10-Step Business Planning Process

Behind every successful business plan there is a carefully executed business analysis. Creating a business plan involves variety of important parts like , financial plan, operational plan, sales forecast and budget.

In order to develop a good business plan, one which will be an effective guideline for your business, there is a business planning process you should follow in order to analyze your business and integrate the individual pieces together.

Business Plan Templates And Software


You can use the following 10-step process and go through it step by step and collect and organize all the the information you need. These steps will help you take into consideration all the important elements of a business plan:

1. High level analysis of the stakeholders’ requirements and expectations. Stakeholders include the owners, board of directors, executives and external stakeholders as well.

What is it that they expect for the organization to achieve? In a small business for example the stakeholders may include the owner of the business, the community and the banks and financial institutions involved with the business.

2. The vision and goals of the business. What is the vision of your company and the major goals and objectives – the strategic level goals. This is extension of the stakeholders’ analysis developed in a more detailed way which will guide all the other components of your business plan.

3. External analysis or situation analysis considering external / environmental factors (see PEST analysis for more details). The environment where your organization operates must be analyzed and major trends identified (the external forces in the in step 6 can be used here).

4. Industry and competitors’ analysis. This includes analysis of your business environment focused on specific value chain activities, products, services, competitors’ products and pricing, new customer preferences, industry trends, etc.

5. Marketing analysis (see this simple marketing plan guide) including customer segmentation, product portfolio analysis, pricing analysis, customer needs and preferences, demand for each product, sales mix analysis, etc.

6. SWOT analysis. Once you finish the first 5 steps you have the stakeholders’ expectations, strategic goals and objectives, external forces analysis, industry analysis, competitors analysis and marketing analysis.

Now you can use SWOT to put everything together and analyze and assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business. This is your platform and foundation for creating your business plan and strategy (you can download and use the free SWOT template)

7. Define your strategy. Based on your SWOT analysis now you can develop an effective strategy which takes into consideration all the relevant pieces of information and takes advantage of the strengths and opportunities and minimizes the risk of the threats and weaknesses. Your strategy includes a detailed marketing plan, forecast and go-to-market strategy.

8. Operational plan. The operational component of your business plan will answer the question – who will get the job done and how (the execution plan for your strategy). Major business processes, systems and best practices should be included in the operational plan as well as the management team and the employees.

9. Financial plan. Based on your strategy, marketing plan and operational plan now you can develop your financial plan including financial projections (P&L or income statement projections, balance sheet projections and cash flow statement projections).

The financial plan must be integrated with the operational and the marketing parts of your business plan. Each number in your projected financials must be explained and understood – how it will happen by looking at the marketing and operations.

10. Putting everything together – your business plan outline (based on the information you have prepared in the previous 9 steps):

  • Executive summary
  • Business / company summary, overview and relevant info
  • Stakeholders analysis and vision
  • Goals and objectives
  • Critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators () (see the difference between KPIs and metrics)
  • Overview of the company’s portfolio of products and services
  • Overview of your industry and major competitors
  • Marketing analysis
  • Marketing plan with value proposition, customer and market segmentation, pricing and positioning strategy
  • Operational plan including your sales plan and forecast
  • Financial plan including projections of the three and break-even analysis (see examples of financial ratios)
  • Major milestones
  • How the success will be measured: major targets, KPIs and metrics (more on )