Why a Business Plan?

In starting your business, a highly recommended tool is to draw up a business plan. This document answers the major questions posed to your business start-up: What makes my product/service unique? Who and where are my customers/clients? What will be my forecasted profit margin?

It can also be helpful if you are presenting your business plan to a potential funder (such as a lending bank). But what does a complete business plan look like? The Library can help you with that!

Business Plans Handbook Series

With your Library card, you can access the Business Plans Handbook Series in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. This multi-volume series contains hundreds of full-text business plans for many business types. One or several of these sample plans may act as a template to write up your own plan.

The Handbook Series is an eBook title within our Gale Virtual Reference Library database.

How to access

  1. If you are on a home device, you will need to sign in using your Card number/Username and PIN number (the last four digits of your phone number on record by default).
  2. When you are on the Gale Virtual Reference Library home page (actually now called the Gale eBooks home page), you will see on the left-hand side several topics under “Browse Collections.”
  3. Click on the “Business” topic selection. You will see a list Business eBook titles in ‘tile’ or image format. The distinctive yellow/white/blue Business Plans Handbook series normally displays on the first row.
  4. Click on the book image, and then you will see a list of separate volume links (48 as of this writing – 06/11/2020).

Gale publishes, on average, two volumes annually. Each volume contains about 15-20 full-text business plans.

How to search

In the upper right-hand corner of the Business Plans Handbook series home page is a “Search within Series” dialog box. Here is where you can enter your Business Type to find a matching full-text plan(s). It's best to stick with broad, simple keywords.

Keep in mind...

When you locate a matching entry, here are some items to keep in mind, as you examine your selected sample:

  • According to the publisher (Gale) all of these sample Plans come from real businesses that have experienced proven success. However, for privacy concerns, the names of the businesses and their owners are fictional.
  • All the Plans in the series are divided into sections. You can preview the sections in the “Article Contents” box on the right-hand side.
  • Some of the business plans you will see in the Series will use different wording for the headings, but two sections that always stand out are: Executive Summary and Financial Information.
    • Executive Summary: Lets the reader know about your product or service and what makes it unique in relation to your competitors.
    • Financial Information: Essentially forecasts your profit margin over a set number of years; gross income minus business expenses. If you are seeking funding, such as a bank loan, the funder (typically a loan officer) will be examining these figures closely.

Tip: If you have a counselor from SCORE, the Ohio Small Business Development Center, or another advisor, show the rough draft of your plan to them. They have great insight as to what funding sources, such as banks, are looking for.


If you prefer to work with a blank business plan template, the Business Plans Handbook series can help with that.

On the Business Plans Handbook series home page, click on the “Search Within Series” window in the upper right-hand corner & simply enter the word “template.”

Several entries marked “Business Plan Template” will appear, providing a detailed outline for the ideal business plan.

Tip: The SCORE website also includes “Business Plan Outline” as part of their “Business Briefs.” It might be helpful to look over this template too, particularly if are working with a SCORE Counselor.


If you scan the contents of the volumes published in the last 2-3 years, many of them include sample plans for nonprofit organizations.

On the Business Plans Handbook series home page, click on the “Search Within Series” window in the upper right-hand corner & type “nonprofit” (no hyphen).

You will find a number of relevant entries, many of which have the word ‘Nonprofit’ in either their business title, business name or in their Executive Summary.

Questions? Ask away!

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at IRFPublicDesk@CincinnatiLibrary.org or call (513) 369-6900.


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