When Should You Use a Business Plan Template?

Using a business plan template can be helpful. Especially if you are going to be applying for an SBA loan. But sometimes it doesn't make sense.

Business plan templates can be super helpful. Especially if you will be applying for an SBA loan
Business plan templates can be super helpful. Especially if you will be applying for an SBA loan

Last Tuesday I talked about the benefits of using a pitch deck template. My point in that article was that using a pitch deck template can save you time and frustration. Especially if you are going to be designing your own deck rather than getting help from someone who designs decks for a living. Similarly, there are benefits to leveraging existing business plan templates.

Much of the same rationale behind using a pitch deck template applies to using a business plan template. Such templates provide you with built in structure to help ensure you address the things you need to address. For example, the right business plan template will include all the sections you need to cover. Things like information about the industry you are in, the size of the market, how you plan to advertise your business etc.

Still, for all the benefits a template can offer, that doesn’t mean you should always use one.

When you shouldn’t use a business plan template

I write business plans for a living. So, having a template is helpful. But strictly sticking to a template can be counterproductive. Especially it the template doesn’t help you accomplish what you are setting out to do.

In just about every instance where you are writing a business plan you are trying to tell a story. Whether the audience is internal or external. If it is an operational business plan, meant to talk about how the business will be run, or a fundraising business plan, meant to attract investors. In either form, you are trying to tell someone the story of your business.

If the template you intend to use doesn’t help you properly tell that story then you shouldn’t use it.

This is when you use a business plan template

There is one particular instance that I have in mind why you should use a business plan template. That is when you are looking to get approved for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan.

While using one of their templates is not a requirement, I highly recommend using one with your SBA loan application.

There are two versions on the SBA website. The first is a traditional business plan. The second is what they refer to as a “Lean startup plan”. It’s a lot like a Business Model Canvas and is meant to be super high level.

Using one of the SBA’s recommended templates is a good idea for a few reasons. First, a completed business plan is required for the majority of SBA loan applications. Second, By submitting a business plan in the SBA’s own recommended format you are sending the lender a document that they are familiar with. That makes their job easier and will hopefully make your application process easier.


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