Having a business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business, what will work and what won’t work….and makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business – your next steps, tactics and strategies.
Here are a few tips on what to include, making sure you cover the essentials.
- Executive Summary – this is a brief overview of the whole plan. Detail what you do, how your business will make money and why customers will want to buy your product or services. This is best done after you have completed the rest of your plan.
- Analyse your market – it is worth investing some quality time in researching your market.
– Look at what your competitors do – how are they successful and what makes them stand out from the rest?
– Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – then you can work out how to compete.
– Where are the opportunities for your business – why will potential customers choose your products over those of your competitors?
– Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from choosing your products or services?
– If your business is already up and running, what do your customers like about your products, what do they buy; why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business?
The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you are in, the more likely you are to be successful.
- Business description – what it is, what you do.
– Include a brief history of how and why you started your business.
– Include your vision or mission statement – factors which you think will make your business a success
– What is the current position of your business?
- Business goals – what are your business goals. For example, if you’re already in business, by what percentage do you wish to grow by this time next year? How many customers do you expect to have by this time next year?
- Management teams and employees – If you employ others, give details of your management team and employees and what their roles are.
– How do they work together?
– Do they all know what is expected of them and how they can help improve the business?
- Operations – what is in place now and what do you plan for the future?
– Look at premises you currently work from (it might just be from home). What will you do if your business expands – what premises will you need to ensure your business succeeds?
– Who are your suppliers? What happens if you lose one of your suppliers and do you have others as a back-up?
– Do you need to have any training in a specific area to help your business move forward? For example, if you’re a hairdresser, how do you keep on top of current styles?
– Is there any equipment or materials you may need to invest in? For example, wear and tear on your current equipment – or maybe you may need more advanced software in the future.
– If you run an online shop, what happens if you get overrun with orders – can you keep up with them and get them out on time with packaging and postage?
- Financials – keep a record of what you spend and what you receive.
– Are you likely to have cash flow problem – if so, how will you deal with it?
– How much does your business currently cost to run and what is it likely to cost in one year – or two years’ time.
- Marketing strategy – this is where you define your tactics and strategies to ensure that you are successful – only needs to be brief in the business plan – you can be more specific in your marketing plan.
- Risk analysis – what could go wrong – look at best and worst case scenarios.
– If something goes wrong, how will you deal with it?
– Include your contingency plan
- Measurement – this is a really important aspect in a business or marketing plan, but often something that is overlooked. Measuring everything you do ensures you know what works and what doesn’t. You can then plan a different approach if necessary.
– List what needs to be measured – such as how many people look at your business Facebook page or Tweets on Twitter. How can you improve on this?
– How will you measure your success – what does success look like to your particular business?
– Shout about your success – your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right business
Once you have finished your business plan, you can write your Executive Summary. Then leave it alone for a few days and go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. You can then make any necessary adjustments.
I can’t tell you how long it will take you to complete your business plan – every plan is different and it will depend on you. Business planning takes time – you need to spend quality time on researching and planning your business and marketing strategies.
Take time out at least once every three months to review your plan. Some things you planned will have gone well, others not so well. A business plan is a working document. It’s never finished…always a ‘work in progress’. Having a business plan won’t guarantee you success, but it will go a long way to helping!