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 https://www.state.co.nz/business

StrategyDriven Enterprises, LLC

StrategyDriven Enterprises, LLC

StrategyDriven is dedicated to providing executives and managers with the planning and execution advice, tools, and practices needed to create greater organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results.

We help our clients create and execute a clear, forward-looking strategy – translatable to the day-to-day activities of all organization members – that’s critical to their realizing success in today’s fast paced market environment. Not only does a compelling, well executed strategy align individuals to a common purpose, it ensures that purpose best serves the company’s mission.

The StrategyDriven website provides access to a wide array of best practice business planning and execution tools, streamlined process flows, how-to articles, example-rich podcasts, and customizable ready-to-use program management templates. Premium Members receive access to over 200 members-only articles, whitepapers, models, and tools and templates; providing an in-depth look into critical business performance areas; placing specific focus on the alignment of organizational standards, programs, and behaviors to the optimal achievement of mission goals. Sevian Business Program purchasers receive fully implementable business performance improvement processes out-of-the-box, enabling the acceleration of business growth and heightening of operational efficiency needed to significantly improve bottom line results.

Collectively, our products offer business leaders the opportunity to access the knowledge of a highly educated and experienced staff without the associated overhead expense.

At StrategyDriven, our seasoned business leaders deliver real-world strategic business planning and tactical execution best practice advice – a blending of workplace experience with sound research and academic principles – to business leaders who may not otherwise have access to these resources.

Contact StrategyDriven Enterprises, LLC

Phone: (770) 765-3692

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Website: https://www.strategydriven.com

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The Big Picture of Business – How Business Advice Turns Into Company Strategy

StrategyDriven Big Picture of Business ArticleWithin every corporate and organizational structure, there is a stair-step ladder. One enters the ladder at some level and is considered valuable for the category of services for which they have expertise. This ladder holds true for managers and employees within the organization, as well as outside consultants brought in.

Each rung on the ladder is important. At whatever level one enters the ladder, he-she is trained, measured for performance and fits into the organization’s overall Big Picture. One rarely advances more than one rung on the ladder during the course of service to the organization in question.

  1. Resource: equipment, tools, materials, schedules.
  2. Skills and Tasks: duties, activities, tasks, behaviors, attitudes, contracting, project fulfillment.
  3. Role and Job: assignments, responsibilities, functions, relationships, follow-through, accountability.
  4. Systems and Processes: structure, hiring, control, work design, supervision, decisions
  5. Strategy: planning, tactics, organizational development.
  6. Culture and Mission: values, customs, beliefs, goals, objectives, benchmarking.
  7. Philosophy: purpose, vision, quality of life, ethics, long-term growth.

7 Levels of Authority Figure

  1. Self Appointed. Flash in the Pan. What they were doing five years ago has no relationship to what they’re now marketing. They reap temporary rewards from momentary trends. They’re here today, weren’t an authority figure yesterday and likely won’t be tomorrow. Yet, today, they’re demanding your complete trust, respect and allegiance.
  2. Temporary Caretakers of an Office. Public officials. Appointed agency heads in a government bureaucracy. Respect is shown to the temporary trust they hold.
  3. Those Who We Think Control Our Destiny… for the Time Being. Caretakers of corporate bureaucracies, departmental supervisors, short-term clients, referral sources for business development and those who dangle carrots under people’s noses.
  4. Those Who Remain Through the Peter Principle. Supervisors and public servants who made fiefdoms by outlasting up-and-comers. Longevity is due to keeping their heads down and noses clean, rather than excelling via special talents-achievements. Still living on past laurels.
  5. Those Who Really Empower People. These are a rare breed… the backbone of well-run organizations. Some do what they do very well in poorly-run organizations. They may not be department heads, but they set exemplary standards and inspire others toward positive accomplishments. Category 2, 3 and 4 authority figures either resent them and try to claim credit for what they do… or are smart enough to place them in effective, visible roles. Some advance into management and encounter similar situations there too.
  6. Have Truly Earned Their Position-Respect. Also a rare breed. Those who excelled at every assignment given and each stage of their career. Never were too busy to set good examples, share ideas with others and help build the teams on which they played.
  7. Never Stop Paying Dues, Learning, Sharing Knowledge. The rarest breed of all. Distance runners who created knowledge, rather than conveyed that of other people. Though they could coast on past laurels, for them, the best is yet to come.

7 Levels of Advice Given

  1. Answers to Questions. There are 7 levels of answers which may be given, depending upon how extensive one wants: Easy and Obvious Ones, Knee-Jerk Reactions, Politically Correct, What People Want to Hear, Factual and Complete Explanations, Answers That Get Them Thinking Further and Deep Wisdom.
  2. Observations on Situations. These take the forms of “When this happened to me, I did X,” or “If this occurred with me, I would Y.” It’s often good to see things through someone else’s perspective.
  3. Subjective Viewpoint. Friends want what is best for you. This level of advice is usually pro-active and is influenced by the advisor’s experiences with comparable situations.
  4. Informed Opinion. Experts have core-business backgrounds upon which to draw. Advisors bring facts, analysis and methodologies of applying their solutions to your case. Niche consultants provide quality viewpoints… as it relates to their talents and skills. Carefully consider the sources.
  5. Researched Options. Investments in research (formal, informal, attitudinal, demographic, sociological) will avert unnecessary band aid surgery expenses later. Research leads to planning, which is the best way to accomplish tasks and benchmark success.
  6. Discussion of Outcomes-Consequences. Most actions and decisions in an organization affect many others. At this level, advisors recommend that sufficient planning be conducted… please take their advice. The more strategic and Big Picture in scope, then planning reaps long-term rewards.
  7. Inspiring Directions. This gets into Visioning. Planning and going to new heights are stimulating. The mannerisms and substance by which any organization achieves its Vision requires sophisticated advice, deep insights and creative ideas.

7 Levels-Tiers of Qualifying Consultants

  1. Wanna-be consultants. Vendors selling services. Subcontractors. Out-of-work people who hang out “consulting” shingles in between jobs. Freelancers and moonlighters, whose consultancy may or may not relate to their day jobs. (26%)
  2. Entry-level consultants. Those who were downsized, out-placed, retired or changed careers, launching a consulting practice. Prior experience in company environment. (19.5%)
  3. Grinders. Those who do the bulk of project work. Conduct programs designed by others. 1-10 years’ consulting experience. (35.49%)
  4. Minders. Mid-level consultants. Those with specific niche or industry expertise, starting to build a track record. 10-20 years’ consulting experience. (13.5%)
  5. Finders. Firms which package and market services. Most claim they have all expertise in-house. The more sophisticated ones are skilled at building and utilizing collaborations of outside experts and joint ventures. (3.5%)
  6. Senior level. Veteran consultants (20 years+) who were trained for and have a track record in consulting. That’s what they have done for most of their careers. (2%)
  7. Beyond the strata of consultant. Senior advisor, routinely producing original knowledge. Strategic overview, vision expeditor. Creativity-insight not available elsewhere.

About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

Every Strategy Is Different

Just like no two fingerprints are the same, no two businesses will be identical. There may only be minor differences, but these can make a big difference when it comes to planning a marketing strategy. What is right for one company can be totally the wrong thing for another, but sometimes you just have to try various things and monitor them to see which is working best for you.

Using An Agency Or Do It Yourself?

You may think that using an agency is outside of your budget although, to be honest, they are usually very good at putting strategies together. Doing it yourself might not be too bad if you have some knowledge about the different areas of marketing and know something about programming your website to do exactly what you want. You may find the website at Javabeat.Net very useful in this respect, as it has a lot of information and tutorials to help you.

There will be some aspects you will find easier than others in any marketing campaign, social media being one of the simplest for you to handle.

Let Social Media Help You

Social media is a brilliant marketing tool and should be part of any strategy to help your business. It can be time-consuming, which is why some people employ others to manage it for them, but nothing else will give you such a large reach or as much interaction with your customers. There are analytical tools to help you monitor which of the social media platforms are working for you as well, and that can be extremely useful information to have.

Emails Could Be The Answer

Sending regular emails is something else that you could do yourself. You need to make sure they are engaging and interesting for anyone to read, which is why many companies use a newsletter format. There are programs such as MailChimp, which enables you to send the same email to thousands of people at the push of a button.

Both emails and social media are strategies that could help your business and that you could do yourself if you wanted.

An Effective Website

Just as Javabeat.Net can help you with many aspects of your website, there are tools on the market that will help you to initially set up a website yourself in about an hour. It is not as difficult as some people think, and although it might not look quite so professional until you have made enough money to pay an agency, it can be a good way to start.

Your website can be the first impression a potential customer has of your brand, so keep it simple in its looks and precise in its content if you want them to stay for more than a few seconds.

The problem that many new businesses have is cash flow, and until the sales start to happen that does not improve. The strategy you use to market your business will not be the same as anyone else’s but should make your brand stand out from all your competitors.

Three Important Points to Include in Your Business Plan

Business plans are a prelude to success, and failing to create one is a mistake that too many small businesses make. Not only can a great business plan help you achieve success by driving your efforts in a more calculated manner, but it can also help you gain the funding that you need from either banks or investors. Of course, there are as many business plans as there are individuals, and as such many business plans fail to capture all of the key elements they need to help their business succeed. To help you achieve a good business plan that will help you succeed, ensure you include these three points:

Market Analysis

If you do not conduct any market analysis, you are failing yourself as a start-up. You need to know not only who your competitors are, but who your local competitors are, and more importantly what the local consumers are like. If you open up your business in an area that has very few members of your demographic you are doomed to fail from the start. There are two kinds of market analysis you need to conduct as a result. The first is into the industry itself; who are the main players, what technologies do they use, where can you fit into that market, and so on. The second market you must analyze is your customers. Know who they are and what they want so that you can market to them more effectively.

Ensure Your Practice Adheres to Applicable Laws

Every business is subject to laws and regulations, from how they work to how they manage their data. It is important that you include how your company is not only going to excel, but also how it is going to excel within the parameters of the law. With law firms, for instance, Redbrick Solutions offers consultancy to ensure your firm complies with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) if you work with or within the EU. This, in turn, will allow you to offer more security and assurance to your clients as a result.

To ensure your company does comply with the laws that regulate it, you must first ensure you know what those laws are. Contacting a consultancy law firm or hiring a specialist in your industry can help you know the laws that apply to you and teach you how to adhere to them.

Budget

When it comes to creating a business plan, budget should always make an appearance. Without accurately understanding where the money will be coming from and where it is going, you cannot make any guarantees for the success of your business. You need to do cost analysis and prove to either investors or to yourself that you can survive until you get your first few clients in through the door. Either through savings or through money-saving activities like managing the entire business by yourself until you have enough income or notoriety to hire someone else, you need to know how you will pay for your business.

Never underestimate the power of a good business plan. It can help you circumvent easily avoidable challenges and see your business succeed.