How to create a business plan in simple steps

Create a business plan in simple steps

Need a business plan? We show you how to make it quick and easy to create a business plan in simple steps. Whether you need it for the bank or, for example, the start-up grant. Below you will find all information about the structure, structure and content of the business plan. We also provide an example of why business plan is important for your success. 

You will also learn more about sponsored business planning advice and we’ll highlight errors and give tips for you to create a business plan in simple steps. At the heart of the business plan — and at the same time a major challenge — is the financial plan.  We show you how to create a financial plan in easy steps here.

Create a business plan in simple steps: do you need one?

The business plan is a document much discussed in the start-up world: do you need it or do you not need it? From our point of view, good planning increases the chances of success of starting a business. Some think that the role of the business plan has been replaced by the Business Canvas, but you will find that for banks and investors that is rarely the case. Therefore, our recommendation is very clear: write a business plan. Create it not only for the bank or the investor, but primarily for yourself. Follow our guides below to create a business plan in simple steps — the time you spend will be well worth it!

We want to simplify your business planning and lead you to create a business plan in simple steps and answer the most important questions that start-ups come up with again and again.

Create a business plan in simple steps: the 9 key factors

1. Definition: What is a business plan?

The business plan is the elaborate and and structured summary of your business idea or business concept. In the work to create a business plan in simple steps, you develop and describe e.g.:

  • how your business idea should work (strategy)
  • who your business idea is aimed at (target group)
  • where the opportunities and risks lie (SWOT analysis) and
  • whether your business idea is worth it at all (financial part).

And most importantly, check whether your business idea is also economically worthwhile with the financial plan as part of the business plan. In the financial plan, you calculate sales, costs, and earnings. You also carry out liquidity planning and determine the capital requirements of your project. So when you create the business plan, you work out the idea, goals, actions, and finances of your business start-up. This makes it the very personal guide to your business success.

2. 10 Reasons: Why create a business plan?

Many start-ups say that they are creating a business plan because the bank, investors or the employment agency want it that way. This is true and is also a valid reason why you should create a business plan in simple steps. However, you create the business plan primarily for yourself. Just as the business plan for external parties is an important decision document, it also helps you. It essentially has the following 3 functions:

  1. Structure-in-place review of all relevant areas
    Many things that are relevant to the success of your business idea need to be worked out first. Who belongs to the target customer group? How do you reach your target customer group? What influences purchasing decisions and who are my main competitors? Which location is ideal for me? For answers to these questions, you will collect information in a structured way and record it in the business plan.
  2. Calculating cost-effectiveness
    When you create the business plan, you take a critical look at your business idea to check it for practical feasibility (my idea is so feasible) and to calculate the economics (it’s worth it) of the business idea. This reduces the economic risk of your project.
  3. Signposts for strategic and operational measures
    If the idea is feasible and makes economic sense to you, it is a matter of implementation. The business plan helps as an important guiding instrument. Finally, you choose specific marketing measures, make important sales decisions, and set business development milestones when you create your business plan.

With a well-developed business plan, in which you examine the critical areas of your business idea, you prevent an early exit from your business start-up due to planning deficiencies – one of the main reasons for failure within the first 3 years. And if you have still not completely convinced you that you want to create a business plan in simple steps, we have finally 10 Reasons summarized below for business plan creation:

#1Less risk: the business plan is less likely to fail
#2The business plan provides orientation and structure
#3The idea is just the beginning – then comes the business plan
#4Finding the right market with the business plan
#5Analyzing competitors and competitors in detail
#6Capital requirements are determined in the business plan
#7Business plan: Document for different points of contact
#8The business plan does not disappear in the drawer
#9Success analysis and controlling through the business plan
#10The business plan is the basis for your success

3. Who do you write the business plan for?

The business plan is primarily created for entrepreneurs for themselves – after all, it is the central planning document for their own business. But there are also a number of other stakeholders that require you to create a business plan:

  • Start-up grant – prepare the business plan for the employment office: If you wish to apply for a start-up grant, the relevant government or investment office requires a business plan for the application of the founding grant. The business plan must demonstrate the viability of the concept.
  • Business plan for promotional and guarantee banks: If you seek funding from a promotional bank or a guarantee from a guarantee bank, you must prepare a business plan.
  • Business plan for the traditional bank: The business plan, including the financial plan, is also an essential basis for decision-making in the case of traditional credit and financing from your bank, as they do not yet have reliable figures for their own business activities. This makes the well-developed business plan all the more important.
  • Create the business plan for investors: Although it is often assumed that the business plan has lost its importance for investors in particular and that other documents such as the Pitch Deck, the Canvas or the company presentation are the focus, the detailed review is often about the more extensive business and, in particular, the financial plan.
  • Business plan for business partners: It is possible that future business partners (e.g. suppliers who give you a longer payment period, for example) would like to see a short form of the business plan, especially for newly founded companies.

4. How to create a business plan in simple steps?

No question, it is a big challenge for many founders to write a business plan. Especially when it comes to convincing banks and investors with the business plan in the end. At the same time, there is usually a high time pressure, as the founding date and the necessary financing are approaching. But despite these facts, our most important tip is: create the business plan yourself! Don’t buy a finished business plan and then just swap the name. This is quick, but it is not effective.

However, you don’t have to be afraid of sleepless nights when you create your business plan. With the following information and tools, we help you get to your business plan step by step. The following paths are possible for business plan creation:

  1. Business plan with Word and Excel
  2. Use a business plan template
  3. A business plan software may offer advantages

1. Business plan with Word and Excel

Business planning using Word and Excel is certainly the classic. However, both programs come without special help for the founders. In other words, you start with a white sheet and you need to create an outline and all the formatting for the business plan itself. With Excel and the financial plan, it gets even more complicated. Creating a financial plan with Excel takes a long time, especially for inexperienced founders, and is prone to errors.

2. Business plan template

Due to the above-mentioned problems of business planning creation via Word and Excel, many start-ups are quickly looking for suitable templates with table of contents and patterns for the business plan, of which there are many on the Internet. Templates for the text part of the business plan in Word are usually still uncritical. However, the question always arises as to who created the template and whether it is in line with current practice. Especially with Excel templates, the devil is often in the detail. Are all formulas correct? Does the template fit my business model? The tool determines all key figures that are required by the bank, for example. And how do I integrate the Excel results into my Business Plan Word document? The advantage of a business plan template is that they are very affordable, which is helpful if your budget is tight.

3. Business plan software

If you can afford to budget for one, the easiest way to create your business plan is certainly with business plan software — which often provides you with much more than a business plan template and a table of contents. The advantages of such a digital template are:

  1. You can start directly – formatting and outline already exist
  2. Notes and key questions support you in the individual chapters
  3. You can also view an example business plan free of charge
  4. The invite function allows you to invite team members and create the business plan with them
  5. At the touch of a button, you create a PDF of the business plan that you can print or send
  6. If necessary, you can unlock the financial plan module cost-effectively and integrate the financial plan directly into the business plan

5. Content and structure: What belongs in a business plan?

One of the first questions from aspiring business founders about the business plan is how long it must be. The answer is: it depends. While for a simple business model such as a shop or a catering business, 20 to 30 pages incl. financial plan can certainly be sufficient, complex start-up projects, which are also linked to a large capital requirement, require a significant burden of more content. Business plans with up to 100 pages are not uncommon. However, length is not the decisive criterion. Content matters when you create your business plan. And above all, that you adequately describe and explain all the important points.

The most important chapters for the business plan

Below we have presented the main chapters for the business plan. Clicking directly on the chapter for which you need support when you are creating the business plan.

  1. Idea, offer and target group. The foundation of your foundation and starting point in the business plan is the idea. In this chapter, you will flesh out your offer and work out the target group. An exact definition of the target group will also help you with outlining the market gap and the market analysis.
  2. Market and competition. How big is your market? How does the market volume develop? Who are the competitors and what are the possible barriers to entering the market? Also carry out market research to make your case when you do the market analysis.
  3. Set vision and goals. Where should your company go? Set short-, medium- and long-term goals. These set the direction in which the strategy and operational measures will then be coordinated. Also develop a vision for your business.
  4. Strategy. The goals are followed by the strategy in the business plan. Particularly important is the question of what customer benefits you offer. Position your offer in the market and work out differences with your competitors. 
  5. Marketing mix: The customers do not come to you! The magic word is marketing. But it is precisely for founders and small businesses that it is a matter of reaching the target customers as efficiently as possible. 
  6. Legal and tax requirements. Not exactly popular with founders and yet necessary for the business plan. An accountant’s help may be needed with this chapter.
  7. Operational organisation and team. Where does your company start at? How many employees do you need? What is the structure and what milestones are planned? 
  8. Finance. The financial plan is at the heart of the business plan: investments, income or liquidity are the keywords. Determine the capital requirements, learn how to categorise expenses and show in the business plan how you want to cover them.
  9. SWOT analysis. At the end of the business plan, the SWOT analysis is still pending. You summarize the strengths and weaknesses of your company, show the opportunities and risks and develop measures to benefit from opportunities and minimize risks.
  10. Executive Summary. Finally, in the Executive Summary, you summarize the key contents of your business plan. The Executive Summary should not be underestimated when you create your business plan. After all, many readers decide on the basis of these two pages whether or not to read the entire business plan.

6. Where can I get help with business planning?

When you create your business plan, you don’t have to just use the above business plan outline, templates or software. You can also get additional help and support for business plan creation. For this we recommend the following 3 ways:

Seminars and free consulting services for the business plan

In order to find out about the basics of the business plan, seminars and free consultations are also available. Business start-up seminars for business planning are offered, for example, by the chambers of commerce or numerous consultants. The costs for the seminars, which last several hours, are often free or are very affordable. However, you are sitting in the seminar with several participants, which means that you cannot work on your business plan individually. Due to the small number of hours, you can generally only work through some areas of the business plan.

The situation is similar with the free counselling services offered by public institutions or the chambers of commerce. In the 1 to 2 hour appointments you can talk about individual contents of your business plan.

Start-up coaching

The support of a founding coach is much deeper and more extensive. The consultants specialize in the preparation of business plans and have often accompanied hundreds of founders as part of their many years of consulting work. The added value of the start-up consultants is certainly in particular to support the financing. After all, they know exactly what makes a bankable financial plan stand out and what an ideal preparation for the bank conversation looks like.

Of course, the cost of such a start-up consultation, which often lasts more than 30 to 40 hours, is significantly higher than for the seminars. But the added value in terms of content is also much higher. In addition, there are numerous support programmes which cover a good part of the consulting costs and pay as a grant. Thus, you only have to bear a smaller share of your own. The programs vary from particular to the state – but what they have in common is that you, as a founder, can benefit from sponsored start-up coaching. 

TIP: If you start out of unemployment, you can get 100% of the cost of a start-up consultation for the business plan reimbursed by the government.

Business plan competitions

Another way to get support when you want to create a business plan is business plan competitions. The aim of these is for participants to draw up their business plan during the course of the competition. There are usually workshop offers, partly mentoring and information material as well as business plan manuals. In the end, the best business plans will be awarded and prize money and first PR will be awarded for your project. The advantage is that participation in the business plan competitions is free of charge and they receive support from professionals. However, they are tied to the competition schedule in business planning creation and usually have to use the templates as well. In addition, the respective business plan competition should suit you and your start-up project. 

7. Tips: How will the business plan get better?

Depending on your personal situation, the prerequisites for setting up a business and thus also for the preparation of the business plan may be different. However, you should not think of your business plan as a one-time exercise that you then let gather dust on a shelf. A good business plan should be reviewed and updated as situations change — and at the very least, annually!

For guidance: Read business plan examples for your industry

You should definitely write your business plan yourself – as unique as your idea should be your business plan. Still, there’s nothing wrong with downloading a ready-made business plan for your industry.

In a ready-made Example Business Plan for your industry you will find important information, e.g. on the market and competition. A pre-built business plan is also suitable as a comparison document.

You can use an example of the business plan as a basis to create your own individual business plan. 

8. Common errors in business plans

These are the common mistakes you should avoid making.

  1. Do not blindly accept pre-made sample texts
    Even if you’re looking at example business plans in your industry, don’t succumb to the risk of simply adopting this content. Each business plan is individual – as is your project.
  2. You do not go into detail as a founder or the founding team
    The founders often focus on the idea. But even a good idea is worth nothing without the implementation by the right person(s). What qualifications do you have as a founder or Bringing your founding team is crucial. Therefore, give this representation sufficient space.
  3. Market research is too short
    Are you convinced of your product? That’s good, even better if there are potential customers who can inspire you with your offer. Do a small market research in the business plan. This not only helps you to show that your idea meets a market need, but also provides valuable feedback for product development.
  4. “We don’t have competition”
    The chapter Market & Competition often states that there is no significant competition. The alarm bells immediately ring for donors. Take a thorough look at the market.
  5. Customer acquisition: Advertising will already be judged
    When you create the business plan, the first customers are still a long way off. And that’s why you should show in the chapter Marketing as specific as possible how you reach the customers and, above all, what it will cost to gain customers.
  6. Our product is great – non-specific customer benefit
    Successful marketing is not only characterized by an efficient use of funds and the lowest possible costs per new customer. Rather, it is knitted around the clear customer benefit. Can the customer recognize the advantages of your offer, does he actually perceive them as advantages and does he also reward them with their purchase decision? Often the customer benefit is too non-specific and the new offers do not have a successful market start.
  7. Financial planning too optimistic – capital requirements too low
    Even for large companies that put their products on the market with a lot of money for advertising, it often takes longer for success to come to an end. As a founder, you have a much harder time asserting yourself in the market. Nevertheless, many aspiring entrepreneurs are planning a very euphoric sales curve and the profit zone is quickly reached. Experience has shown, however, that it takes 12 to 18 months for the break-even to set in. As a result, the actual capital requirement is often higher than initially planned and liquidity bottlenecks quickly arise.

9. Business Model Canvas: an alternative to the business plan?

As an alternative to the business plan, the Pitch Deck, the company presentation or the Business Model Canvas are often mentioned. What all variants have in common is that you do not reach the level of detail of a business plan. The pitch deck or the company presentation rather show the common thread and present the highlights of the start-up project. They aim to arouse interest in financing from potential investors. Especially visually, they can undoubtedly impress more than the text-heavy business plan.

The Business Model Canvas, on the other hand, sheds more light on the crucial areas of the business model. These include, for example,

  • Performance or product, target group, customer relationships, revenue and expenses

However, due to the shape of the canvas, the representations remain very close to the surface and important aspects that are analyzed in the business plan are completely missing. Thus, we see the canvas more as a precursor to the business plan. Therefore, develop a Business Model Canvas if you are still unsure about important factors in your business idea.Tip

Conclusion: What is important for the successful business plan?

The business plan is more than an annoying compulsory exercise for banks, investors or the employment agency. Of course, it helps you to get funding for starting up and building a business. But first and foremost, it is your guide and a very personal plan for business. It helps you to structure the idea and the start-up project, set goals and define measures to achieve these goals. Thus, it does not disappear into the drawer after its foundation, but should be implemented consistently. This does not mean a rigid adherence to the business plan. Adjustments are necessary if the framework conditions change or if planned measures have not been proven to be successful.

The most important chapters in the business plan include:

  • market and competitive analysis: After describing your idea and your target group in detail, perform a comprehensive market analysis. This should also be linked to own market research.
  • the company’s goals and strategy: If you know your market and your competitors, work out goals and strategy for your business plan. It is important to be consistent, because you cannot dance at all weddings.
  • the marketing mix: how do you reach your customers? The Marketing Mix section of the business plan is reserved for this purpose.
  • the start-up and management team: investors in particular often say that they invest not in ideas, but in teams.
  • Finances: at the heart of the business plan is the financial plan. Determine the capital requirements and show in the business plan how you want to cover it.

It is also particularly important to do a SWOT analysiswhen you create the business plan. At a glance, you summarize the strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and risks for your foundation. At the very end of the business plan, the Executive Summary on the map. On about two pages, you’re going to present the main points from your business plan so that readers can quickly get an overview before reading the entire business plan.

Especially if you write the business plan for financing, the support of a start-up coach is worthwhile. Funding programmes do indeed cover a large part of the costs through grants and reduce the proportion you pay. Check the references of a potential consultant. Does he know your industry and is he demonstrably successful in overcoming bank calls? It is also important that you get along well with the consultant. . 

After you create a business plan in simple steps, it’s a good place to create a company presentation. With 10 to 15 slides, you can present your company in a concise and concise way.