Writing a business plan: What you need to know
A business without a plan is like a train without tracks; it’s not going anywhere good.
Why business plan? Well, while you may be wonderful at coming up with a unique business idea or a fabulous new product, you might not have the faintest idea of how to take that idea or product by the hand and lead it across the road to success. That's where executing a foolproof business plan comes in handy.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a guide – a roadmap for your business that that details goals and methods to achieve those goals.
Without a business plan in place, we’re a pedestrian on the motorway; no lights; no walk signals; just mayhem and imminent disaster all around. While that might seem a little overdramatic, you may not even know if your business is in trouble because it’s happening in slow motion.
You can’t watch grass grow and you can’t watch a business slowly, inexorably fail.
Unless you know what to look for. A business plan creates milestones; celebrations or oops moments; moments where you either regroup or restock. A business plan gives you a clear picture of where your company should be at any given moment.
How to write a business plan?
Here’s a general overview. Every business plan should be broken down into these essential sections:
- Executive summary – This is an overview of your business; short, sharp and encapsulating the essence of your operation in a brief snapshot.
- Company description – Here we get more detailed with a longer, more comprehensive overview of what your business does.
- Market analysis – Branching out from there, your business plan now looks at the nature of your entire industry, the market you’re aiming to reach and all the likely competitors standing in your way.
- Organization and management – Here you’re going to detail your business setup, your structure, and management system.
- Service or product – What are you offering the market? Here you’ll detail every product and service and what those products and services bring to the market that competitive products don’t.
- Marketing and sales – A rather important part of your plan, this section details your marketing approach and sales strategies to get your message across to sell, sell, sell!
- Funding – Here you’ll detail projected expenditure and how much money you’re going to need for the next 5 years or so.
- Balance sheets – Detailed incoming and outgoing financial projections.
- Appendix- This bit is optional, but can include any additional information like personal resumes, building permits and the like.
How to make a business plan?
Creating a business plan from scratch may seem like the hard part, but you need to be as meticulous and ruthless as you can. A business plan isn’t some fanciful dream forecast; it is a realistic, down-to-earth appraisal of your likely success or otherwise. The two most important things to keep in mind when you write a business plan is:
- Research - That's right. This means research, research, and more research. You have to know your company inside out and your market just as thoroughly.
- Competitors - Analyse your competitors to death. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What’s your point of difference? Where can it all go wrong?
Get an expert to help
Yes, it costs money to wheel in consultants, but it could cost you a lot more if you don’t. An independent business plan adviser will operate without the emotion and lofty hopes you bring to the equation. They can, therefore, give you the accurate and objective business plan you need.