Need a business plan template? Here is Apple’s 1981 plan for the Mac.


Business plans are often made up of four parts. There is usually a summary, marketing plan, description of the leadership team, and a breakdown of the company’s finances. When Apple’s Joanna Hoffman created the preliminary business plan for the original Macintosh in 1981 (available in full here), she added another part: the outstanding issues.

If you’re looking for a business plan template that you can use to describe your product or service, you probably can’t find a better company to emulate than Apple. Here’s a breakdown of what Apple covered in its 29-page document.

Related: How to Create a Marketing Plan

1. Presentation of the Apple product

The purpose of an executive summary is to succinctly describe a large amount of material without forcing people to read too much. The sooner you can communicate the value of your offer to others, the better off you will be. Hoffman sums up the unique value of the Mac with just four graphics and two paragraphs.

The principle of the Mac was simple: most companies sold computers in four price brackets:

  1. $ 500 or less
  2. $ 501 to $ 1,500
  3. $ 1,500 to $ 3,000
  4. $ 3,000 to $ 5,000 (or more)

However, the first two media were reserved for portable or poorly performing devices. With the Macintosh, Apple planned to create a computer in the second tranche while maintaining high quality hardware and software.

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Here is what Hoffman wrote in the Mac summary: “I currently don’t know of any products developed by the competition for Band 2 (unfortunately that doesn’t mean there isn’t [sic] any!). Serious business customers would be expected to switch to Band 4 and the job of Macintosh and VLC is to migrate the remaining customers from Band 3 to Band 2, leaving the manufacturers of Band 3 in the cold. !! “

In other words, Hoffman was unaware of any high-performance computer sold in the second price bracket – $ 500 to $ 1,500 – where Apple planned to position its Macintosh. Instead, most brands sold computers for between $ 1,500 and $ 3,000, which Apple considered to be the third installment. His plan was to create an accessible and affordable computer for less than $ 1,500 (the Mac) and an ultra-powerful option for over $ 3,000 (the LISA).

This way, users had their choice of computers and Apple avoided direct competition with other computers in the same price range.

Related: How to Write a Business Plan

2. Macintosh Markets and Software Ranking

Hoffman opened the second section of the Mac’s business plan with a simple but important statement: “The advantage of a product line is that each individual product doesn’t have to do it all.”

The Macintosh didn’t need to have the same capabilities as its other offerings, like the powerful yet expensive LISA, as those who preferred more features could simply purchase the LISA instead.

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This is why Apple has highlighted the differences of the Mac in its marketing plans. In fictional posters, Apple called the Mac “LISA’s little brother”.

You can see how Apple chose to highlight the differences between Mac and LISA in the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial, three years after Apple created its preliminary business plan. In an interview with Bloomberg, Lee Clow (one of the creators of the ad) explains how the ad was supposed to show that computers were finally accessible to everyone, not just Big Brother or the elite.

In its business plan, Apple also explained how lower costs and affordability could affect three markets:

  1. For the office: “Every day more and more managers rely on computers to help them perform their duties effectively and efficiently. MAC allows any manager to experience the automated office with minimal investment of time and money. MAC will be a rewarding first computer experience. “
  2. For education: “As word processors replace typewriters in the real world, students need to learn word processing, not just typing. MAC will help 80s students learn the tools of the 80s and prepare computer science students for college and employment. “
  3. For Home: “The Home Macintosh makes it easy to manage personal finances and records, and take advantage of convenient services such as home banking and home shopping. MAC also provides entertainment and education for every member of the family. “

Look at the language in these statements – you see words like “all” and “all”. You see Apple wants to help “the students of the 80s” – not some students or more, but all. In each case, Apple has positioned the Mac to be accessible to more people than ever before.

Related: Overview of a Sample Business Plan

3. Organization, staff and Macintosh budget

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Some companies choose to separate the Personal and Budget sections, but Apple has chosen to combine them in its Mac business plan. Much of this is because Apple’s staffing decisions have affected its budget so much.

In July 1981, when Hoffman wrote and Steve Jobs approved Mac’s preliminary business plan, 28 employees were working on the project. As of December, the company estimated there would be 63. As a result, a large chunk of Macintosh operating expenses were tied up in paychecks.

In this section of its business plan, Apple also broke down the cost of making a Macintosh ($ 397), how much it would cost to distribute the products, and the potential operating profit.

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Apple has broken down operating income for a variety of different prices, ranging from the Macintosh’s offering for $ 995 to its projected price of $ 1,495. That way he could figure out what price he should sell Macs at in order to make the maximum profit and stay in the dark.

Related: Examples of Business Plans

4. Open issues

Apple’s preliminary business plan hadn’t addressed all of the potential issues the Macintosh would face. However, in its final section, the company outlined the main challenges ahead. They were:

  1. “Europe has yet to receive much attention.”
  2. “We design our packaging to only accept a disk drive without a door. … Should we take this risk? “
  3. “Who will make the Macintosh?” “
  4. “Is our schedule realistic? “
  5. “How do you make PCS feel like a ‘part’ of the Macintosh? “

Note the fourth problem in particular. Apple wondered if its release date in 1982 was not too optimistic. Considering that the Macintosh actually came out two years later, in 1984, there was clearly cause for concern. But, Apple’s business plan has enabled the company to anticipate this and respond to it.

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

The Apple Macintosh business plan template

Apple’s first business plan helped organize its efforts for the Macintosh, and the Macintosh helped revolutionize the computer industry.

That’s not to say everything went exactly as planned. The first part of the Macintosh business plan was a product overview, or a summary. He was explaining how the Macintosh would be more affordable than any of its competitors. In the second part of the business plan, which explained the company’s marketing plans, you can see how Apple planned to market the Macintosh as a computer for the people. This idea was then clearly executed in his 1984 Super Bowl commercial.

However, due to marketing costs, Apple ended up selling the Macintosh for $ 2,495, well above the expected price. The third section of the business plan broke down the company’s organization, staffing plans, and budget, putting Jobs at the top of the Macintosh organizational chart. However, just a year after the release of the first Macintosh, Jobs quit Apple and launched NeXT.

They were massive setbacks, but life is coming. Apple and Joanna Hoffman knew this when they came up with the business plan, and that’s why the fourth and final section posed questions that the Macintosh needed to answer before launch.

When you write your own business plan, you don’t have to do everything Apple has done. You probably shouldn’t, in fact. But, you can use this outline as a template for organizing your thoughts. You can even take inspiration from it to admit that you don’t know everything. Obviously, even Apple didn’t know the future.

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