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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

5 Business Plan Formats/Outlines to Know

Business plans that attract the kind of desired funding usually owe their success to certain factors one of which is their outline/format. In Nigeria from my experience, I have come across some institutions especially banks and venture capitalists which have specifications for business plans submitted to them. Even an experienced business plan writer in Nigeria should know better than to submit an inferior business plan based on the fact that the format he/she is working with has limitations which may affect the strength of his/her presentations.

So I would like to share a few business plan formats which although are standard in their own right still have one or more limitations. It is up to the business plan writer using each format to address the lapses and make the business plan as presentable and effective as possible. 

First Sample Business Plan Format (Lavinsky’s Template)

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Overview
  • Industry Analysis
  • Customer Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operations Plan
  • Management Team
  • Financials
  • Appendix

Source: www.growthink.com

This business plan format is detailed and very organized but stereotypical and assumes that business operating climate is stable which is not so in Nigeria. Therefore you may use this in a fairly stable industry in Nigeria or in countries where the business environment is well regulated and stable. In comparison to the next sample formats I would rate this higher.

Second Sample Business Plan Format (SBA’s Template)
  •  Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Organisation and Management
  • Service or Product Line
  •  Marketing and Sales 
  •  Funding Request
  •  Financial Projections 
  •  Appendices


This is a well-researched business plan format designed for small businesses in the US and Canada looking for funding either from government sanctioned financier or venture capitalists. The business plan developed from this is simple but the main disadvantage is that it doesn’t look at unstable economic climates where government policies are inefficient, it is weak on implementation planning and risk analysis. It also doesn’t focus on manufacturing industries and seems more suitable for services and retail.

Third Sample Business Plan Format (Bplans.com’s Template)

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Summary
  • Products
  •  Market Analysis Summary
  • Strategy and Implementation Summary
  • Management Summary   
  • Financial Plan
  • Appendix


This is the most widely used business plan format I have come across. Some business plan competitions I know of have had most of their submitted business plans using this format. The Format is simple to use and flexible but there is a little consideration about business risks, environmental challenges etc. I believe this business plan format is not very persuasive in that the title for each section leaves little room for capturing strong ideas. 

Fourth Sample Business Plan Format (Entrepreneur Mag’s Template)

  • Executive summary
  • General Company description
  • The opportunity
  • Industry and Market
  • Overall Business strategy
  • The management team
  • Marketing plan
  • Operational plan
  • Financial plan
  • Appendix


This is a very good business plan format to work with. It is a very adaptable format that will work in almost any country, any industry and at any scale. The contents allow for additions of strong compelling ideas and even a novice business plan writer with excellent research skills will find this format very useful.

Fifth Sample Business Plan Format (Business First’s Template)
  • Executive Summary​
  • Enterprise Description
  • Product or Service Description
  • Industry Analysis
  • Competition Analysis
  • Swot Analysis
  • Marketing Sub-Plan
  • Operations Sub-Plan
  • Human Resources Sub-Plan
  • The Budget
  • Liquidity
  • Financial Sub-Plan
  • Selected Options and Critical Measures
  • Milestone Schedule​

Source: www.businessfirst.com.mt

From this selection, this is the most detailed, best organized and most technical business plan format. It is ideal for large scale and highly technical business ventures and requires deep managerial understanding to present. This business plan fits into a proper ‘MBA Standard Business Plan’ and requires plenty of research and analysis. But it is too technical for use with Nigerian SMEs and although it is adaptable I won’t recommend it for Nigerian entrepreneurs except those who are seeking overseas funding and technical partnerships.

Want to write a business plan that covers all the necessary loose ends and presents persuasively? Give me a call: 0803 206 4106 or email me: paulonwueme@gmail.com for details

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