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Write a Winning Business Plan: Start your own business on the right foot.
Every successful business begins with a comprehensive and airtight business plan. A business plan serves as a roadmap for your business which outlines your goals, your finances, and your strategies and provides you with a clear direction for your entrepreneurial journey.
However, writing a business plan can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never written one before. Keep reading for our advice on how to craft a winning business plan.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document which sets out your business objectives and strategies. It may be a document you share with investors or banks when asking for funding or it can be a document shared with your directors to provide a guide for your business’ growth. A good business plan will include the following data and information.
- Executive summary
- Market analysis
- Products and/or services
- Market strategy
- Risk assessment
- Financial projections
A good business plan is personal, it is important to spend time on your plan rather than filling in an online template. Yes, your plan should have all the facts and figures about your company, but it must also entice your reader, especially if you plan to use it for funding.
Step-by-Step guide to writing a business plan
Before you begin to write your plan, take time to review your information. Secondly, we recommend making a quick bullet point draft or plan for each section. This ensures you have covered all your bases, and gives you a plan for writing your plan!
This opening section is a quick elevator pitch for your reader to understand what your company is about. You want to include a brief description of your business, your mission statement (the aims and values of your company), the products or services you aim to provide, your market and your advantages over the competition. This is also the place to include information about your business’ location, staff, leadership and operations.
This will also be a good place to touch on your organisation type- a limited company carries more credibility than a sole trader, which helps make it a safer investment choice. If you’re still deciding about which type of company suits you best, read our blog here to help.
This section does two main things; an analysis of your competition (the current market), and an analysis of your clients (your target market). For the current market, you want to highlight your main competitors, how much of a market share they have, what they do well and what their weaknesses are. It would also be beneficial to note current market trends to help with future planning and show your awareness of the market.
For your target market, it is important to look at customer demographics and buying behaviour. In other words, who is your client, what age, gender etc. and what and how do they buy the products or services you plan to sell? A creative way to show this data might be through making customer profiles like a social media profile, or a Top Trump card.
Market analysis allows you to develop effective marketing strategies and position your business strategically within the market. It may also help you identify existing gaps in your market making your business all the more unique.
Products and/or services
Provide a detailed description of your products and services, highlighting any unique features and benefits. You want to explain why your product or service is different and why it’s fulfilling a need for your clients. This section should include any patents, trademarks or copyrights your business has. As an additional perk, you may want to include future plans for products or services.
This section will outline how your business intends to attract and retain customers. Using the data from your market analysis, set out a plan for marketing. This may look like: where you’re marketing, how (social, email, physical), and ideas for promotions. It can also be useful to set out your branding ideas such as noting what your brand personality is, and how this is curated for your market.
Financial projections include an overview of your financial forecasts, your income statements, balance sheets and cash flow projections. If your business has already been trading, include past versions of the same data to show growth. You then want to focus on providing realistic revenue projections, expense estimates, and break-even analysis. Finally, this section should also include data about any funding requirements you have, plans to obtain it and strategies for debt and cash flow.
Not only is this needed if you ever choose to apply for funding, but financial projections are a good way to keep your company on track and see how far you’ve come.
Similarly, you want to have a section that looks at your current budget, with a focus on all of your costs from manufacturing to marketing to staffing.
In this section, you briefly acknowledge any potential risks to your business. This allows you to prepare, should the worst happen. You want to show that you are being realistic and have an effective ‘backup’ plan or alternative strategies in place for risks.
Finally, you may want to include an appendix to include all of your supporting documents and data. You may also want to add other research you’ve done but not mentioned to show the scope of your research. These materials provide supplementary evidence and also show your drive for your company’s success. In the future, you may want to refer back to this data to justify certain decisions.
A good business plan is personal
These are a few of the sections needed to make a business plan, but before you embark on writing your own, make sure you personalise the plan and play around with the sections. For example, your business may be product-focused and in the appendix, you may choose to include samples or prototypes. Your business plan is the roadmap to your company- it needs to represent you well.
I have my business plan, what next?
Crafting a business plan is the first step. Remember that a business plan is not a static document; it should evolve as your business grows and changes. Regularly review and update your plan to ensure it remains aligned with your goals and market dynamics.
A business plan should instil some confidence in your ability to take your venture to the skies! Need more advice before you begin? Read Startup Advice our blog here. Or perhaps you’re ready to start? Find out how we can help you get your company ready and trading within a few hours.