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A business plan is the first thing you will create to share your vision and secure the essential funding you’ll need for your start-up – it’s your blueprint to show any potential investors that your business means business.
It’s a massive opportunity to make your brilliant idea viable and get the right support on board to back your venture – so you need to make it count. It’s like a pitch that can make or break your next move forward; it deserves your full attention.
How will it help with Investment?
A well-thought-out plan shows you know what you’re doing and, importantly, how you will do it. This can give potential backers the confidence that may sway them into investing in you. It’s often the business plan that wins over interested parties who already like your idea, but a plan makes it an option out in the real world.
What should it include?
Below are the main contents your plan should include. For more detailed advice, download your free guide from Sage here.
Break down your information into easy sections for the reader with clear points, so you can elaborate on the details in person if needed. This confirms you know your business inside and out and they can refer back to the plan with ease.
Part one: Structures and Resources – who is your business?
- Outline the organizational structure of your team. Detail how many employees you have, the management team, and the founders.
- Put a face to your business: Who are your team and what expertise, and experience will they add to the business? Highlighting any previous business achievements within the team is always a great move, too.
Part two: Business Operations – what is your business and how will it grow?
- Define your product or service clearly.
- Explain your product end price and how it was devised.
- What’s your distribution model – how will customers receive your product or service.
- Growth projection – how will the business grow sustainably, explain your steps and confirm how this will work.
- List any assets – this includes technology, specialist equipment, and any premises.
- What’s the risk? Highlight any risk or challenges that your business could face and any potential costs that could impact trade.
Part three: Market Analysis and Opportunity – who are your customers and how will you reach them?
- Demographics – profile your customers, their spending habits, and how you’ll acquire and grow your customer base.
- Your competition – who are they and how do they compare with your offering.
- A SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) – break them down clearly.
- Marketing and PR – how will you advertise your business? What’s your messaging? What platforms and mediums will you use? What’s your budget for this?
Part four: Financial Analysis – what’s your current position and where do you want to be in the future?
- Outline how your business is performing to date – highlight any positive patterns as well.
- Forecast for the future – where do you see your business in one to five years? Back this up with solid reasons.
Okay, so where do I start?
Research and a lot of prep. Approach it a step or a stage at a time, building it up gradually without cutting corners or rushing. It will always be worth it to cover all your bases and have a solid, durable piece of work to lead with.
Quick key advice:
- Research is essential – gain an intimate understanding of what’s performing well for your competitors in the current climate. Any marketplace trends and the ability to show strategy using these will be key to your own forecasting.
- Don’t be afraid of detail – providing in-depth information on your plan shows you as a confident authority on your business and all surrounding factors. Not enough could easily lose your audience’s attention, whereas smart knowledge will pull them and give them belief in you and your offer.
- Put yourself in the investors’ shoes – understand their perspective; what would you want to know if you were placing funds and trust in a new business pitch? Take an impartial approach and envisage any questions from that viewpoint.
- Brush up on business jargon – learn the lingo of the pool your business will be swimming in and the wider glossary of potential cross-examination questions that may arise when presenting a business plan. Be prepared.
Where can I get further advice?
The small business tool kit on the Sage website includes a selection of supporting documents and templates to reference when starting a small business – this is a great place to start planning, running, and creating a successful business.
Stacey McIntosh is the editor-in-chief of Sage Advice UK. He has more than 15 years of editorial, PR, and social media experience and has worked across print and online for national newspapers, magazines, PR, and marketing agencies including Metro, GQ, Men’s Fitness, International Business Times the UK, and Cool Blue.