Small Business Resources
5 tips for writing a business plan
3 min read
A business plan is a formal document containing a businesses goals and objectives for the future. It also provides a overview of all the day-to-day aspects of your business including a business description, market research, competitive analysis, financial forecasts and much more.
Writing a business plan gives your business the best chance of success helping you to flesh out your business proposal, outline key aspects of your business processes and gives an action plan of what you want to achieve over a certain period of time. While it can seem overwhelming, the time and effort you put in is worth it for your long-term success.
Before you get started here’s our 5 key tips for writing the perfect small business plan:
1. Research, research, research
Before you even consider starting a business you should have a good understanding of the market you plan on entering. Doing your research can mean the difference between success and failure, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything. Networking, online research and informal focus groups is often all you need. Here’s what to ask yourself before you take the plunge:
- What is the market like including its size and potential for growth?
- Is there is demand for your product?
- Who is your ideal customer in terms of age, location and other demographics?
- Do you understand your competitors and how your product is different?
- What is your estimate of startup costs?
- What marketing strategy will you implement?
2. Keep it short and snappy
Focus on readability rather than page count. Your reader should grasp the general idea of your business after skimming your document. The more concise your document is the more likely people will actually refer to it and keep it updated. Here’s our tips for keeping your business plan concise:
- Include plenty of white space, format consistently across your document so headings stand out to enhance the readability of your document.
- Include visuals and charts to show locations, products and services and help make information easier to absorb.
- Add summaries or an outline for each key section to help your reader identify key points quickly.
- Add any technical information or research data as an appendix.
3. Be professional & proof-read
Remember your business plan is often the first impression someone gets of you business and you want to impress them. A well-written and presented business plan gives the reader an idea of the way you run your business. Even if your business plan just for your eyes, you should still write and present it as if you were expecting external stakeholders to read it. Here’s our tips for creating the best possible plan:
- Proofread your business plan for clarity, spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Ensure your business plan has a title page, a table of contents and page numbers.
- Always start with an executive summary that includes the key points and purpose of the plan.
- Get a friend, mentor or a professional business adviser’s advice on how to improve it.
4. Tailor your business plan to your audience
Make sure to consider who will be reading your plan and the objective you want to achieve when writing it. If you want your business plan to resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about. Different stakeholders value different aspects of your business so it’s a good idea to have variations of your business plan for different purposes. Some examples:
- Banks & lenders are more likely to be interested in the financial section so make sure your balance sheets and cash-flow statements are solid.
- If you’re looking for a potential business partner or investor then highlight your management experience and overall business concept and strategy.
- A manager in your business may use the plan to remind themselves of business objectives, goals or the marketing plan.
5. Don’t let it gather dust
Your business plan isn’t something you create once and then forget about, it should be a living document. Your business, competition and the overall market you operate in is likely to change over time, so you should review your it regularly to make sure you’re still on track, evaluate your progress against your goals, and make any adjustments if you need to. Here’s our tips for keeping it front of mind:
- Make a habit to review your business plan at least once a year if not more.
- Don’t keep the document locked away in a draw, it should be easy to access and refer to whenever you need.
- If you do update it, make sure you keep the old copy. It’s useful for evaluating progress and makes it easier to find information.
by Michelle Ayling, December 18, 2018