Free Business Plans for Small Business Owners and Start-ups

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article | Business PlanIt’s not the most exciting part of starting a business. In fact, if you’re like a lot of entrepreneurs, you’re probably going to find yourself pulling a few all-nighters to get one done before heading into your first pitch for funding. Because that’s the thing – your business plan is important.

Any funder worth his or her salt wants to see it right off the bat. Moreover though, a solid business plan is a living document that will continue to guide your efforts as your business grows.

A lot of those mistakes are the result of poor planning. Bad location, a marginal niche, having no specific user in mind, raising too much or too little money – all these issues can be prevented or at least mitigated with good planning.

Creating your business plan is more than just getting your ideas down on paper for potential funders to see. It’s an exploratory process in which you can evaluate your options, test your assumptions about your idea, and even discover new opportunities. It might even lead you to kill off aspects of your business before investing too much time or money in them.

That doesn’t mean you have to bust out Word and start the plan from scratch. A template is great–you probably aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Pretty much everything on it can be customized. Check out these comprehensive business plan templates you can download for free to get you started:

1. Score’s Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground. Its template, available as a PDF or Word download, asks a whopping 150 questions and is generic enough to customize for most types of businesses. The Refining the Plan resource that comes with it is helpful, especially if this is your first crack at writing a business plan.

2. U.S. Small Business Administration Business Plan Engine

The SBA’s template is available to fill out online and then download as a PDF. You can go back in and edit it as needed, so don’t worry about having everything ready the first time you sit down to tackle it. Even broken into sections, it’s a long document and a bit of a slog to get through, but it produces a professional-looking and useful business plan. This is particularly helpful if your idea isn’t fully fleshed out and you know you have homework to do – it prompts you for information.

3. The $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan

Who said a business plan has to be a long, complicated document? Some funders are going to want to see a lot of detail, but you can provide that in appendices. The $100 Startup, the website for the best-selling book of the same name, has a ton of stripped-down resources for entrepreneurs, including a super simplified business plan template.

4. LawDepot’s WYSIWYG Business Plan Template

This one says you just have to answer a few simple questions and will be “done before you know it!” Don’t believe it. A business plan should take time and a lot of homework, but if you’ve already done that, LawDepot’s template is a decent choice. It walks you through getting started, marketing, product, competitive analysis, SWOT, and more, with a window below the input fields to show you the plan as you work away at it. You can download it free with a trial subscription, but you’ll have to remember to cancel it within the week if you don’t plan to continue using it.

5. SME Toolkit Business Plan Samples

The SME Toolkit, jointly offered by IFC and IBM, offers a simple two-page outline of what should be included in your business plan to meet the minimum requirements of funders and tax authorities (in the U.S.). It contains 10 broad sections, including market analysis, management and organization, etc., with a one-paragraph explanation of each. A second download on the same page is an Excel file to help with your financial projections.

6. Office Online Templates Galore

Of course, Microsoft offers a ton of business plan templates for Office users (you can get birthday invitations while you’re at it). If you’d rather do a business plan presentation than a Word doc, you can download one of Microsoft Office’s half a dozen or so PowerPoint templates for just that purpose. You’ll want to customize it with your company branding (you have your branding down, right?), but it’s easier than starting from a blank PPT.

7. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

U.K. online invoicing software brand Invoiceberry offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats. Each one also contains a marketing plan and executive summary template. There’s a catch, though – the company asks you to take one of the following three actions before you can download the template: like it on Facebook, give it a +1 on Google+, or give it your email address. If you don’t mind doing that, it’s a good deal. Kudos to Invoiceberry for figuring out this effective lead-gen tactic too!

8. Santa Clara University’s My Own Business Institute Plans

Santa Clara U’s MOBI is an initiative of its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Leavey School of Business. On the site, you can download each of the 15 business plan sections individually as Word documents, or grab all 15 together in one doc. There’s a ton of other helpful resources as well, including guidelines for evaluating your potential sites, a list of key people to review your plan, and sample financial sheets.

9. RocketLawyer’s Business Plan Templates by State

Like some of the others, you fill out RocketLawyer’s form and download the business plan when you’re done. These plans are tailored to meet your financing requirements which is a huge bonus for those seeking funding through banks. It’s also heavily geared toward financing, making it a good choice if that’s a priority for you.

Once your plan has been created

Creating your business plan is only the first step. Effectively executing against the plan is often what separates the winners from those businesses that stumble along.

  • Keep your business plan as a living document – don’t leave it to gather dust on a shelf.
  • Make sure it’s easily accessible and top-of-mind for you and your team.
  • Reflect your goals in the day-to-day operations of your business.
  • Outline the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve each goal – make a note of any extra resources you’ll need.
  • Make it clear these goals are the top priority for the business.

What’s often not included in templates like these, but is a critical component of business planning, is business insurance. For more information on the types of insurance available for your business visit

Tear Down This Wall: 4 Ways to Fix Business and Tech’s ‘Women Problem’

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion ArticleInformation technology (tech) is at the epicenter of the world’s economy. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are the foremost companies in the world. But women in tech, as in other industries, face obstacles from entry-level positions to the C-suite.

If industry truly wishes to fix this, it must stop retreating into seemingly noble expressions of sentiment, and instead evaluate and adopt specific procedures and programs. That is particularly true of tech, exhibit “A” in the corporate failure to hire and promote women. Re-allocating burdens, from women who aspire to the companies and industries that would employ them, and adoption by those companies of specific programs, is what my book is all about.

Women can lean in, education can push STEM, states may enact wage gap and family leave legislation. But those developments mask the more fundamental issue. From startups to the largest firms, firms themselves actually hire and promote females. In contrast, many of these companies have gender aversion baked into their DNA. Tech, for example, has been unable to support women at any level. A mere 5 percent of Tech’s senior executives are women. Branches of the industry, such as video gaming, are overtly misogynist in governance, in culture, and in product content.

Can tech and other industries redeem themselves? Here are four steps companies could take:

Change the mindset, reallocate the burdens. Bookshelves are overloaded with advice books for women who aspire in business. Get a mentor, network, don’t be a “bully broad,” be strategic, lean in, lower your voice, don’t be a “queen bee,” dress conservatively, and so on. Now is high time to look at the other side of the equation, what responsibilities companies and industries bear and what sorts of measures they should be considering. The onus shouldn’t be solely upon women anymore.

Adopt specific programs and procedures. Professional advice books emphasize that women should obtain mentors. Women have, and it has not moved the needle at all. Women in business complain, “I have been mentored to death and I am still in same position I was 7 years ago.” Recently, emphasis in Australia has shifted to corporations themselves and to mentoring plus sponsorship. It has moved the needle – significantly. Ideas include comply or explain requirements (“if not, why not?”), certificate programs, pledge regimes, quota laws (Norway, Spain, Italy, France, Germany but probably not for the United States), mandatory disclosure, voluntary disclosure, structured search (Rooney Rule) adoptions, and more.

Cast a wide net. Compared to other countries around the globe, the U.S.’s progress on gender diversity issues has slipped below the global median. Governments, stock exchanges, and industry groups in Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, for example, are very active on gender diversity issues. Surprisingly, promotion of women in business and in governance is hot-button issue of in the Peoples’ Republic of China (not in Japan, however: fewer than one percent of corporate directors are female). On the Atlantic side, proposals and programs proliferate in the countries of the European Union and with the EU itself.

Look to the future: pay attention to the pool problem. We now appreciate that executives must balance maximization of shareholder value with sustainability. Long-term sustainability requires gender diversity. The pool problem speaks to that issue. The pool consists of the women from among whom boards and executives will choose senior managers — not now, not next year, but 10 years, 12 years, or 15 years in the future. Compared with today’s meager pool, the future pool will be markedly inferior, unless companies put in place steps to deal with the deficiency. One vital strategy is to ease the off ramps and ease the on ramps for women as they find it necessary to step aside from their careers, temporarily, often because of childbirth and child rearing issues. Dial up, dial down, alumnae, and welcome back programs, among other things, can ease those on and off ramps. Companies must think about these type of measures.

When it comes to promoting women to leadership roles or positioning them for executive roles in the future, tech is the most backward of major industries. Even lower down the ranks, the number of women tech companies employ has declined – from 37 percent in 1995 to 24 percent in 2016 — and is predicted to decrease further in coming years.

Neither does the future appear as hopeful as we have wished. Yet there are steps and programs that might brighten that future significantly.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert ContributorDouglas M. Branson is the W. Edward Sell Chair at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the Universities of Washington and Hong Kong, and Melbourne University, among others. He was a State Department–sponsored corporate governance consultant to New Zealand, Indonesia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. He is the author of 23 books on gender and corporate governance. His new book is The Future of Tech Is Female: How to Achieve Gender Diversity (NYU Press, July 2018).

The Top 15 Shows That Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Should Watch

Whilst starting your own business is both exciting and fulfilling, it can also be exhausting. Never ending work hours and a lack of weekends can mean at times, all you fancy doing is sitting back, relaxing and watching your favorite box set on TV. If you’re interested in maximizing your downtime however, we’ve found the best TV shows that every entrepreneur should watch, to make sure that down time is not only guilt free, but invaluable.

1. Dragons Den

If pitching for investment isn’t already nerve-wracking enough, imagine doing in front of some of the countries most successful business people and on TV. That’s what the brave entrepreneurs on Dragons Den have to do. The current panel includes business greats such as Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Jenny Campbell.  Watching Dragon’s Den is great for getting tips on how to pitch, an insight into what kind of questions you may get asked and probably most importantly- what not to do. Think you can take on the dragons? The show is open to applicants- enter the den if you dare!

2. Girl Boss

Inspired by the bestselling book ‘#GirlBoss’ by Sophia Amoruso and based on her start-up story, this Netflix original shows how Sophia went from broke to running the multi-million dollar fashion empire, Nasty Gal. Sophia starts by selling vintage clothes, but as her business starts to grown, she learns about all the ups (and downs) of running your own business.

3. Billions

If you want a lesson in power struggles, Billions is the one of you. Set in New York, it tells the story of the U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, who boasts the title of never having lost an insider trading case. In Billions, he is taking on Axelrod, a (corrupt) hedge fun tycoon. What follows is a battle of intelligence, ambition, influence and ultimately power.

4. I Give It a Year

In this show, Baroness Karren Brady (who you may remember as one of Lord Sugar’s advisers on ‘The Apprentice’) meets with entrepreneurs who have just taken the leap and decided to start their own business. One year later she goes back and revisits them, to see how far they may (or may not) have come. The types of businesses vary from episode to episode- one of our favorite episodes involves one entrepreneur tackling the constant battle of trying to keep your cup of tea warm. A dilemma indeed!

5. Undercover Boss

Ever felt like your previous management was a little ‘out of touch’ when it came to the day-to-day running of the company? In Undercover Boss, the company leaders go undercover in the guise of a new employee within their own company. With the change of perspective, problems are uncovered they hadn’t realised were occurring and relationships with workers are both forged and strengthened. A great programme to help you change your own perspective on how to run your company, as well as proof of why you should always maintain a working knowledge of every aspect of your business.

6. Empire

Empire is a fictional drama, focused on the company ‘Empire Entertainment’ and it’s CEO, Lucious Lyon. When Lucious learns his life may be cut short due to health issues, Lucious must pick between his sons to decide who should take over his multi-million dollar company. With an ex-wife adding more drama to the mix, Empire shows the potential consequences of mixing family and big business.

7. How It’s Made

Ever looked at something and wonder how on earth they made it? How It’s Made has the answer, by looking at how everyday items are created and manufactured, covering everything from foil to chewing gum. It gives you a great insight into what is required for different items and may help you uncover the secret as to how to take your prototype to the next level. Or perhaps you have a better idea when it comes to how something is currently made… Either way, you’ll be inspired (and sometimes in awe) of the manufacturing processes that goes into those things we take for granted everyday. This show is also great for getting to grips with supply chain management as well as the basics of product design.

8. The Profit

The Profit follows Marcus Lemonis (Camping World CEO) as he invests $2 million dollars of his money into companies that are struggling to stay afloat, with them giving him a percentage of their future profits in return. Instead of giving them the money and expecting them to go it alone, Marcus offers his experience, expertise and knowledge, to help the businesses get back onto the right track for a fruitful future. Some will thrive and some won’t survive, but you can learn valuable lessons along the way by watching their journeys.

9. Mad Men

Set in New York in the 1960’s, Mad Men follows Don Draper’s power struggles at his Madison Avenue advertising firm and how he balances his position at work with his home life. A great insight into how the advertising industry operates combined with enough fictional drama to keep you binge watching those episodes. If you’re getting stuck on finding a name for your company, you can find out more here. Investing in company branding and advertising only to find your name is already taken is a costly mistake to make!

10. Shark Tank

A spin off from Dragons Den, this American reality TV programme shows entrepreneurs pitching for cash from successful millionaire entrepreneurs in exchange for equity. The sharks do not hold back in their assessment of the contestants businesses, with their harsh questioning sometimes bordering on brutal. The sharks include Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John. However, if the sharks like the sound of the business pitching, deals can be made then and there. A dramatic cut down of a longer pitch, it still captures the intensity of pitching for investment and is a must for any entrepreneur.

11. The Apprentice

This British reality TV show follows multiple hopeful entrepreneurs competing against each other for an investment in their business idea. The contestants are given weekly business challenges in which they work in teams, with one contestant being fired each week from the losing team. The final winner gets £250,000 and Lord Sugar as a 50% owner of their new venture. The weekly challenges vary and show not only the talents of the candidates, but also the importance of team-work when striving to reach goals.

12. Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares

In this reality TV series, Gordon Ramsey takes his foul mouth and flaring temper to various restaurants that are struggling to stay afloat. After uncovering what is going wrong in the business, Gordon tries to help turn it around. From awful food and stubborn management, to shabby interiors, Gordon often ruffles a few feathers in his bid to create a viable restaurant business for the owners. Not only great dramatic viewing, it shows the importance of customer experience and being open to feedback.

13. House Hunters

House Hunters is a US show that follows the journey of people looking for a new home. With the realtor working hard to make their customers dreams comes true, this show is a lesson in knowing what your customers wants, and shows how emotional reasons can overtake financial sense when it comes to consumer purchases.

14. Silicon Valley

Despite being a fictional comedy show, Silicon Valley was influenced by the experiences of it’s co-creator (Mike Judge) during his time working in Silicon Valley. The show is the story of Richard- a computer programmer who works alongside his intelligent friends to try and tap into the booming tech industry with their start up Pied Piper. Living in the home of the leader of their start up incubator, this show will help you laugh and unwind whilst getting an insight into the lives of those living in Silicon Valley.

15. How I Made My Millions 

When you start your own business, you trade in huge risk for potentially huge reward. This programme tells the story of individuals who took exactly this risk and for whom it has paid off, creating million dollar businesses. Instead of showing the journey as all roses, this programme shows the reality and the hard work that goes behind creating a successful business. A great one to keep you inspired during those scarier moments in your entrepreneurial journey.

Top 10 Wearable Payment Devices

StrategyDriven Recommended Resources Article
Innovators are coming up with all types of new ways to pay for things. The days of keeping your checkbook in your purse are long gone.

From paper checks to plastic credit cards, we always try to find new and convenient ways to pay for items. Cards have had their reign, but it seems like the public wants something even more convenient.

Wearable payment devices are the next big thing. Just ask all the new inventors and entrepreneurs who are pushing their brand of payment devices you can wear.

Ahead of the game are 10 devices we think are the absolute best.


Most people are aware of Fitbit and the fitness tracker craze. The thing is, Fitbit doesn’t just count your daily steps.

Fitbit Pay is your credit or debit card worn on your wrist. No more pulling your card out or counting cash. Fitbit Pay lets you pay right then and there at participating establishments.

They insist on their security, so you won’t have to worry about fraud or identity theft.

Your rewards and miles won’t be affected when you switch over to Fitbit Pay. You will still earn, you’re just changing to an easier device.

Fitbit is top of the line, but there are ways to find discounts and promo codes online if you know where to look!

Apple Watch

Everyone’s favorite cell phone company has made it super easy to pay from your device. If you’re a Apple Watch wearer, you got it made easy.

Apple Pay is growing in popularity and more and more places are accepting that way of payment. Apple is making deals with banks and settling into becoming one of the biggest payment giants.

Setting up Apple Pay is easy. What’s challenging is running into retailers who don’t use it. However, the future is wearable payment devices, so they’ll eventually come around. While also a hefty price tag, there usually aren’t too many Apple promo codes out there. However, there are sometimes deals where you might be able to get a free watch with the purchase of a Macbook Pro.


Another useful wearable payment device is the Amazfit. Alipay is the third-party mobile payment service that Amazfit uses, so you can pay for anything anywhere.

Look stylish and pay easily with this cutting-edge watch. Amazfit watches are sold at a ton of retailers like Amazon, Gearbest, etc. We did some scouting, and the best place to purchase an Amazfit is FastTech, since they often offer a ton of promo codes.

Kerv Ring

With convenience in mind, Kerv Ring was created to replace a purse or wallet when it’s not practical to carry those items around. If you don’t want to lug around a bag or keep your credit cards in your pocket, the Kerv ring is for you.

This ring is considered a “contactless” payment device, so that means it uses RFID technology and the user can simply tap their ring on the sensor.

Kerv is a fantastic choice for those looking for a sleek look. Just look at this awesome interior colors you can choose from!


Touted as the first NFC payment ring, Infineon offers a wearable payment ring that works great and looks simple.

Show off this wearable technology as a perfect conversation piece. Infineon has partnered with Visa, so you know it’s supported by a reputable brand.

This band is waterproof, so you can wear it when you’re swimming or showering.


With it’s cute name, Token is another smart ring leading the way of payment innovation. It works the same as other smart rings and supports Visa or Mastercard. You can also use the key as your transit or access card.

A very interesting element of this ring is that it has a home security system offered with it. All you have to do is tap this device below that you set up in your house, and that locks up your home safely.

Not only that, you can use it as your car key.

With all these services in one little ring, it really is “one ring to rule them all.”

Samsung Gear S2

Samsung is throwing a hat in the ring with their Gear S2 Smart Watch. This wearable payment device uses Samsung pay to let the wearer make quick and easy transactions. You can find this watch on Groupon, and you’ll likely be able to find a Groupon promo code as well if you’re browsing the web!

Unlike newer brands, Samsung is a trusted mobile brand that has been around for a long time. Going with Samsung, you’ll know you’re getting quality backed by a major corporation.

If you’re a watch person, you might as well own a watch that lets you pay for things easily instead of carrying all your credits cards, cash, and coins around with you.

Store your credit/debit card information into your watch, and you’re good to go!


Another contactless payment device is the bPay. You can pay for anything $30 and under if you see the “contactless” symbol at the counter.

The idea is that it’s a prepaid account that you load up and pay with, sort of like a debit card. This is perfect for fun-spending like a quick coffee or cocktails with friends.

It’s easy and you can either wear your bPay or keep it on a keychain. If you’re worried about running out of funds, don’t be! You can add funds to your account anytime, anywhere from your mobile device.

You can’t make big payments, but it’s a fun way to add a little convenient luxury to your life!

Jawbone UP4

Are you an American Express person? The Jawbone UP4 may be the watch for you.

The Jawbone is your standard fitness tracker, but you can actually pay with American Express. It isn’t always easy to find payment options compatible with American Express, so this is exciting for AMEX users!

Luckily, the watch looks cool, so although your choices are limited as an AMEX user, you do have awesome choices!

MyKronoz ZeCircle2

Finally, the MyKronoz ZeCircle2 bracelet is another super stylish way to make contactless payments.

You can also receive calls, calendar reminders, emails, etc. all from a little watch on your wrist. No more worrying about dropping your phone!

The MyKronoz is technically still an activity tracker, so you can still track your sleep and physical activity just like every other wearable payment device on the list.

Pay for Convenience

Cards have had their run, but now it’s time to let new technology step in. The credit card chip situation hasn’t been a smooth ride for cards, so it may be necessary to count their losses and give into the future.

Whether it’s a ring, watch, keychain, or something else, make sure to add innovation to your wardrobe.

Recommended Resources – Whole Business Thinking

StrategyDriven Recommended ResourcesWhole Business Thinking – A Guide To Exceptional Business Performance
by Robert S. Block

About the Book

Whole Business Thinking by Robert S. Block provides operational executives and managers with the insight needed to relate ‘shop floor’ decisions and activities with the organization’s financial future. Robert reveals how to connect the decisions and actions of today with the financial consequences they will have on the organization and how these results will be portrayed with the company’s several financial statements.

Some of the specific topics addressed within Whole Business Thinking include:

  • Financial Statements
  • Business Metrics
  • Strategy Management

Robert concludes Whole Business Thinking with a comprehensive list of business terms and performance indicators.

Benefits of Reading this Book

In order for an organization to be successful, executives and managers must understand how their decisions and employee actions affect the achievement of established mission goals. As financial returns are a key component of every for-profit company’s success, leaders must be particularly aware of the relationships between long-term and day-to-day activities and the bottom line.

StrategyDriven Contributors like Whole Business Thinking because it clearly illustrates the relationship between decisions, actions, and financial outcomes. Throughout his book, Robert places the reader in common business situations and in plain language conveys how various decisions influence financial results. Robert goes a step further by translating those results into the several key financial indicators (performance metrics, balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement) used by board members, executives, and investors to measure the health of the company.

Whole Business Thinking promotes the alignment of the organization’s mission and values with its decisions and actions. While acknowledging the non-financial contributors of organizational success, Robert’s book focuses primarily on those activities directly impacting financial performance drivers. In our opinion, the reader would benefit from additional case studies highlighting the application of Robert’s aligning principles and practices to non-financial performance contributors.

Whole Business Thinking reflects many of the organizational alignment, strategic planning, tactical execution, and decision-making principles recommended on the StrategyDriven website making it a StrategyDriven recommended read.

Special Offer

Robert has made a complimentary book sample available to StrategyDriven readers at