Starting a business

Writing a winning business plan – Introduction

Let me begin by saying that is no magic formula for producing a business plan. If someone says that they can write a business plan for you, do not believe them.

The only person that can produce an effective, persuasive plan is YOU because it’s YOUR business. Only you can inject the right amount of passion and love for your product or service that will tell the world what a great business you have.

That said, it is always good to have a little help and this is what this guide sets out to do – show you how to sell your story in the best possible way using a tried and tested formula that I have used with countless business owners.

Why have a business plan?

Well you wouldn’t set off for a big trip in an unknown country without a map, would you? So that’s what we’re producing, a map of how you will get your business from where it is now to where you to want it to be in a year, two years, five years.

When you start a business you (hopefully) have identified a need and you have a way of fulfilling it. Sometimes the need exists or sometimes your market doesn’t realise it – yet – so you have to educate. Whichever is the case, you will have to research the market, estimate its size and work out how to communicate the benefits of your product to it. The business plan encapsulates all this and shows what processes will support it.

Who needs to read it?

Let’s get one thing straight. Your business plan is never finished. You can’t write it and then put it in a drawer, never to be seen again. You should revisit your plan a least once a year – preferably twice. Your thinking will inevitably change as your business grows and you learn more about it and your market.

You may at some point you may need some form of additional funding or capital either from a bank or an investor so this is where your plan comes into play. However, be aware that you will need to revise your plan to target your reader. Lenders and investors have different motivations. They are seeking as risk-free an involvement as possible. Banks want to be assured that you can afford to repay them and investors want a good return on their capital employed.

The Business Plan Template

As I have said before, the rule is there are no rules but there is a formula that if followed, will yield results. The following pages show the various areas that your plan should address. They are laid out in a certain sequence for a reason – they tell your story. From the Executive Summary – which is effectively your sales pitch- to the SWOT analysis it should be a smooth narrative that conveys the elements of your business in a clear and concise manner.

Don’t burden the reader with unnecessary detail or flowery language. I once saw a business plan that was over 100 pages long, guess how many people read it!

There are no hard and fast rules as to how long your plan should be, just say what you have to say and when you’ve said it STOP!

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