A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons why they are believed attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals.
Analyse your business idea
Is your idea feasible? Before you get started, find out if there is a demand for your products or services. It's also useful to find out who your competitors are and whether the market can sustain your business.
Researching all aspects of your business idea will involve gathering, analysing and evaluating information to help you write your business goals. Some questions to consider are:
• What product/service will you provide?
• Is your idea viable?
• How will you protect your ideas?
• Is there a market for your product/service?
• What skills do you need?
• Who are your competitors?
• What difference will you bring to the market?
• Do you have the financial capacity to start a business?
Are you ready to venture into business? Operating a small business is not just about working for yourself, it's also about having the necessary management skills, industry expertise, technical skills, finance and of course a long-term vision to grow and succeed.
At the outset it’s important to consider whether you really understand what's involved and whether you're suited to business and self employment. Examine these questions:
• Why are you starting a business?
• What are your business and personal goals?
• What are your skills?
• What income do you need to generate?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of starting your own business?
Once you've conducted research into the feasibility of your new business you're ready to write your business plan.
A business plan provides direction, keeps you on track and is usually a requirement when you seek finance. Depending on your business type, your plan could include the following sections:
Business Summary: A one-page overview written
after your business plan is finalised.
About your business: This is typically called the management plan or operations plan. It covers details about your business including structure, registrations, location and premises, staff, and products/services.
About your market: This is the marketing plan. It should outline your marketing analysis of the industry you are entering, your customers and your competitors. This section should also cover your key marketing targets and your strategies for delivering on these targets.
About your future: This section covers your plans for the future and can include a vision statement, business goals and key business milestones.
About your finances: The financial plan includes how you'll finance your business, costing and financial projections.
Regular review: business planning is an ongoing business activity. As your business changes many of the strategies in your plan will need to evolve to ensure you business is still heading in the right direction. Having your plan up to date can keep you focused on where you are heading and ensure you are ready when you need it again.
A business plan is a blueprint for how your business will run and reveals what future direction your business will take. Understandably you will want to be careful who you show your plan to and avoid your competition seeing it.
Having an understanding with third parties when distributing a plan could be enough protection for some businesses, however others who have innovative business practices or products or services may wish to go further and sign a confidentiality agreement with each person to protect their innovations.
It may also be a good idea to include some words in your plan asking the reader not to disclose the details of your plan.
There are a number of government services available to help you plan, start or grow your business. These services can provide general advice, workshops, seminars and networking events, and can even match you with a mentor or business coach.
Attending business events
Small business workshops and seminars are run regularly in most areas of world, and deal with issues such as planning, financial management, innovation, employing staff and exporting.
You may also find it useful to attend networking events to help expand your business. By developing networks, you can keep up-to-date on industry and local information, promote your business through new contacts and learn key skills from other businesses.
Taking on a mentor or business coach
Participating in mentoring or coaching programs can help you develop a greater understanding of business processes and practices, and equip you with the skills you need to grow and improve your business.
Before you complete the business plan template and start using it, consider the following:
1. Do your research. You will need to make
quite a few decisions about your business including structure, marketing strategies
and finances before you can complete the template. By having the right information
to hand you also can be more accurate in your forecasts and analysis.
2. Determine who the plan is for. Does it have more than one purpose? Will it be used internally or will third parties be involved? Deciding the purpose of the plan can help you target your answers. If third parties are involved, what are they interested in? Although don’t assume they are just interested in the finance part of your business. They will be looking for the whole package.
3. Do not attempt to fill in the template from start to finish. First decide which sections are relevant for your business and set aside the sections that don’t apply. You can always go back to the other sections later.
4. Use the [ italicised text ] The italicised text is there to help guide you by providing some more detailed questions you may like to answer when preparing your response. Please note: If a question does not apply to your circumstances it can be ignored.
5. Get some help.If you aren’t confident in completing the plan yourself, you can enlist the help of a professional (i.e. business adviser, or accountant) to look through your plan and provide you with advice.
6. Actual vs. expected figures.Existing businesses can include actual figures in the plan, but if your business is just starting out and you are using expected figures for turnover and finances you will need to clearly show that these are expected figures or estimates.
7. Write your summary last.Use as few words as possible. You want to get to the point but not overlook important facts. This is also your opportunity to sell yourself. But don’t overdo it. You want prospective banks, investors, partners or wholesalers to be able to quickly read your plan, find it realistic and be motivated by what they read.
8. Review. Review. Review.Your business plan is there to make a good impression. Errors will only detract from your professional image. So ask a number of impartial people to proofread your final plan.