A good business plan is crucial to many aspects of running your business (note the word good, not just any ‘plan’ will do) from gaining financial backing to start your business or expand your operation, to giving your company direction and strong leadership.
So why is a plan so great? Well, it does what it says on the tin, it helps you to plan out your activities and financial goals for the year. By forward planning, you can identify potential issues before they arise and gain buy-in and support from stakeholders with your strong vision for the future. Not only does it help focus the mind and ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction, it also gives you tangible measures to calculate success and make improvements where needed.
What should my plan include?
There is a host of great templates online for business plans, but each should contain the following essentials:
- Your executive summary – this is simply a top line view of the business and is the first thing an investor or interested party will learn about your company. It should be clear, concise and most importantly, realistic. Your company in your own words.
- The opportunity and your vision – this is your chance to explain why your business is such a good idea, what it will do, how it will work and most importantly why it is needed, and for whom. This shows you know your product and your market and there is proven appetite for it.
- Marketing plan – this will encompass why you think people will want what your company offers and how you intend to market to them and ultimately make the sales. This will include sales forecasts.
- Your team – who you and your team are, for example include their specialisms, qualifications and why they are in the positions you have appointed. This will also need to include any roles and staff you plan to employ and why.
- Operations – this is how your business will operate, where you will be based, your premises, facilities and any systems you require to be a successful company such as IT and sales systems or machinery.
- Financial forecasts – this is the part that most people will ultimately be interested in, the translation of all of your plans into cold, hard figures, showing how your business will not only spend, but make money.
The idea is to keep your plan accessible and written in language that is easy to digest, this can be done by remembering it all comes down to how, when and who. How will you develop your business and manage your finances, when will you do it and who will be involved – it really is that simple.
A few top tips for writing and presentation
- Less can often be more – keep it fact-based and realistic, avoiding fluff and jargon.
- Presentation is key – it shows you are professional and serious about your venture.
- Review – it is always a good idea to get friends, family and even a professional such as your accountant to review your plan, check for spelling or errors and to point out any inconsistencies or potential issues.
- Make it easy to navigate – with a contents page, appendices if needed and a consistent font and font size throughout.
Starting a business is an exciting time, so enjoy the time you have to craft your plan, and if you are ever unsure, always consult a professional for sound advice.