Thinking of starting a business, but not sure what you need to know? Begin your journey here with my basic guide to business start-ups. In my role as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have talked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs about what they really need to know, not what a business guru thinks they need to know. This series is the result. Today’s blog looks at what you need to include in your business plan and why it’s useful for more than just attracting investment.
How To Write A Brilliant Business Plan
The most visible purpose of a business plan is to attract investment, but it will also clarify your thinking as you plan your business, and serve as a measuring stick as your business grows. There’s no single format, as your plan will be personal to you and your business, but remember that it needs to be readily understood by someone with no knowledge of your business idea.
Your business plan should include:
1) An executive summary, which should broadly explain what your business will do and why; where your businesses opportunities are; if you or your team have a track record in the sector or in business; financial projections; costs and funding needed. Busy investors may not read more than this before they dismiss your proposal, so make it snappy!
2) A detailed background to your business, stating what it is, what it does, what its advantages are, how it will stand out, what will make people buy your product and the business’ present position.
3) Explain your market analysis, based on research. Speak to potential customers about their wants and needs, whether they are being met and if not, why not. Explain how your product or company can take advantage of any perceived shortfall.
4) List your competitors, their areas of strength and weakness, explaining how you intend to adopt their customers, based on considerations including cost, customer service and advancement.
5) Explain your sales strategy, including marketing, how you will actually sell your product, generate growth and – most importantly – projected profit margins. If you have existing or interested customers, detail them here.
6) Specify the relevant experience and skill sets of anyone in your team, remembering that if anyone is investing in your business, they are investing in you. It’s all about reducing the risk and increasing the likelihood of success.
7) Finally, the meat of the plan: the financials. This should include realistic forecasts regarding sales, cashflow forecasts, three-year profit-and-loss forecasts, break-even analysis, and projected balance sheets.
And it can’t hurt to include a conclusion that will wow any investors by recapping all the reasons you’ve previously covered in more detail explaining why your business is a winner…
Not only is it a good idea to ask someone to look over your documentation when it is finished, but why not involve one or more professionals in creating it? An accountant can obviously help you get the financials straight, but a business mentor could have valuable input about what an investor may be looking for. And of course, a professional copywriter could help you present your business to its maximum potential. Persuasive prose doesn’t need to scream ‘Buy me!’ to be effective…
NEXT: Choosing a business format
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your first business plan to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.