We have all suffered from the agony and torture that is writer’s block, but attempting to write a business plan while staring at a blank page puts the suffering on a whole new stratosphere.
That’s why an increasing amount of new business owners are beginning to use business plan samples to help them escape writer’s block and start a new business. While example business plans are useful resources when it comes to formulating your strategy, you should keep in mind the pros and cons of using one.
The Pros of Using a Sample Business Plan:
#1. Business plan samples give new entrepreneurs a better idea of how a plan in their industry should be formatted.
Depending on the industry, your plan may require a unique format or writing style. In this case, a general Microsoft Word template simply won’t cut it. Being able to read through a proposal tailored to your industry is a huge help in guaranteeing that your document contains all the necessary distinctions.
#2. Business plan examples offer a fresh perspective of your industry.
Business proposals contain so much information that it is easy to overlook the key details that may ultimately decide whether or not you receive funding. An example of a company similar to your own may even provide new ideas that you may be able to apply to your own model.
#3. The best of all – samples plans are free!
The best part of using a sample is that it’s completely free. If you happen to come across a company that charges a fee to view their sample, then immediately leave their site. As you will find below, there are plenty of free professional samples offered on the web, so there is no need spend your precious startup capital on one.
The Cons of Using a Sample Business Plan:
#1. Some new business owners fall into the copy and paste trap.
It is extremely tempting to copy entire chapters from a business plan example onto your plan, especially if the sample business is similar to your own. However, it is imperative that you resist the urge because no two businesses are alike. Your marketing strategies, location, and company vision will certainly differ from any example plan.
#2. You have to calculate all the financial forecasts on your own.
No matter which of the samples you use below, you will still be tasked with calculating your company’s 3-5 year projections on your own. If you aren’t confident in your ability to produce an error-free P&L statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement, you might want to consider hiring a professional writer or using business plan software.
Free Business Plan Samples
Along with their business plan software, BPT also offers over a dozen sample business plan examples in industries such as retail, food, construction, and real estate. Each sample includes a quick introduction detailing the goal of plan (investment or strategy), the organizational structure, and short overview of the industry.
BPT’s business plan examples also incorporate numerous images, charts, and graphs throughout, which makes each chapter extremely easy to read.
Like BPT, Bplans is also a business plan software site. Since their library contains over 500 samples, Bplans is a great resource for someone who is not yet sure what business is right for them. Each plan also includes the specific tables and charts that the average investor is interested in. Some of Bplan’s most popular examples include their healthcare, catering, and software business plan samples.
Morebusiness mainly focuses on providing resources for startups. In addition to their 10 different example business proposals, they also contain marketing plans and various sample contract agreements. This site is great for brainstorming new and unique ideas for a business. For instance, their library includes a trucking technology business plan, a record label plan, and even a medical tourism plan.
Unlike the sites above, Morebusiness’s example plans do not separate each chapter onto their own pages. Instead all the chapters are combined on one page, which at times can make it a bit difficult if you are looking for a specific subchapter.
The MyOwnBusiness’s sample library only includes two business plan examples – a product-based company and service-based company. Their business plan examples are actually a mix between a sample and template in that some chapters contain fill in the blank sections.
Compared to the other sample providers, you may find the MyOwnBusiness’s content to be a bit lacking – some subchapters are only a few sentences. Yet even with thin content, what’s nice about MyOwnBusiness’s samples is that you can download them as a Microsoft Word doc.
So for those of you who are struggling to put words to paper, do yourself a favor and stop staring at that blank page. Find a business plan sample in your industry and get the inspiration you need build a successful business. Finally, I leave with you with my favorite business-planning quote from President Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Taylor Johnson is a serial entrepreneur and business plan expert at BusinessPlanToday, and the leading provider of business plan software and free business plan templates. He possesses an MA in Business Finance, and was involved in the founding of three businesses — Uncle Chen’s Cuisine, Christina’s Design, and Kids and Co. He is happily married to his lovely wife Andrea, with three “above average” children. Image courtesy Jason Rhode.