The 9 Best Business Plan Books of 2021

Make sure your new venture is set up for success

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Starting a new business is a lot more complicated than just having a “million-dollar idea.” Considering that a little more than 1 in 5 businesses fail within the first year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, having a well-thought-out business plan is crucial. In fact, it's necessary if you hope to attract investors or borrow funds.

Writing a business plan from scratch is a huge undertaking that requires market research, statistical analysis, financial calculations, and more. You have to learn how to make your business case, describe why there’s a need for your product or service, share details of how you'll build out your team, and explain how you’re going to finance your venture and stay competitive.

To get started, consider investing in a book or two to help craft the perfect business plan. Here are the best business plan books to take your entrepreneurial dreams from idea to reality.

Best Overall: Hurdle

The Book on Business Planning
Courtesy of Amazon

Tim Berry is a world-renowned expert on business planning, and this book is his latest one that will help you get your business up and running. "Hurdle" breaks down each and every step of a solid business plan in a way that anyone can understand. You will also see plenty of examples of how to calculate profit and keep track of your cash flow. Complete with a 53-page workbook, you’ll be constructing your business plan as you read the book rather than trying to learn the fundamentals of business planning and applying them later. Once you’ve written a workable business plan, you will find yourself turning back to this book for advice on the everyday management and implementation of your business as well. 

Best for Beginners: The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur

The philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once famously wrote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” If you want to write a short and snappy business plan that fits on one sheet, you best believe that you will need to have an even more focused and concrete idea of where you are headed than you would need for a longer business plan. Enter Jim Horan and Tom Peters’ book chock-full of planning tools you will need to do so successfully: In just a few hours; you can get the first draft up and running. You will learn how to outline your Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans in a way that will compel investors and your team alike. 

Best on Strategy: The Art of the Start 2.0

When you are starting a new business, there will be plenty of people trying to advise you on how to do so — including the authors of books on this list! But all of this good advice is useless if you get paralyzed by anxiety about how to go about implementing it. Learn about perfecting your pitch, get real-world advice on bootstrapping, and get advice on building your team. The author Guy Kawasaki is behind the wildly successful online design service Canva.

He has written this guide hailed as the “essential guide for anyone starting anything,” to help you separate the fluff from the foundation and grow your business plan into one that really works for you. In addition to the old standards, this book addresses crowdfunding, social media, and other digital revolutions as well. You will be ahead of the competition — and much calmer, too, because you will know how to position your product with stories that create a personal connection with potential customers.

Related: The Best Small Business Books

Best Overview: The Complete Book of Business Plans

If you’re not ready to put your faith in just one method of business planning, then this is the book for you. Inside this staple of the business world, you’ll find over a dozen business plan templates you can use to jumpstart your business and attract investors quickly. You’ll also find advice on getting and staying motivated, how to make sure you’re bringing the best possible partners onto your project, and how to propel your business forward for decades to come.

As one attorney and professor put it, “The reason I like this book so much is because of the detailed questions it forces readers to ask themselves. The majority of the book is set up like a workbook and asks highly detailed questions that must be answered before writing can begin. These questions will also force the would-be entrepreneur to think of and address a series of questions that many first-timers would forget or not even know to ask or consider.”

Best on Logistics: Successful Business Plan

Before you even sit down to write your business plan, this book will help you decide whether or not it’s worth doing so in the first place. The book will walk you through how to determine whether or not your plan will work, such as market positioning, competition, costs, and funding strategies — as well as personal metrics such as your own strengths and weaknesses. Written by small business expert Rhonda Abrams, this book has worksheets, sample business plans, and plenty of advice from other experts in the field of business planning, as well as advice if you’re entering competitions or hoping to secure funders. Many readers also appreciate the thorough graphics and exercises throughout.

Related: The Best Books for Starting a Business

Best for Establishing Personnel: The Founder's Dilemmas

As you start writing your business plan, you will also be thinking about who will run your organization in addition to all of the other information contained inside. While the “who” of your organization is often less exciting than the “what” and “how,” staffing and leadership decisions are not ones to be taken lightly. When you’re considering whether to start a business truly on your own, with friends or relatives, or with trusted colleagues, it is important to put thought into the decision — and this book helps you do so by examining why these decisions matter so much. Noam Wasserman, using a decade of research, teaches you how to shape the leadership section of your business plan in order to make your company as successful as humanly possible.

Best on Financial Documentation: Anatomy of a Business Plan

This book will help you make a custom business plan that is sure to lead you towards success. If you need some extra hand-holding to get started, this book is for you: You will learn how to choose an organizational structure that is right for your business, learn how to market that business effectively and in a way that helps your business grow, and learn how to organize your business plan into the traditional sections. The marketing strategies in this book are valuable, and you will be happy to see financial documentation reviewed extensively. It is not the most glamorous part of your business, but it is essential to your overall success. You will also walk through five sample business plans and be given helpful hints to accompany the worksheets provided for drafting your own project.

Best for Traditionalists: Writing a Convincing Business Plan

Written by the company that has helped generations of students prepare for standardized tests, this book approaches the challenge of creating a business plan in the same straightforward, system-minded way. A business plan, to this book, is not an esoteric and lofty document: It is a challenge to be conquered and learned from. This book, of course, is no-nonsense: you will need to describe your business structure, your goals, and your forecasts, and no amount of mantras will help you do so like good old-fashioned hard work. It is a thought-provoking book that makes you take a closer look at different aspects of your business with lots of questions to ask yourself. It also guides you in finding supporting data that justifies and promotes your business. If you follow the steps inside, the end result will be a polished and professional plan that you will be proud of.

Best Step-by-Step Guide: The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

If you love a step-by-step guide, this is the book for you. Hal Shelton takes you on a journey of creating a well-laid-out plan setting your business up for success from day one. Learn what your personal style is, where to go for help, and the common errors people make when creating a plan. Get help determining if your project is feasible and learn how to describe your product and services in a way to make them stand out from the crowd.

Writing a marketing plan and building a strong management team are also topics covered in this short and simple guide. Hal's secrets to success will help you spend less time writing a business plan, freeing up time for you to work on other aspects of your business. You will learn how to acquire a bank loan and get proven strategies for attracting investors. So many companies fail within the first five years. Creating a sound business plan from the beginning will dramatically increase your chance of success.

Related: The Best Entrepreneur Books

Final Verdict

If you'd like to get started on your business plan right away, go with “Hurdle,” (view at Amazon) which takes you through each step of the process with clear illustrations and explanations. If you’re a first-timer, add “The Complete Book of Business Plans” (view at Amazon) to your list as well. Both books will guide you through not only how to write out your plan, but also the thought process and important questions to answer to ensure that you’re ready to launch your business.

Meet the Expert

This roundup was updated by Dawn Papandrea, a freelance writer and editor with two decades of writing experience. In addition to specializing in personal finance and career content, she has edited a few business plans over the course of her career.