Business planning is essential for the success of any business. Business plans provide direction, keeps you on track and are usually a requirement when you seek finance.
Tips when writing your business plan
When writing a business plan and before you start using it, consider the following:
- Do your research – You will need to make quite a few decisions about your business including structure, marketing strategies, and finances before you can complete your plan. By having the right information to hand you also can be more accurate in your forecasts and analysis.
- Determine who the plan is for – Does it have more than one purpose? Will it be used internally or will third parties be involved? Deciding the purpose of the plan can help you target your answers. If third parties are involved, what are they interested in? Although don’t assume they are just interested in the finance part of your business. They will be looking for the whole package.
- Do not attempt to complete your business plan from start to finish – First, decide which sections are relevant for your business and set aside the sections that don’t apply. You can always go back to the other sections later.
- Get some help – If you aren’t confident in completing the plan yourself, you can enlist the help of a professional (i.e. Business Enterprise Centre, business adviser, or accountant) to look through your plan and provide you with advice.
- Actual vs. expected figures – Existing businesses can include actual figures in the plan, but if your business is just starting out and you are using expected figures for turnover and finances you will need to clearly show that these are expected figures or estimates
- Write your summary last – Use as few words as possible. You want to get to the point but not overlook important facts. This is also your opportunity to sell yourself. But don’t overdo it. You want prospective banks, investors, partners or wholesalers to be able to quickly read your plan, find it realistic and be motivated by what they read.
- Review. Review. Review – Your business plan is there to make a good impression. Errors will only detract from your professional image so ask a number of impartial people to proofread your final plan.
What to include in a business plan?
A business plan provides direction, keeping you on track and is usually a requirement when you seek finance. Depending on your business type, your plan could include the following sections:
- Title page – This describes what the plan is for and includes general information on your business.
- Business Summary – A one-page overview written after your business plan is finalised.
- About your business – This is typically called the management plan or operations plan. It covers details about your business including structure, registrations, location and premises, staff, and products/services.
- About your market – This is the marketing plan. It should outline your marketing analysis of the industry you are entering, your customers and your competitors. This section should also cover your key marketing targets and your strategies for delivering on these targets.
- About your future – This section covers your plans for the future and can include a vision statement, business goals, and key business milestones.
- About your finances – The financial plan includes how you’ll finance your business, costing and financial projections.
- Supporting documentation – List all of your attachments under this heading in your plan for a referral. For example copies of emergency procedures, maps, resumes, or financial tables.
When you have finished your business plan
- Review it regularly. Business planning is an ongoing business activity. As your business changes, many of the strategies in your plan will need to evolve to ensure your business is still heading in the right direction. Having your plan up to date can keep you focused on where you are heading and ensure you are ready when you need it again.
- Distribute your plan. A business plan is a blueprint for how your business will run and reveals what future direction your business will take. Understandably you will want to be careful who you show your plan to and avoid your competition seeing it.
- Protect your plan. Having an understanding with third parties when distributing a plan could be enough protection for some businesses, however, others who have innovative business practices or products or services may wish to go further and sign a confidentiality agreement with each person to protect their innovations. It may also be a good idea to include some words in your plan asking the reader not to disclose the details of your plan.
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