A Powerful 7-Part Outline to Create Your Startup Business Plan Template

Content was originally published on Inc.com on January 13, 2016.

While my business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, primarily focuses on helping existing businesses in the $1-25 million sales per year range successfully and increase owner independence, I do get asked about the best way to structure a startup’s business plan.

So I wanted to share with you what I think is a rock-solid free business plan outline.


Why Create a Business Plan for Your Startup

Whether you’re a business owner in the initial stages of creating a startup company, or you already have an established idea in mind, it’s important to have a clear business plan and model. While this can change overtime, it’s great to have a general outline and idea to help achieve your vision. The timeline for your plan can vary from a 6-month plan, 1 year plan, 3 year plan, or even 5 year plan and beyond. Having a cohesive plan can also help you determine your competitors, assess what’s currently in the market, determine what your business is helping to solve, and so much more. 

What are the Benefits of Creating a Startup Business Plan

The benefits of creating a business plan are infinite. Creating this strategic plan can help with:

  • Market Analysis & Marketing Strategy – Being able to identify your target customer and target market with your business idea will help your business grow in the long run. In addition, being able to create a SWOT analysis to gather information to back up your idea will also help grow your business in the long run. It will also help you answer questions like how are you planning to reach your customers? Depending on your customer segments, you may have a blend of traditional and digital marketing strategies.
  • Identify competitors – A sample plan not only can help you analyze who the obvious competitors are, but you can also discover potential competitors. 
  • Barriers to Entry – Finding solutions to potential problems before your business is up and running will help save a lot of time in the future. Potential problems that might arise can include, but are not limited to: finding your cash flow statement, knowing what your financial plan will be, etc.
  • Attract potential investors – Being able to pitch your business proposal to a potential investor or potential partners will aid in the growth of your new business.


Key Differences Between Business Plans for Start Ups & Established Companies

Note, this business plan template is designed to help a startup think through the key questions to help them launch successfully. It is not the format we use with our established business coaching clients because their needs are different from a startup business. An established company needs to find a simple path to focus on those fewer, better places in their business that have been proven to provide huge returns.  An established company needs to focus on optimizing the places in their business that have provided high revenue streams and create a strategy plan to promote higher cash flow projection. On the other hand, a startup doesn’t have that stockpile of marketing experience to help them accelerate like an established company. Therefore, they need a much more comprehensive business plan template to help them ask those early and important questions to get the ball rolling.

As Priceline.com cofounder Jeff Hoffman, co-author of, SCALE: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, likes to say, “Your business plan is more about the questions you ask and get yourself to struggle with than it is about finding the ‘right’ answer.”

One more thing a good startup business plan does for a startup, it helps to increase confidence of the other stakeholders – whether that be conventional banks or private capital, or even key executives you want to early bring on board.

What A Startup Business Template Includes

Trying to figure out where to start when it comes to putting together a startup business plan can be one of the most overwhelming steps. This startup business template will help alleviate the stress, so you can just focus on the plan itself. The simple business plan template goes into great detail about each section of the business plan you’ll need in order to have a successful new business.

Here is the startup business plan template for any entrepreneur looking to bring their business idea to life:

Outline for Your Startup Business Plan

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Big Picture View
    1. Business you are trying to build (What do you want your business to look like in three to five years?)
    2. Exit strategy (What do you imagine you will want to do once you’ve built this successful business? Will you sell it? Scale it? Own it passively?)
    3. Mission, vision, values
    4. Business model you’re using
    5. Big picture strategy
  3. Marketing Plan
    1. Target market (who your ideal customers are and who they are not)
    2. Products and/or services (what your customers are buying from you, including details of your offer)
    3. Competitive analysis (who your potential competitors are and their strengths and weaknesses)
    4. Market trends
    5. Key marketing leverage points (where small investments of time and money will yield magnified returns)
    6. Marketing strategy (how you plan to reach your ideal customers)
    7. Marketing action plan (how you’ll execute on your strategy with clear priorities, deliverables, and deadlines)
  4. Sales Plan
    1. People (who will sell your products/services and how you’ll compensate them)
    2. Process (what sales process and tactics you’ll use to close business)
    3. Lead management (how you’ll organize and handle your leads)
    4. Collateral (what sales materials you’ll need to develop at the start)
    5. Key sales leverage points (where small investments of time and money will yield magnified returns)
    6. Sales action plan (how you’ll actually start selling)
  5. Operational Plan
    1. Fulfillment (how you’ll fulfill or deliver on your product/service)
    2. Admin/corporate (what infrastructure you’ll need to put in place)
    3. Staffing needs/hiring plans/ role description
    4. Operating budget (what it will cost to run your business)
    5. Cost factors (the biggest factors and how you plan to control them)
    6. Operational action plan with clear priorities and deliverables (who will do what by when and what criteria you’ll use to measure success)
  6. Management Team (most important if you need to use your business plan to raise outside capital)
    1. Members (who’s on the leadership team and what roles they will fill)
    2. Expertise (what background, talents, experience sets, and other advantages your key team members will bring)
    3. Organizational chart (what it will look like in the beginning)
  7. Financial Projections
    1. Current financials (if the business is already operating)
    2. Proforma projections (over the next 12-month and 36-month periods)
    3. Breakeven analysis (at what point revenues will equal expenses)
    4. Cash flow analysis (over the next 12-month period)
    5. Capital requirements to start (with details of how funds will be specifically used)

Business planning is never a simple task, but is very worthwhile once you get it going. Good luck with your business plan and when you get off to a strong launch and need help scaling, reach out to us about business coaching.

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Business David is a Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business and financial books. A syndicated columnist for Inc.com and HuffingtonPost.com, David’s articles have appeared in over 6,500 publications. As the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, David has worked with 100,000+ business coaching clients and community members to buy, build, and sell over $5 billion of businesses.