A business plan is, essentially, a guide to your business and how you’re planning to run it. It details how you’re going to make money, what staffing and resources you need and all the other elements of how to turn your idea into a prosperous business.
A well-thought-out business plan is an ideal foundation for every start-up, but it’s often overwhelming to know where to start. From corporate lingo to rules and regulations, it’s a bit of a minefield if you’re new to the world of business.
Let’s break it down into simple tips and get you writing a booming business plan without the stress.
#1. Understand Why You Need a Business Plan
Many people think a business plan is just a hoop to jump through to secure funding. This isn’t the case. Even if you don’t need to secure investors, it’s a worthwhile document to help with:
- Setting out your strategy and scope
- Researching the market and your competitors
- Targeting your audience
- Understanding what finances, staffing and resources you need
- Identify potential issues and ways to overcome them
In short, it’s a mind map for everything relating to your new venture and a great way to document your plans. Of course, potential investors will also use the information to decide if they want to help fund the business, so it’s you must get it right if you need financial support.
#2. Decide How to Display Your Information
There’s no set format for how to write a business plan. Some people will create visual infographics and charts whereas others prefer to stick to text. It’s entirely up to you how you want to structure the document, just make sure you include all relevant details in a way that reflects you.
Deciding the purpose of your business plan will impact your choices. Some people prefer to create a shorter version for specific tasks, such as the onboarding process with new staff. If you’re looking for investment, more detail in a longer plan is better.
A summary page, or “executive summary” at the start is recommended to showcase the key details at a glance. A few other touches, like a front cover and contents page, also help to make it look more professional.
#3. Find Templates
If you find yourself staring at a blank screen with no idea of where to start, find a template. There are all kinds of free templates available online. Even if you don’t want an exact copy, it’s a great source of inspiration.
Decide which headings you want to include and piece together the skeleton of your document. Once this is in place, it’s much easier to fill in the blanks with all of the important details.
#4. Get Professional Help
This isn’t a step that everyone will want to take, or even be able to afford. But if you can, finding a financial consultant with experience in creating and reviewing business plans is invaluable.
They can offer knowledge you may not have or save you a whole load of hassle if you find you’re stretched too thin to commit the necessary time to the task. By outsourcing this to a professional, you can focus on other key elements of building your business while ensuring you get a high quality business plan at the same time.
#5. Write About You
It’s your business, so it makes sense to write about you. But what are you saying? In short, you want to say who you are and what you do.
Identify your business’ name, what services or products you offer and what makes you unique. Then explain why investors should invest in you and why customers should choose you over your competitors.
Make it crystal clear what industry you’re in and your objectives. A vision and mission statement is a concise way to display your goals for the future. Some of these are easy to include, while others, like your vision, require a little more thought.
#6. Research, Research, Research
We cannot stress enough the importance of research. It helps you to understand if there’s a gap in the market for your business and how to target your audience in the best way.
This is important to help you shape your business, but it’s also some of the major information any potential investors will want to know.
Gathering as much data as possible will go a long way here. You will have to make educated guesses for what the future holds, but looking at government statistics and other quantifiable data helps to keep it as accurate as possible. If you’re not correctly informed, you’re setting yourself up for potential failure.
Investors will also spot a lack of research a mile away and won’t want to invest in you.
As well as looking at competitor research, understanding your target audience is key. When you know what they look like and what drives them, it’s easier to create a marketing strategy to pinpoint them directly. It includes the language you use, even in your business plan!
#7. Create a Financial Plan
Finances are key when it comes to business, so having a financial plan will help you to keep on track as well as secure any investment you need.
As a minimum, include details of:
- Income and expenses
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet (detailing assets and liabilities)
- An exit strategy for investors
The more detail you can include here, the better your chances of finding someone willing to invest and keeping your business in good financial standing. For those not looking for funding, planning finances is still an excellent tool to help you make strategic decisions.
#8. Review Your Business Plan
When you’ve finished writing your business plan, it’s time to review it. How you come across in the document reflects on your business, so you want it as flawless as possible.
It’s your chance to look for any spelling errors, misplaced punctuation or typos. You also want to ensure you have a consistent tone of voice throughout the whole document, as well as displaying all the key information you want to get across. Ask other people to have a read through with fresh eyes. They’re more likely to spot any errors you’ve overlooked.
It’s Time to Get Your Business Plan Going
Creating a business plan takes time and effort, but it’s a strong foundation for a successful venture. Try not to feel overwhelmed and break it down into these simple steps.
Whether you’re writing it for your own needs or as a way to pitch to investors, you’ll find you rely on your business plan more and more to keep you on track. Now, you’re equipped with more tools to get your plan going and to move your business forward.