How to write a business plan

A great idea is one thing, but turning it into a great business takes a lot of planning – especially if you need financial help to get it off the ground. It all starts with a business plan, and you’ll need to show your investors that you’ve thought of everything. After all, your idea might be worth its weight in gold, but it’s the thought and process you put into your plan that’ll make it a good investment.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that answers all kinds of questions about your business idea – from what it is and who it’s aimed at, to how you’ll to make it a success. But you shouldn’t think this plan’s only purpose is to satisfy your investors; it’s a very useful way of making sure you’ve considered every aspect of running your business. As your business grows and changes, so should your business plan. It might take a few weeks to complete – but they could be the most important weeks of your career.

What should be in a business plan?

Your business plan should be a process, a narrative and stat sheet all-in-one, with every fact and figure needed to get from concept to company. Here’s a basic structure to get you started:

The pitch

Imagine that you have to explain your business idea in 30 seconds or less. What is it? Why will it work? This should be a short, sharp summary of your brilliant idea.

Your experience

Next, pitch yourself. Who are you? What’s your background? Why are you the person who can make this business a success? If you plan to bring in others to fill any gaps in your expertise, this is a good place to explain that, too.

The product

What are you selling? Is it a product or a service? Why do people need it?

Who will buy and why?

Who are your customers? Knowing as much as you can about your target market can be just as important as your product – so go into detail on who they are and how you’ll sell to them.

The competition

Are there any similar products or services already? If so, show what they’re doing wrong, and how you’ll do better.

The logistics

How will customers pay and receive your product or service? If it’s a service, how will you get paid, and when?

Covering the cost

How much money do you need to run your business? You’ll need to show how you’ll use the money, and where you plan to get it from.

How many will you make?

Project how many you expect to sell after one, two or three years. Explain how many customers you’ll be able to service. If you can’t show a clear way to profit, investors are unlikely to offer their money.

What’s your contingency?

If things don’t go to plan, how will you deal with it? How long can you keep running? A good Plan A should always include a Plan B.

Looking to the future

Finally, if things do go to plan, what’s next? Could you expand your product range or open more outlets?

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