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Course & Subject Guides

Resources for Community Entrepreneurs

Collection of free and subscription resources available to Pennsylvania residents.

Business Plans

Business Plans

There are various ways to write a business plan. They often contain a summary, description of your company and various plans (productions/operations, management/HR, marketing, financial, risk assessment, etc.) along with a market or competitive analysis and overview of the industry and other influencing factors.

For help and resources about creating a business plan, you can explore our books on business planning, or attend a free SBDC workshop.

For sample business plans, you can try and a book in our collection full of examples. offers a fee-based online software that will help walk you through creating a business plan. In particular, teams at Pitt have found it helpful to think through all the components of their business' revenue model.

Business Plan Outline and Suggested Resources

Business Plan Outline and Suggested Resources

The following is a suggested business plan outline from You might find a different structure or outline that works better for you and your company, but the following are some suggested resources that you can use for most business plans.

1. Executive Summary

This summarizes the entire plan. Write it after you've finished the rest of the plan, including a sentence summary of each individual section.

2. Problem & Solution

This is where you will be able to explain your value proposition. Try and find statistics and research to back up the fact that there is a problem that your business intends to solve. This might include Googling or searching for articles or statistics in library databases.

View a list of business-related databases. The Industry, Articles, and Data & Statistics lists will likely be most relevant. Depending on your business and industry, there might be some more relevant places to start than others, so be sure to ask us if you want some specific recommendations.

You also might want to learn more about primary market research.

3. Target Market

Market Segmentation

To determine your target market, you'll have to decide how you want to segment the potential market. To learn more, check out PittCat.


Once you have your potential and/or target market(s), you'll want to learn as much about them as possible. While demographic and statistical information won't tell you the whole picture, it can help you get started on narrowing down what segments you want to focus on. Start with:

For more information about secondary sources for demographics, check out Marketing Research @ Pitt - Demographics guide.


Then, you might want to learn about psychographics, or learning about why people behave the way they do can help flesh out your target market. Try using:

For more information about secondary sources for psychographics, check out Marketing Research @ Pitt - Psychographics guide.

General Market Research

Overall resources for market research include a video course from on Market Research.

4. Competition

You will want to explain the current alternatives on the market, and be sure to describe what your advantages are. You might consider using a competitor matrix  to help illustrate this.

Also, be sure to understand the difference between direct and indirect competitors.

There are many ways you can identify your competition, but one of the best is to find the relevant NAICS/SIC code for the industry you hope to compete in, and then use that information to help create a list of companies.

5. Marketing & Sales Plan

One of the best ways to develop your marketing and sales plan is to read a lot about best practices and examples of what others have done. Take a look at some of the websites, journals, and databases we recommend.

Just like with creating a business plan, there are a variety of outlines or examples you could follow. Forbes and MPlans both provide examples, and you can also check out some books we have on creating marketing plans.

6. Operations Plan

Your operations plan will include information about your location(s), facilities, technology, equipment, tools, etc. It will also cover how you will "buy, build and prepare your product or service for sale." Read more about the operations plan from Entrepreneur.

Two potential resources are:

7. Milestones & Metrics

This section allows you to plan "dates, deadlines, tasks, and budgets" to help you set goals and assess if and how you will meet them. Read more about milestones & metrics from

8. Financial Plan

Your financial plan will contain a forecast, financing information, and various financial statements (often your projected profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement).

You can learn more about financial statements from Investopedia , the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), and the SBA (Small Business Administration).

For more information about the financial plan section, check out additional resources from the SBA, or connect with local resources here in Pittsburgh.