Writing a business plan may not be much fun, but it’s an important foundation for your business that will help you stay organised and start off on the right footing. Use these tips to ensure your business plan is completely foolproof.
1. Conduct thorough market research. Use records, talk to potential customers, look into the operations of other businesses in the field. This will all provide crucial information that you’ll need before you begin your business plan.
2. Consider your audience. The length, style and content of your business plan will vary significantly depending on the reader it’s intended for. Tailor your wording and content to suit the audience, and make sure you include the crucial information that the particular reader will need to know.
3. Be realistic. When calculating forecasted sales and costs, be realistic about the figures. It’s always good to be ambitious, but restrain your optimism and try to look at your business objectively. Err on the side of conservatism when it comes to your potential profits.
4. Highlight the USP. If your business plan is aiming to draw in investors, make sure you emphasise what sets your business apart from all of the other potentially lucrative opportunities that the investor will be presented with. Why should they go with you? Show them how you can make them money.
5. Don’t get caught up in risks. It’s important to analyse any major risks that could pose a problem for your business, but don’t get carried away with analysing every possible eventuality. Starting a new business always comes with some risks, so try to think positively and have a contingency plan in place for issues should they come up.
6. Work on the executive summary. The executive summary essentially works as a pitch to anyone reading your plan. If it’s punchy, well written and interesting, the investor is more likely to show interest and read on. Try to sum up your points succinctly and raise your business’s USP early on in the summary.
7. Cover the essentials. The basic elements of a business plan are an analysis section, then an action plan, then projections. Make sure you’ve covered all of these areas thoroughly and that you’ve done enough research to cover them accurately.
8. Ask for help. Once you’ve completed your business plan, ask somebody close to you who you trust to take a look at it for you. Ideally they should have a working knowledge of business matters and some experience in the field. Have them check that everything reads well, that the numbers add up and that your proposal seems viable. Sometimes it takes an objective eye to notice possible mistakes or risks that you might have missed.
9. Point out your successes. If you’ve already made some progress with your business, include these results in your business plan. Include examples of growth, customer gains and working prototypes to show that your business has potential for growth.
10. Refer back. Use your business plan as a checking point to refer back to regularly as your business progresses. Uses it as a benchmark to ensure that things are progressing on track, and as inspiration for ideas if you’re feeling like things are stalling.
11. Proofread carefully. This is a particularly important point if you’re hoping to use your business plan to tempt potential investors. Make sure the spelling and grammar is all correct and that all of your numbers are accurate. A small mistake can do damage.
12. Update your plan regularly. As your business grows and evolves you’ll need to edit your plan to include new figures and aims. Keep updating the plan to suit your changing business- it will give you and your investors a clear picture of the direction you hope to move in.