It’s no secret over here at Beautiful.ai HQ that we love entrepreneurship. But we're not gonna lie and say it's all cupcakes and butterflies either: the stresses of growing a company with limited resources, tight budgets, and never enough hours in the day. Whether you’re looking to fund your own small business, or looking to raise money from investors, the simple business plan below that we've created for you (that you can customize in minutes, not hours!) will work for everyone.
Note: This is the 1st installment in our five-part series "The Five Essentials: How to Start a New Business,” dedicated to small, medium and startup businesses. In this series, we cover how to create a Company Overview and Annual Marketing Plan, as well as offer advice on the best Tech Tools to grow your business fast and free Sales Proposal templates you can customize. Here, you'll learn how to draft a Business Plan.
One way to lessen the everyday stress of running a business is to have a plan—a business plan, that is. Why? A plan ensures that the direction you’re headed is clear to you, your employees, and any potential outside investors. Whether or not you’re seeking funding right now, or in the future, a business plan can serve as a beacon that guides you throughout the weeks, months and years in your company purpose. If you’ve already done all the info-gathering and are ready to start making your business plan presentation, click here to customize our sample plan right now. For everyone else that needs some guidance, read on for a step-by-step guide to writing your very first business plan.
A Business Plan That Works For You
We’ve established that a quality business plan is important, but business plans are not one-size-fits-all. If you’re in that small or medium-size bucket, the content and tone of your business plan is very different than, say, a rapid growth startup company or a large corporation. Luckily, we’ve specially structured this particular template to work for all new business owners—and made it easy to adjust for your specific industry and product.
The aim here is to make your business plan presentation engaging and easily readable. After all, the best presentations are simple, clear, and (of course) beautiful. That being said, some of the content we suggest below may be suited for your "Speaker Notes" or presentation script. Too much text on a slide is an attention-killer, so commit to one core message per slide (just ask presentation guru Nancy Duarte). This way, your audience clearly understands the gist of what you’re trying to communicate — whether you’re talking them through it or just sending them a PDF. Ok, let’s go!
First Impressions Matter
Let the title page set the tone. The Title page is the first impression you'll make, so use it as an opportunity to brand your company beyond a logo. Use images, color schemes and icons that you feel accurately represent your business. Hint: You can switch out the image in our presentation template with one of your own by following these instructions.
List your plan's contents.
Each section of your business plan should be represented in the table of contents with a 3-4 word, actionable, inspiring Subtitle. This gives your audience an idea up-front of what you’ll cover, and communicates that you, as an owner or employee, are organized and focused.
Make your mission known.
Much like the Title page, the Mission page is a branding exercise. The key element here is your company mission statement. This shouldn’t be an essay—rather, it should be to-the-point, concise, and eloquently express your high-level vision in a way that gets people excited.
A great mission statement goes beyond simply saying how you’ll create a successful, profitable business. It answers the Why, and often does so in a way that inspires. Take Facebook, for example:
“Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
With the recent Facebook data scandals, one could argue that the company hasn’t stayed true to its mission. But the company description above does echo the reason so many of us choose Facebook as a way to stay connected.
Starbucks is another example:
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
And finally, let’s look at Virgin Airways:
“Our mission statement is simple, yet the foundation of everything we do here at Virgin Atlantic Airways... to embrace the human spirit and let it fly."
Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, has this advice for creating your business plan's mission statement: "Brevity is certainly key, so try using Twitter's 140-character template when you're drafting your inspirational message. You need to explain your company's purpose, and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike. Make it unique to your company, make it memorable, keep it real and, just for fun, imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms."
For further elaboration, you can provide 3 key "motivators" for starting your company under your mission statement if you have room. Feel free to add emotion here, with a founder's story or personal passion.
Set yourself apart.
After our inspirational mission statement, it’s now time to present your business idea. Describe exactly what your product or service is, how it has a competitive advantage, and illustrate three unique selling points that will make your company stand out.
While your product or service may have many key selling points and features, these should be the most important three. It’s worth noting that, as you progress with your startup business, these selling points may change when you learn what’s most important to your customers. As with any business, the key is to remain agile.
It's all about the team.
They say that “a good management team divides the tasks and doubles the success.” To this end, having a credible, reliable group of people involved in your business—even simply as advisors—adds further validation that your business is on to something great. Use this page to introduce key shareholders and team members and reference how their relevant experience and unique skill set will help support and grow your business.
Aim for your target.
This page provides some clarity as to who your target customer is. This isn’t intended to be a deep dive; you’ll want an entirely separate presentation to map out your various personas in more detail. But for your high-level business plan, use this slide to illustrate the types of people you’ll be going after. By keeping your business plan simple, the recipient will be able to easily digest the information, as well as get a better understanding of your potential audience.
Size up the competition.
Next, we'll discuss your company's competitors in more detail. Who are they; what do they do well; what areas can you improve upon to create a meaningful “edge”? And above all, how will you gain market share? A thorough competitive analysis will help your audience feel confident that you understand the challenges you're facing.
Present an Industry Overview
Here is where you prove you have an in-depth understanding of the industry you're about to enter. Having detailed the competition previously in your presentation, it’s now time to look at the industry as a whole. What trends are you seeing? What new statistics matter to you and your business plan, and how will you use these trends to prosper? The more you understand the industry and its nuances, the better you can plan for success.
Talk about where the industry stands today.
Breakout specific market research stats on this slide, that represent interesting and compelling aspects of your industry's potential. Some ideas include total revenue (globally or nationally); increase in growth year-over-year for a decade; or number of products on the market currently. Be prepared to "tell a story" about each data point that proves your value proposition.
Show how your product fits into your target market.
This "Product-Market Fit" section of your business plan is especially popular with venture capitalists. One clear way of communicating this market analysis visually is by using a Venn Diagram. Include Market Opportunity (overlap between Demand and Competition), Market Relevance (overlap between Product and Demand), and Market Fit (overlap between Product and Competition). Talk about what area(s) of the market you will target specifically, and what unique, improved, or lower cost services you will offer. Be sure to mention an estimate of overall market size here as well.
Offer a sales comparison.
This is an especially important slide if your business is already operational and you have a proven business model in action. First, map out where you stand in terms of sales compared to your competition to help visualize the landscape. If you haven’t yet launched your product or service, you can communicate your "due diligence" around business planning and sales strategy by citing your competition and their estimated sales. This will give your audience an idea as to where you should be.
Outline Your Business Plan for Sales and Marketing
This presentation template doesn't include a full section on your marketing strategy—where you map out each channel in detail (stay tuned for our SMB Marketing Sample Presentation, which you can always link to if you want to go more in-depth). Rather, good business plans stay focused on the high-level details, such as your proposed budgets, communication channels, and other pertinent information.
Identify marketing opportunities that make sense for your industry and will result in the highest return on investment (ROI). For example, if you’re starting an online shop or e-commerce company, social media marketing is a great low-cost channel. If you’re launching a B2B consultation business, perhaps content marketing initiatives such as thought leadership white papers, webinars and original research are the best area to allocate resources. It will all depend on your unique industry and product.
Decide on a pricing strategy.
As we all know, pricing is important. Price too low, and—while you may be offering a ton of value for your customers—your profit margin may be too small for it to be sustainable. Price too high, and you’ll turn your customers away before they’ve even had chance to sample your product or service. That being said, use this slide to talk about your strategy. If you plan to launch at a lower price to gain market share at the expense of profits—with a plan to increase prices after, say, six months—state that here.
Describe how you will distribute your product/s to the customer.
Will you be selling wholesale or retail? Will packaging be required? Discuss shipping and payment methods. You can also mention Distribution Channels, Payment Methods or any other relevant info here.
Explain how you will publicly promote your product or service.
List your main channels for advertising and promotion, as well as your approximate budget. This could include your website, social media, email and public relations strategies.
Commit to a timeline and stick to it.
It’s always useful to have a roadmap that’s easy to visualize to help you stay on track. Here, you can plan for the major milestones you need to hit over the next couple of years. Mapping out your journey is the best way to ensure you meet your targets on time.
How You'll Operate Your Business
An idea is one thing, but how you'll execute on the idea is what matters. This is where "ops" comes in; so make sure to discuss facilities, equipment, materials and staffing. If a formal legal structure is required for your business, you can propose your approach to that as well.
List an applicable facilities.
Include any and all info on physical real estate here, such as retail stores, headquarters, call centers, home offices and more.
Discuss staffing headcount.
A graph is a great way to visualize your anticipated growth over the next few years. Use the space above to add additional clarity such as how you’ll source these new employees, the percentage of full-time versus part-time or contract, and other information.
Include a list of any specialized equipment.
This is a good time to get organized in terms of your business needs, as well as costs associated with each; whether you'll lease or purchase, et cetera. Make note of required supplies you will need and how will you reliably source them. You will want to make sure your business won’t go belly-up if you cut ties. Then, provide more detailed descriptions of suppliers, including where they’re headquartered, how long they’ve been in business, and more.
Time to Talk Turkey (AKA Money)
As we keep saying, you’ll want an entirely different spreadsheet (include a hyperlink on this slide) focused only on the financial plan of your new business. For this slide, we will just look at the high-level details, like expected growth rate and gross revenue versus expenses.
In the example below, you’ll see that the company has been operational for the past couple of years, allowing us to use that data to predict the coming years based on our roadmap and strategy for growth. If your company is new, do your best to predict revenue. If your company is already in business, you can link to various financial statements like a profit and loss statement, balance sheet or cash flow statements.
Make some educated financial projections.
As a word of caution, it’s always best to underestimate when it comes to how much money your business will make, and overestimate your expenses. Don’t plan for a best case scenario (that seldom works out in practice). It’s better to be pleasantly surprised at how well you did rather than being depressed at how you missed your targets. Remember: the economic climate will change, your industry will evolve, you’ll be faced with unexpected expenses, and so on. Plan for these, as best as possible, in advance.
Make your company assets known.
List anything that you own and their estimated current value. This may include real estate, equipment, raw materials, inventory or licenses. Add them up and include a “Total” on this slide.
Lastly, what does it all mean?
Use the Executive Summary slide to summarize your plan in a way that is concise, actionable, and inspiring. If you’ve planned well, it shouldn’t be difficult to write, as you’ll know precisely what you need to do to achieve your goals. Think of the Executive Summary as a "one-page takeaway" opportunity, so you leave your audience—be it potential partners, friends and family or potential investors—with a clear understanding of the opportunity you're presenting to them and how you're planning on creating a wildly successful business.
If you're in the planning stages and haven't officially launched your new business, use this free business plan template as a way to help you prepare. If your business is already operational, a business plan will keep you on course. In either case, it will certainly be necessary if you decide to make a funding request or bring on new business partners.
Down the road, you may also want to break down the various sections (like marketing, operations, and finances) into their own individual presentations to dig into the details on a more granular level.
Finally, best of luck with your new business! The team at Beautiful.ai is here to make your presentation needs simpler, faster, and more fun—meaning you can stay focused on what matters most: growing your business.