Writing a business plan

Learn the dos Need help with writing a business plan? and don’ts along with helpful tips with this insightful guide from Company Formations 24.7.

As mentioned before, writing a comprehensive business plan is vital when mapping the success of your new venture.

Whether you write your business plan yourself or enlist the help of a professional consultant to do so, it is an important step for all entrepreneurs to ensure it is created in the early days. This document will not only be a blueprint for how your business will operate, but it will also outline vital things such as the company objectives, financials, staff projections and more, all of which you will need in black and white if you want to obtain a business loan or funding from investors. It should also be revised and revisited as your company grows to ensure it remains accurate.

Writing a business plan – what to include

While creating a business plan may seem daunting, the easiest way to tackle it is to break it down into sections:

Company objective/Executive summary

This should introduce your company in a nutshell, and outline important things about the company’s values, ethos, and modes of operation. Things such as product information, marketing strategies, plans for staffing, profit, loss and operating budgets, sales forecasts, analysis of the competition and current market climate should be documented. Your business plan should also introduce key figures, such as directors, investors or shareholders, and should ultimately define what sort of business you hope to start.

Market situation summary

Here, you will need to clearly define the state of the market you are hoping to enter, along with the amount of competition. This is imperative to the success of your venture, so you should conduct ample research and be honest about the findings. You should be able to answer questions about your target market and customer base, your competitors (names, company history, current turnover), along with a detailed history of the success and popularity of the product you are hoping to sell.

Challenges and opportunities

Are there any trends in the marketplace that will be advantageous to your business idea? What threats are facing your industry, or product offering? Do the demographics of your customer base work in your favour or against you when compared to your product line and marketing strategy? What is your competition like? You need to ask these and other questions to determine not only where the challenges and opportunities lie, but how to address them in the most cost-effective and successful way.

Marketing strategy

How will you attract customers? How will you raise the profile of your branding, and publicise your product? What will the initial outlay associated with the marketing efforts be, and how will this be recouped? Thinking about things like the branding and outreach of your company and products from the get-go is hugely important, and should be an essential part of every business plan.

Risk assessment

A venture of any kind could encounter difficulty, and your business plan should address what will happen in a worst-case scenario in clear detail. For example, if a supplier or distributor closes doors, how will your business survive? If inflation drives the cost of production upwards, how will you remain competitively priced? Risk analysis and assessment is important, and will be a crucial section of a business plan when approaching anyone for financial backing or support.

A financial outlook

As a new business, you won’t have anything in the way of concrete numbers, but you should have an educated idea of how you plan to make a profit and grow your business. This means a clear breakdown of things such as marketing expenditures, salaries and staffing costs, budgets for operating premises, anticipated gross sales and net profit, and costs of production.

How to write a business plan

Every business plan should seek to make clear how your new business is different from others, and what role it will play in the current market.

Those who read it should have a clear understanding of what the business does and why, and who the customer is. To ensure this is communicated clearly, ensure the writing is in plain, easy-to-read English. Complicated words or elaborate turns of phrase have the potential to confuse, so instead, plainly state what you are doing and why. You should also make sure that the market research you’ve done is easy to read and understand, and so you may wish to have graphs, infographics and other design elements incorporated into your business plan. You should also be as honest as possible, and break down each process (e.g. marketing, customer acquisition, supply and distribution) into a clear expected timeline along with how each process will be handled so that you have a clear plan in place.

Final thoughts about writing a business plan:

  • While the temptation may be to embellish or "talk-up" aspects of your business plan, it's important to always be realistic. No business is without challenges, so rather than gloss over these challenges and propose figures or goals that are overly optimistic and often unattainable, be honest and practical when outlining solutions.
  • To ensure your business plan makes a professional first impression, ensure it is laid out with your company branding in mind.
  • Make sure it is proofread several times to reduce the chances of any errors or omissions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, shareholders, business advisers and any other sources you may want for impartial advice and feedback in order to make the document as strong, clear and objective as possible.
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