Ah the age old question - what do I need a business plan for? does anyone actually write one of these anymore? what's the point?
Well my friends, here at Enterprise and Business Gateway we are happy to help and our blog post today focuses on the benefits of writing a Business Plan, when it can come in very handy, and what to bear in mind when you are creating your work of genius...
What are the key purposes of a business plan?
Your Business Plan is a document that describes your business, it's objectives, strategies, market and financial forecasts.
Your business plan can come in very handy to:
Assist any applications for funding or bank loans
Get your ideas formulated on a piece of paper and help you plan for the future
To look back on in the future to see how you have surpassed your expectations
What do the Business Gateway Business Advisors have to say about Business Plans?
Liz Pirrie always says that 'a Business Plan is like a shopping list - if I go to the supermarket without my shopping list - not only do I forget to buy the things I need - I come home with a bunch of stuff I didn't need.'
Gilllian Macdonald says 'You need to know where you are going, so you know how to get there. For instance, on paper - does this business look profitable?'
Fiona Gammie, our new girl on the block says: 'It is a good way to make sure that you and any business partners or stake holders are working towards the same goals.'
June Burnett says 'Its a goal setting and reference document - don't just do it and forget about it, it should be updated like a CV - yearly for instance…to help you see if you are ahead or behind where you planned to be...'
What to include in your Business Plan?
So I believe we have established that the Business Plan is rather a handy article to have, so what should be most definitely be considered when writing it...?
We understand it can be a bit daunting if it's your first one but try to embrace this challenge and put your all into it - you never know who might be reading it some day!
Who is your audience? as well as updating your business plan regularly, it should (like a CV) be tweaked depending on who might be reading it. Writing and banking a few different versions to banks, business partners, awards applications etc would be ideal approach. Think of the plan from the point of view of the reader - 'If I read this would I invest in me?'
Who are your competitors? Knowing who your competitors are, what they bring to the table, what their unique selling points are and how they may or may not compete with your service offering is really important and the research will help you understand your market so much better. This leads me to the next point…
Market Research is your new favourite hobby! Specifically focus on what opportunities lie in the market you work in along with the potential worries and threats in this market. Google is a fantastic tool for your research, just ensure that you note how valid the sources are. Business Gateway offers a fantastic enquiry service - on 0845 609 6611 with phone advisors who can help you with a variety of things such as prospective client and competitor lists. Your local council will also be able to provide you with population statistics if required.
Make sure the essentials are covered in your business plan. Go into detail of your goals, your strategy, who your competitors are, how things will operationally work, and the in-depth financials.
Using this as a funding opportunity? make sure you go into detail of the opportunities available for funding or investing in your business, the return on investment that would be available for an investor and what makes your investment opportunity stand out from the crowd - there's a lot of competition for funding out there.
Don't write War and Peace - but similarly don't scrimp on detail if it's essential - a reader should be able to understand your business after reading your business plan. You want to appear able and professional so for goodness sake please get a friend with attention to detail to review it for you - a spelling error can look very unprofessional and rushed.
Sparkling Financials - Please ensure these are spick and span and completely accurate as this is the area most likely to raise questions - revise these financials also so that you can answer questions, include costs and sales. If figures are not your area of expertise please speak to an accountant who can look over these with you.
Your Exuctive summary goes at the start of your business plan. BUT remember to write it at the end once you all other sections are complete. Have had a good read through the plan yourself before starting to write the Exeutive Summary - it should sumarise the whole business plan. Similarly to the intro of your CV - first impressions count - this will be the first thing read so it must engage the reader with the most important facts and figures. Make sure to keep it exciting, engaging but most of all truthful.
Keep it up to date. Your business plan is a continuous tool in your business to help you monitor your successes (and failures) and to confirm and monitor any deadlines and responsibilities - use it as such, and you will get the best out of it.
Last but not least - Seek the advice of your Business Gateway Business Advisor. Your advisor will ensure that this business plan fulfils it's purpose of maintaining the focus of the business. Your Business Advisor will be able to offer you constructive feedback on an independent basis. Your Business Advisor will have experience of reviewing many business plans and can impart some pearls of wisdom.
Other resources Enterprise and Business Gateway can provide:
A template Business Plan - this can be downloaded here www.bgateway.com/businessplan
We also run courses in Tayside and Grampian regions on how to write your Business Plan which are most worthwhile and include exercises which help formulate your business plan. Exercise 1 - what does personal success look like? and what does my business have to do to achieve this? they also cover elevator speeches!
You can Book on our Business Planning Course
If you would like to speak to a Business Gateway start up advisor - please give us a call on:
Business Gateway Grampian: 01224 289725
Business Gateway Tayside: 01382 443400Back to all blogs