Business Plan Basics Part 1

Should you write a Business Plan in these changing times? Some would say no, however having a plan for what you’re going to do has always been a good idea. And it still is today.

Whether it needs to be War & Peace, on the other hand, is open to debate. If you are going to write a Business Plan, my advice would be to keep it simple. If it’s too big, then it won’t be used; other than maybe as a door-stop.

So, what should you do if you want to write a plan? Here are my Top Tips:

1. Write it yourself. 

This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen far too many people ask their accountant to write it for them. It’s your plan, it’s your business, so it should be your words! By all means, ask your accountant for a guide, or index to follow, but no more than that.

2. Keep it Simple. 

Avoid jargon, and write informally. You want it to be a living document, that you and your team revisit time and time again, so make it easy to read and follow. If you must include data, put it in the appendix.

3. Write an Executive Summary. 

Summarise your business plan in one page of A4. Draw out all the important points so the reader can quickly grasp what you do and what the opportunity is.

4. Include some numbers. 

This is the bit where your accountant can help. Include historical data, if you have any, and work on some forecasts for the next 12 months. People used to do 3-5 year forecasts, but in these tough times it’s hard enough to accurately predict what will happen in the next month, let alone the next year. So don’t overcomplicate things, and keep financial predictions to a realistic timescale.

5. Have a Sales Plan. 

Writing a business plan, and producing some great looking numbers is the easy bit. Delivering on the sales forecasts is where it gets tricky. In my experience, over 90% of small businesses won’t have a sales plan. They just blindly hope that they’ll win new business. Spend some time really thinking through how you’re going to generate your sales, and put some strategies in place to achieve them.

In the next part of the series (scheduled for January), we’ll look in more detail at step four; the financial projections.

Until then, happy writing !

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