Business Plan Template for Online Retail and eCommerce Companies

It’s a shame that so many people think business plans are just for startups, or to back up loan applications, or for getting investors. The truth is that business planning offers serious benefits for everybody in the business.

And I’d like to point out that none of these benefits require a big formal business plan document. A lean business plan is usually enough. It takes an hour or two to do the first plan, then just an hour or two to review and revise monthly.

See the Whole Business

 Business planning done right connects the dots in your business so you get a better picture of the whole. The strategy is supposed to relate to tactics with strategic alignment. Does that show up in your plan? Do your sales connect to your sales and marketing expenses? Are your products right for your target market? Are you covering costs including long-term fixed costs, product development, and working capital needs as well? Take a step back and look at the larger picture.

Get outside funding

To get funding from lenders or investors, you need to show a business plan. Lenders want to see that they are investing in a company that will last and grow. You must give lenders a plan detailing the steps you will take as a business owner.

Even if your lenders are friends and family, it’s good to organize your ideas.

A business plan helps others understand your passion and see where their money is going. Communicating clear ideas to investors helps prove you can get your business off the ground and build it up.

You’ll need to know how to write an exit strategy for a business plan as well. A thriving business is no good to your investors if they have no way to eventually cash in on their investment.

Check the financial numbers

Business plans include financial projections for your company. While the projections are not a peek inside a crystal ball, they do represent a forecast of your financial health. Planning for expenses will be important for keeping operations steady.

Cash flow projections help you see if your goals are possible. They also point out trends that could potentially harm your business. The faster you spot upcoming issues, the faster you can correct problems.

Be sure that your projections match up to your expectations. Have you set aside enough money to do the tasks at hand? Double-check your numbers so you are prepared to handle your finances in the future.

Gain an understanding of your market

One key piece of your business plan is knowing how to conduct a market analysis. When you conduct this study, you look at your industry, target market, and competitors. You can see trends in decisions that could help, or harm, your business.

Another great benefit of a business plan is learning from someone else’s mistakes. Learning from other’s mistakes is less time consuming and financially burdening than learning from your own mistakes. The more prepared you are to deal with the aspects of your market, the easier it might be to handle issues down the road.

Business plans as planning documents

Business plans are not historical documents about a company's past performance. Rather, they are planning documents that provide information to decision-makers who can help the company achieve its goals and objectives. These decision-makers may be the company's own managers and executives, or they may be sources of capital or potential buyers. Regardless of the intended audience, all business plans address the fundamental strategic issues facing a business. They provide verifiable data and projections covering marketing and sales; production, service, and quality; product development; organization and management structure; and financial requirements.

Focus your strategies

The entrepreneur in you is eager to dive right into business. But, having a business plan can help you pinpoint the best strategies for your company. Before you take the plunge into ownership, work out the important details.

This business plan benefit also helps you prioritize tasks. By looking at the big picture of your business, you can decide which challenges to tackle first. A business plan could also help you choose which tasks to address later.