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12 Simple Outlines For Writing A Business Plan

If you need to write a business plan I recommend you start with an outline.  I found a dozen free templates and have included them below with links to dig deeper. Good luck!

1) Ongig’s Business Plan Outline

The business plan outline I wrote for Ongig (below) was geared towards raising an angel round of funding.The 3 biggest sections were Business Model, Sales & Distribution and Financials.

  1. Why Should Someone Care (“The Grab” or Executive Summary)
  2. Company Purpose (In one sentence: the vision/mission stuff)
  3. The Problem You Are Addressing
  4. The Solution You Provide
  5. Why Is This Important Right Now?
  6. Market Size
  7. Competition
  8. The Product
  9. Business Model
    1. Pricing
    2. Target Customers
    3. Average Customer Size
  10. Sales & Distribution
    1. How your product is sold
    2. Customer Acquisition
    3. Other Distribution Partners
  11. Barriers To Entry
  12. The Team (Full bios of our 3 co-founders)
  13. Financials (I included a summary of 3 to 5 year projections of revenue, operating expenses and profit in the MS Word-based business plan itself and then had a separate more in-depth Excel spreadsheet with details of financials (month to month with all assumptions).
  14. Financing/Uses Of Cash (Money you are trying to raise/how you’ll use it)

Note: I found the Sequoia Capital 10-Point Business Plan (see below) to be the most useful to borrow from.

2) Sequoia Capital’s 10-Point Business Plan

Sequoia prefers to see a business plan described in slide format  with these 10 sections:

  1. Company Purpose
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Why Now?
  5. Market Size
  6. Competition
  7. Product
  8. Business Model
  9. Team
  10. Financials

3) Guy Kawasaki’s Thoughts On What A VC Wants

Guy’s classic piece on The 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint includes a section about the 10 topics that a venture capitalist cares about:

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and call to action

4) GrowThink’s “How To Write A Business Plan” For VC

GrowThink’s piece on how to write a business plan for Raising Venture Capital is useful because it includes a goal for each section (e.g. the goal of the executive summary is “to stimulate and motivate the investor to learn more.”

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Analysis
  3. Industry Analysis
  4. Customer Analysis
  5. Competitive Analysis
  6. Marketing Plan
  7. Operations Plan
  8. Financial Plan

5) Inc. Magazine’s Summary Business Plan

Inc. recommends these biz plan sections:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Description
  3. Vision Statment
  4. Mission Statement
  5. Values
  6. Goals
  7. Market Research
  8. Market Differentiation
  9. Marketing Message
  10. Marketing Mix/Methods
  11. Measurement
  12. Sales
  13. Operations Plan
  14. Personnel Plan
  15. Financial Plan

6) Adam Hoeksema’s Business Plan Executive Summary

Adam suggested a good executive summary outline in the Quora posting “What Are The Essential Components Of A Business Plan.”and  “What Do Angel Investors Expect In A Business Plan For An Internet Startup.”

  1. “The Grab” (2 or 3 sentences about why the business is special)
  2. Big Problem
  3. Unique Solution
  4. Market Potential
  5. Business Model
  6. Management Team
  7. Traction
  8. Request (i.e. for a loan, selling stock, sales contract, etc.)

…and the same Quora posting had this recommendation:

7) Rajesh Sri Ramulu’s Business Plan Outline

  1. Innovative Business Model
  2. Unique Product Features
  3. Mass Appeal
  4. High Competitive Advantage
  5. Well Built Core Team

8) Microsoft’s Guide To Writing A Business Plan

Microsoft Business recommends these 9 business plan steps:

  1. An executive summary outlining goals and objectives.
  2. A brief account of how the company began.
  3. Your company’s goals.
  4. Biographies of the management team. T
  5. The service or product you plan to offer.
  6. The market potential for your service or product.
  7. A marketing strategy.
  8. A three- to five-year financial projection.
  9. An exit strategy.

9) SBF’s “Short-Form Business Plan” Outline recommends these 7 steps for a short-form business plan:

  1. What is the Business name? Give a brief history of its formation, and how the current owners came to be the owners.
  2. What exactly does the business do?
  3. What is the exact market and size the business operates in?
  4. What are the key opportunites to be taken in that market, and how will the company make the most of those opportunities?
  5. Financial projections
  6. Who is in the management team?
  7. Funding requirement. How much do you need to deliver this great business opportunity anyway

10) The BBC’s 6-Part Business Plan

The BBC’s How To Write A Business Plan includes these 6 sections:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Overview of the business’ aims
  3. Product or service
  4. Management team
  5. Financial forecasts
  6. Appendix

11) Business Plan Write’s Super-Detailed Outline

There’s a business plan template at Business Plan Write that includes 13 sections with 5 to 10 sub-sections. This might give you ideas on particular sections you want to beef up.

12) UXPin’s One-Page Business Summary

And if you’re into a simple One-Pager to describe your business, the CEO of UXPin (yes, they have startups in Poland!), Marcin Treder, was kind enough to share this one-page biz plan PDF with me.

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