You’ve come up with a great idea for a business and now you can’t wait to get going. First things first - it’s time to write a business plan!
What is a Business Plan? 🧐
Whether you’re writing your business plan for potential investors, or simply as a key step in defining your future business goals - a cohesive business plan will allow you to really dive into the inner workings of your idea, outline a scenario of possible cash flow and evaluate whether it’s sustainable - ultimately helping you to spot any problems that might crop up. It will also serve as a plan for future growth, while helping you to stay focused when you’re faced with differing opinions.
Think of it as a business roadmap of what you want to achieve with your business and the steps you’ll need to go through, in order to reach success. Afterall, if you want to reach your destination, you’ve got to plan your route first, right? 🚗
Whilst there’s no one way to write a business plan, there are key elements that should be included. Go over these areas in a logical, concise manner, avoiding any unnecessary waffle and you’ll have a crystal clear vision, that will help you and any future employees to stay on track.
What’s your business idea? 💡
In this section of the plan, you need to explain exactly what your idea is in accessible, easy to understand terms. Write a brief description of what your products or services are and keep any technical terminology as simple as possible. Think about who your future investors might be and who will be reading your plan - will they understand what you’re trying to do? Remember, not everyone is a data scientist, banker, etc. 🤓
Explain who your target audience is. Talk about what you plan to do and what your key objectives are. What problem are you solving? Is there a gap in the market? Are you offering something unique or are there parity products or services that are already trying to solve that problem?
Set Your Goals ✅
Once you’ve identified your key objectives, it’s a good idea to set a few short and long term goals, and think about how you’ll measure these.
Remember, your goals need to be SMART, meaning:
Be specific about the goal you’re setting. Number of orders per day, visits to your site, read time of your blog articles.. Anything that is in line with your business objectives.
Your goals need to have a clear way of being measured, so that you know you're on track and the data about your performance is indeed correct. Make sure that your process is set up and you're able to correctly capture your progress. For example; if your process isn't optimal for knowing how many leads you get after sales calls - either change your objective or optimise your process.
Make sure that you aren't setting the bar too high for your objectives. If your business is not in a position to attain those numbers, you might lose focus on the way and need to re-evaluate your output in terms of what you need for your business to achieve during its first year.
Are your goals really relevant to the objectives you want to achieve? For example; if you base your success on how many times an article was read on your blog, this might not necessarily be relevant to making more sales and hence will not give you an optimal focus.
When do you want to achieve these goals by? Set a time-frame for your goals with expected results until a certain dead-line. "We will reach 500 sales until Q1 of next year", "We will have our product in 100 stores in 6 months" - you get the idea. Make sure your time window for achievable goals is realistic and not too far ahead into the future.
Outline your credentials and the people you want to hire 👨🏻💻
Whoever reads your business plan needs to know that they can trust in the management of your business. So, describe the experience you have that’s relevant to the business you want to open. Have you previously worked in a similar field? Do you have transferable skills that are relevant, or life experience that gives you an edge? Think about the qualifications you have, courses you’ve completed and the ways in which you can put all that knowledge to good use, in your new venture.
Next, write about the key personnel you’ll need to hire to ensure the smooth running of your business in reaching your objectives. How many staff will you need and how soon will you need them? 🤷
Consider how you’ll deliver your product or service to the customer and then you can pinpoint the people you’ll need to hire in order to do that.
Think About Operations ⚙️
Go over any details or processes that are essential in running your business, as well as any industry specific licences, legalities and taxes that you’ll need to comply with. Depending on the type of business you want to open, this section has varying factors. For example, will you need an office or will you start a business from home? Do you need a warehouse? Do you need to work out the logistics of your deliveries? Factor in any equipment you might need or special tools that are necessary for your business.
Marketing and Sales Strategy 📊
You know what your business is, but other people don’t. How are you going to attract those customers? The ‘if you build it, they will come’ metaphor doesn't apply in business, so you’ll need a clear strategy with tangible results.
Think about your unique selling point and how you’re going to convey that to your potential customers. Know who your target audience is. Create a persona of your ‘ideal customer’ types - give each a name, think about their occupation, what their salary is and the problem they have which you’re solving. 🕴
By knowing your customer, you’ll be able to clearly communicate with them in a way that will get you results. Keep your message clear, unfiltered and relevant.
Talk about how you’re going to spread the word and think about the costs of doing this. You might want to consider a social media campaign on Facebook or Twitter, paid search ads on Google Adwords, direct mail or an email marketing strategy. There are many ways to connect with your audience and most businesses will have a preferred method that works for them. Monitor the results of your efforts so that you can better understand how your product or service is best received.
Financial plans and projections 📈
They say the numbers never lie and in this section you’ll be converting everything you’ve just said into figures. This is the section that investors are really interested in and it’s where you’ll clearly see how viable and scalable your idea is. This is the part of the plan that will really lay bare whether your business is sustainable, or whether it’s best to crack on with something else.
Think about the funds you’ll need to grow, the expenses you’ll have and the money you expect your business to make within a specific time frame. Complete a cash flow forecast and include it here! This is a key step for helping you to plan for the future, gain control of your finances and have a solid understanding of the financial aspects of your company. 💰
If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Small business advisors or business support organisations may offer financial forecasts for free, so it’s worth doing your homework if this isn’t your area of expertise!
Once you’re up and running you can open a Revolut Business current account to make easy international payments and integrate your favourite apps to make managing your money that much easier.
Executive Summary 💼
This section should come at the beginning of your business plan and it should be a very brief summary, listing the key points of your business in its entirety
The reason you should write this last is that it will be much easier to formulate once you’ve completed all the other sections of your business plan.
In a nutshell - it’s important to be clear, avoid waffle and be creative! If you can include graphs and infographics to make your plan visually appealing - even better! Remember, if it takes too long to write, it will take too long to read.
Include anything that can clearly illustrate the unique elements of your business and why people should be excited about it. This will make your business plan stand out from the sea of other hopeful businesses and ensure you give your idea a fighting chance of success.
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