Need a Business Plan Template? Here Is Apple's 1981 Pla…


If you want to write a business plan, Apple’s plans for the Macintosh can help.

7 min read

Business plans are often composed of four parts. There is typically an executive summary, a marketing plan, a management team description and a breakdown of company finances. When Apple’s Joanna Hoffman created the preliminary business plan for the original Macintosh in 1981 (available in full here), she added one more part: open issues.

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

Related: How to Create a Marketing Plan

1. Apple Product Overview

The point of an executive summary is to succinctly describe a large amount of material without making people read too much. The quicker you can get others to understand your offering’s value, the better off you’ll be. Hoffman summarizes the Mac’s unique value with just four charts and two paragraphs.

The Mac’s premise 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 brackets were reserved for handheld or low-performing devices. With the Macintosh, Apple planned to create a computer in the second bracket while still maintaining high-quality hardware and software.

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Here’s what Hoffman wrote in the Mac’s executive summary: “I currently know of no products being developed by competition for Band 2 (unfortunately this doesn’t mean there arn’t [sic] any!). One would expect serious business customers will move up to Band 4 and the job of Macintosh and VLC is to migrate the remaining Band 3 customers to Band 2, leaving Band 3 manufacturers out in the cold!!”

In other words, Hoffman was unaware of any high-functioning computers being sold in the second price bracket — from $500 to $1,500 — where Apple planned to position its Macintosh. Most brands sold computers instead for somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000, which Apple considered the third bracket. Its plan was to create an accessible, affordable computer for less than $1,500 (the Mac) and an ultra-powerful option for more than $3,000 (the LISA). 

That 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 does not have to do everything.”

The Macintosh did not need to have identical capabilities to its other offerings, like the powerful-but-expensive LISA, because those who preferred more functionality could simply buy the LISA instead. 

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That’s why Apple played up the Mac’s differences in its marketing plans. In mock posters, Apple labeled the Mac as “LISA’s little brother.” 

You can see how Apple chose to emphasize Mac’s differences from 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 creatives on the ad) explains how the ad was meant to show that computers were finally accessible to everyone, and not just for Big Brother or the elite.