Writing a Business Plan - Step-by-Step Outline

Business people looking at flow charts in meeting
Plans are worthless. Planning is priceless. Tom Merton / Getty Images

Winston Churchill once said, "Plans are worthless. Planning is priceless." I'll be the first to tell you that not every business needs to have a formal business plan, but any entrepreneur who doesn't plan their business is destined at best to fall short of their potential, and at worst to experience dismal failure. Just because the future is uncertain doesn't mean you can't anticipate it. on the flip side, just because you have a plan doesn't mean you can't be agile and make decisions in the moment based on current circumstances -- you're not locked into the plan.

But the process of writing a business plan helps ensure that all aspects of your business are focused on the same goalĀ and that you don't have any major gaps in your business model.

And, of course, if you go out to borrow money or get investors, you will need to have a formal business plan in place to present to them. A business plan can also help you communicate more effectively with potential employees, partners, and customers.

I've had an introductory article about business plans here on the site for a while, and there are thousands of them on the web. But an introductory article is just that -- an introduction. Now, though, I've put together a complete business plan outline, with an article for each section to guide you through the process: