Top 10 Business Plan Tips

1. The most difficult part about writing a business plan is knowing where to start. If you have lots of thoughts floating around in your head, brain dump all of these onto a piece of paper. Once you’ve done this, it’s much easier to start organising your thoughts into categories i.e. finance, how the business will work, marketing etc.

2. Don’t be tempted to write all of your business plan at once. Work on a section for a little while and then after about 30 minutes, stop. Have a break for a little while and come back to it. Most of the really good business plans I’ve seen have been written in this way and the person writing it doesn’t get stressed by it either.

3. Have a think about whether you really need a business plan. If you need funding, you definitely need to write one. But if you don’t a two or three page summary of what you’re going to do with your business is much better than a 30 or 40 page document that you’ll never look at again. I don’t actually like the term “Business Plan”. I prefer to think of it as “planning the business” which is what you are doing. You’re saying “this is where I am now; this is where I want to get to and this is how I’m going to do it.” Much better that you think about these things rather than writing a book.

4. People mainly struggle with the market research and cash flow sections of a business plan, so leave these until last. The best way to approach a business plan is to do the easy sections first. Your business plan should have the following sections in there:

Section
Executive Summary: A summary of the business plan. Leave this until the plan is written.

A summary of the business: This bit has contact details of the business and your goals for the business (where do you see it in a year’s time?).

Management: This is where you write why you wanted to set up the business, what you hope to get out of it and why you’re the best person to run it.

The business: What is your business and how will it work?

Marketing and market research: Who are your customers, competitors and market trends?
How will you market and promote the business both on the internet and off the internet?

Financial & Funding: This is where you write your pricing strategy, any funds you’re needing and the purpose they’re needed and how you came up with your cashflow forecast.

Cashflow Forecast: The dreaded spreadsheet – more about this later.

Appendices: Anything else that doesn’t fit into the above sections

When you’re putting your plan together, start with the sections you find easiest i.e. description of the business and how it will work, the management of the business, pricing and marketing. Once you’ve done this, you’ve done over half and it’s not too bad to put the rest of it together.

5. The market research section is one of the hardest bits people have to complete. So, I would advise that you break this one down and complete it in the following order:

(a) Go to http://www.yell.com and the Internet. Look for other companies who are running the same type of business as you. Go to their websites, visit them or phone them up. What do you like about them? What don’t you like? How will you be different? What are their prices?

(b) Create a spreadsheet and list your competitors with the good bits and bad bits about them.

(c) Write a summary of your competitors and what you’ve found in your Business Plan.

(d) Now let’s look at your trends. Call into any bank on the high street and ask for a “Business Information Factsheet” about your business. Print this off and ask for a factsheet about your business. This will give you an overview of your industry and is a really good starting point. You can also research your industry by looking at your industry’s trade association – they usually have loads of different facts and figures that help you back your idea up.

(e) Finally, let’s look at your customers – write down:

i) Who they are.

ii) Where they are.

iii) What they like / dislike.

iv) Why they would buy your product or service.

v) How they will find out about you.

vi) When they will buy your product or service.

You may also want to produce a questionnaire and give this to your customers to find out their views.

For the market research section, you are trying to answer the question of “Is there a demand for your product or service?” by giving the reader facts, figures and trends to prove this. You will need to show you have been thorough as this is the area that most business plans fall down on.

6. The other area that people usually struggle with is the cashflow section. For this section it is worth you getting hold of a business plan template, which you can get for free at your local Business Link or bank. Have a look at the cashflow section.

Start with your costs – have a look at the list on the left hand side of the cashflow. Go through each item one by one and see if it applies to you. If it does, when will you have to pay for it? Let’s take an example of a phone. You will probably be making some phone calls in your business. Let’s say you will be spending £20 on this every month – plot £20 in the columns for month 1, 2, 3, 4 etc all the way to the end.

Let’s say the next item is premises and you will paying the rent of £90 every three months – plot £90 in months 1, 4, 7, and 10. Do the same for all the other items in your cashflow.
Once you’ve completed your costs, you now need to look at your sales. Work out how many customers you will have a month and on average how much they will pay. Will they pay immediately or will you send them an invoice and give them 30 days to pay? Remember your sales will vary according to the time of year so take this into account too.

Now you just need to add everything up and your cashflow will be complete.

7. I would definitely recommend that you go on a business start-up course to help you write your plan. Most Business Links (www.businesslink.gov.uk) will run one in your area and many of the local colleges do now too. They will be able to walk you through the process of writing a plan.

8. Don’t get hung up on making your plan so perfect that it never gets finished. If you think “Am I doing too much?” the chances are that you probably are doing too much, so you need to stop and evaluate what you’ve done and whether you’ve answered all of your questions.

9. You might want to think about using a professional to write your business plan for you. We’ve worked with many business owners to complete their plan and all of them have been successful as we know what lenders are looking for. We usually work with people who don’t have the time to complete it themselves, so if you’d like to work with us, please feel free to get in touch – [email protected] or call 0845 644 9371.

10. Finally if you have written your business plan and would like us to review it for you for free, please feel free to send it over. We won’t send your plan out to anyone else and we are happy to sign a confidentiality agreement if you would like us to.