make sure the seasonality is reflected in your narrative and financial projections with appropriate footnotes.

  1. Business Location:
  1. What is your business address and why did you choose that location?
  2. Will the building be leased or owned?
  3. What are the terms and length of the lease contract?
  4. What renovations will be needed and at what cost?
  5. Describe the neighborhood (e.g., stable, changing, improving, deteriorating)
  6. What other kinds of businesses are in the neighborhood?
  7. How much can your business expand before you will be forced to move or add on to the present building?
  1. Licenses and Permits:
  1. Is your business name registered with the secretary of state?
  2. State how you will be affected by local zoning regulations.
  3. What other licenses or permits will you be required to obtain?
  1. Management:
  1. What is your business and management experience?
  2. What education have you had, including both formal and informal courses, that contributes to your managerial abilities?
  3. Are you physically suited to the job?
  4. Do you have direct operational and/or managerial experience in this type of business?
  5. Describe your organizational structure and include a brief description of who does what. (Include an organizational chart if necessary.)
  6. List proposed salaries and wages.
  7. What other management resources will be available (accountant, lawyer, SBDC)?
  1. Personnel: Write a paragraph or two about your personnel needs.
  1. What are your anticipated personnel needs?
  2. What skills must your employees have?
  3. Can you use part-time help to meet changing business volume?
  4. Will you have to train people, and at what cost?
  1. Insurance: Describe your potential business risks and tell what insurance coverage you will purchase to protect yourself.
  1. The Market: Generally explain who needs your product or service and how you plan to reach them.
  1. What is the present size and growth potential of the market?
  2. What percent of the market will you have now and in the future?
  3. Describe age, sex, occupation, lifestyle, income, etc., of your various market segments.
  4. How ill you attract and keep your segment of this market?
    1. product quality
    2. price
    3. place
    4. promotion
    5. persuasion-personal selling
  5. What features or services will you offer that will justify your price?
  6. How will you handle credit sales?
    1. extend your own credit
    2. accept major credit cards
  1. Competition: Briefly describe your competition and tell how their operations are similar and dissimilar to yours. What is your unique selling proposition and how will you use it to control your market share?
  1. Financial Data:
  1. Source and application of funds statement.
  2. Capital equipment list
  3. Current balance sheet and income statement (less than 90 days old)
  4. Break-even analysis
  5. Projected income statement
    1. detail by month, first year
    2. detail by quarter, second year
    3. notes of explanation and assumptions
  6. Cash flow projections
    1. detail by month, first year
    2. detail by quarter, second year
    3. notes of explanation and assumptions
  7. Projected balance sheet
    1. Notes of explanations and assumptions
  8. For an existing business
    1. income statements
    2. balance sheets and/or
    3. tax returns for past three years
  1. Supporting Documents:
  1. Personal resumes for all principals
  2. Personal financial statements for all principals
  3. Letters of reference
  4. Letters of intent from prospective suppliers or customers
  5. Copies of all leases, contracts, or agreements, deeds, or other legal documents
  6. Any other information that might help your cause or answer potential questions.

Sample Business Plan

Download a sample business plan that demonstrates the basic components of each section of a business plan. Click here to download.

Free Business Planning Online Workshop

A free workshop is available 24/7 that outlines the steps to developing a business plan. Click here to visit our online workshops.

Financial Data Templates

Maine SBDC has compiled some financial templates including a cash flow statement, balance sheet, profit/loss statement (P&L), schedule of liabilities and break-even point tool. These can all be viewed in our Tools & Templates section.

AgPlan Business Planning for Rural Business Owners

AgPlan was developed by the University of Minnesota and provides a platform to develop your own business plan, learn what you need to include in your plan, view sample business s plans and share your plan with reviewers (or your business advisor!). Visit the site for more info.

SBA’s Business Planning Resources

The Small Business Administration has a wealth of information available for businesses who are writing a business plan. Click here to visit their site.