Writing a business plan is essential for anyone looking to start, or grow a business. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve - and how you'll go about it is a great way to plan for success.
1. Define your goals and the purpose of the plan
Consider what it is you want to say, and achieve with the plan. Depending on who reads it will depend on the information they want. Investors will need clear budgets, forecasts and figures, whereas a creative agency will need to know about your intended market, competitors and values as a company. If need be, tailor versions specifically for the reader in the executive summary.
2. Understand your market
It is important that you understand who your market is and what the competition is. How will you reach customers and gain access to the market? How big is the market - is it expected to grow? Are there any factors that could have a negative or positive impact on your market?
Consider what your competitors are doing - what is your unique selling point? Make sure you understand the price and cost of your industry, and consider if you are entering a competitive or quiet industry.
3. Provide the right amount of information
Make sure you provide key information about your company, the directors, any staff, products and services, competitors and so on. Information should be accurate, succinct but not too wordy. Give the facts and key information without boring your reader.
4. Get the numbers right
Budgets, forecasting, sales prediction, profit and overheads should all be carefully documented. Consider start-up costs, wages, additional staff, insurance, consumables and other fixed costs. Ask your accountant for help if needed in preparing the numbers.
Any potential investor will read this carefully, so make sure it's comprehensive, realistic and you can answer any questions about the numbers.
5. Executive summary
The executive summary is one of themost important parts of the plan. Summarise your business and impress the reader - it should make them want to read on. Providing na overview of the business and its major benefits is useful, as well as anything else that is essential to a would-be investor.
6. Review process
Spell check and review the plan - ideally get someone who hasn't been working on the plan to read it and ask for constructive criticism. Does the plan read well and make sense? Is it too wordy? This is the chance to make the plan better before taking further action.
7. Implement, monitor and improve
Much like your business, the plan should be dynamic and active, not something to forget about. Review and update the plan as you achieve goals or new challenges arise, and compare the plan to the reality at regular intervals.