Business planning can be a useful process for the successful company. The key to business plan success lies in being realistic from the start, and treating the plan as a ‘living document’ – something to measure your achievements against, and to update and amend as the business inevitably changes over time.
Business Plan Tips
Here are some general tips to consider when writing and maintaining your business plan. Scroll down for some useful resources to help you create a business plan.
1. Tailor your plan to suit the audience.
If you’re after investment, the tone and content of your plan will be markedly different than a plan written purely for internal use, for you to measure your achievements against your original goals, for example.
2. Pay particular attention to the executive summary
The executive summary is your chance to provide a clear statement of intent to potential partners / investors, or even the bank manager. This part of the plan appears at the very start, so you need to impress.
3. It’s a working document
A business plan isn’t something you create once, and never refer to again. You should update your plan regularly, and measure your progress.
4. Know your market
Most contestants on the Dragons’ Den are hopelessly unrealistic about their future business plans. You should research the market thoroughly, analyse the competition, and put in place some contingency measures.
5. Do your sums
Following on from the previous point, unless you are completely realistic about what you are trying to achieve, and the potential obstacles which stand in your way, then your financial projections will be wrong. Always be conservative with any sales or profit predictions, rather than the other way round.
6. Your management team
Include some background to the people behind your business. What skills does each individual provide?, and what roles and responsibilities do members of the team have? Just compiling this information may help you see if you have any gaps in expertise which may hinder your future chances of success.
If you are writing a plan with investors / business angels / potential partners in mind, you should provide details on how and when investors will see a return on their money. Again, be realistic with your figures, and be prepared to back up any questions you are asked with solid, well reasoned forecasts.
Many company owners forget to work out how they plan to deliver their goods or services to market. You may have identified a clear demand for a product, but you have to brand, package, and distribute the product first, before you can start to make money.
9. Keep a structured layout
Most business plan experts will recommend you keep your plan within a certain structure. For some examples of commonly used sections in a business plan, try the further resources below:
10. Useful Exercise
Even if you have a cynical view of business planning, you may be surprised at how useful the exercise of writing down your thoughts, visions and hopes for the future can be. You may identify pitfalls in the way you currently plan to run your business, or identify areas where your company is inefficient.
Business Plan Templates
You can find a wealth of business planning resources online. Try The Prince’s Trust as a starting point for a good, downloadable template (Word).