How to Write a Business Plan and Business Plan Template

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What is a business plan?

Starting a business is exciting. You are overflowing with ideas, you might be tempted to rush your plan to get to the fun stuff.

But a business plan isn’t something you write down when you settle down and never see it again. You’ll refer to it often, making sure you achieve your goals and make the most of the brilliant ideas you came up with at the start.

And if you’re looking for funding, your business plan needs to convince people to support your idea.

So it’s no exaggeration to call your business plan the “bible” you’ll use to build your business.

And although business plans come in different formats, most of them include the same main sections. If you want to read a sample business plan before you get started, find out where to get one below.

Examples of business plans

Before you start writing, it can be helpful to get inspiration from other business plans.

Whether you are looking to start a business as a candle maker or a dog walker, read some examples of business plans to familiarize yourself with how to approach your type of business.

Once you have an idea of ​​how other businesses have written their business plan, it’s time to start writing your own.

How to write a business plan: step by step

Hhow to write an executive summary for a business plan

The executive summary is placed at the beginning of your business plan. Since this is a snapshot of your plan, it’s often best to write it last.

This section is common to many business documents, from client reports to business proposals for new projects.

It’s designed to hook readers into your idea, providing insight into your plan – including what makes you different, how you’ll take your ideas to market, and how much money you expect to make (and spend).

As the executive summary is at the beginning of the document, it is important to make a good impression on your readers. We have a guide on how to write an executive summary, with a quick six-paragraph outline you can use to structure yours effectively.

Your business

This is where you jump in and start talking about your idea. This section should include:

  • the problem – what is the need for your company? What is the problem you are solving, or what is the opportunity? Why would people want what you sell?

  • the solution – how do you solve the problem? What will your business do? How does it meet the needs you have identified? And above all, how is it different?

  • your story – How long has your business been established? If new, what is your experience in the sector or industry?

The market

Here you explain the industry trends and competitors you face. This is where you include the market research you have done.

This research can be quantitative (based on measurable data and statistics), qualitative (based on the collection of individual experiences and opinions), or ideally both. This section should answer:

  • where you sell (and to whom) – Who are your potential customers and what are their characteristics? How are you going to target them? How many customers are you targeting? Will this number increase? Where are these customers shopping right now? Do you have existing customers or confirmed orders?

  • market trends – how is the market evolving? Is it growing? Are tastes changing? What are the reasons?

  • the competition – a competitive analysis answers questions about your competition. How will you attract customers from your competitors? What advantages and disadvantages do you have against them? How do you think your competitors will react when you start? How are you going to respond?

SWOT analysis

SWOT represents strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is a very important part of your business plan because it helps you flesh out your idea. You typically format a SWOT analysis in a one-page grid – four squares, one for each section. Then you take notes in each box.

Formatting the SWOT analysis in a grid helps you see how the different elements of your idea interact. For instance:

Completing SWOT charts for your competitors should also help you see how to win business with them.

Learn more about creating a SWOT analysis.

Strategy and execution

Now that you have done an analysis, in this section you can explain how you will actually run your business.

Here you will include a number of subsections:

  • marketing and sales – explain your product and service in more detail, including its features and benefits. Talk about your pricing strategy and how you will promote your product. And how exactly are you going to sell? What channels will you use? Is it direct to the customer, online or through other retailers?
  • operations – where are you located and what premises do you envisage? Is it suitable for long-term growth? How will you keep accurate records (for example, of Stocksales, accounting and quality control)?
  • your team – are you the only one running your business or are you planning to hire staff? How will you structure your team? Describe the experience of each team member and what they bring. You can also include any outside advisors and experts you use, such as accountants

finance

Here you break down the numbers – especially important if you’re looking for an investment. Financial statements must be realistic, accurate and watertight.

Here’s what to include, presented in raw numbers and graphs:

  • sales forecasts and cost of goods sold – estimate what your future sales will be, listing the goods or services you sell and the cost of each unit. From there you can estimate the profit

  • a profit and loss provide – an overview of sales, cost of sales, overheads, profit and loss
  • cash flow statement – cash flow is what keeps you afloat – without money coming in, you can’t run your business. The cash flow statement shows you how much money you’re generating over a specific period of time, as well as what you’re paying. Learn more about writing a cash flow forecast
  • balance sheet – shows an overview of your finances at a specific time. It summarizes your assets (what you own), your liabilities (what you owe) and your equity (the net difference when you subtract the liabilities from the assets)

The details you need here depend on what stage you are at with your business, as well as the size of your business. You may want to seek expert help and guidance in analyzing forecasts.

Appendices

Although the business plan itself is not long and complicated, you may choose not to include information in the body of the plan itself that people should refer to.

This can include graphs, tables and notes. You can point out relevant appendices that people should consult throughout the body of the business plan.

Top tips for writing a business plan

When using business plan templates, keep the following in mind.

  1. Know your audience. Remember who you are writing for – is the business plan primarily for your own use, or are you looking for a loan or even an equity investment? Keeping your audience in mind will help you stay on track.

  2. Be concise. Keep your plan quick. While you don’t want to miss any crucial details, you also need to keep people’s attention spans in mind. Don’t hand in a 100-page plan.

  3. keep it simple. It’s likely that your plan will be seen by people who don’t have intimate knowledge of your industry, so you need to make sure it’s written in language that’s accessible to people without specialist experience.

  4. Don’t forget the presentation. Tables, graphs and charts can help you convey information better than blocks of text. It is also worth thinking about how to “present” your plan to investors, possibly in a presentation that outlines your plan.

Ready to go ? Insure your new business now

It’s important to consider business insurance when you’re starting out, as it protects you in case something goes wrong.

Most businesses should consider liability insurance, which covers you if a member of the public becomes ill or injured and blames your business.

Other coverages to consider include employers’ liability insurance (usually a legal requirement if you have staff) and professional indemnity insurance, if you are advising as part of your business.

Read more articles about starting your business:

Becoming self-employed in the UK: a guide to getting started

Which bank has the best business bank account?

How to register as a freelancer

What is business insurance?


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