Create the perfect business plan

To solidify where you want to go, creating a solid business plan should be one of your first goals in your business.

An official, written plan helps you define your vision, see what problems need solving and proves to banks, investors and lawyers that you’re serious about your business. It may also uncover opportuntities and clarify objectives for your team.

Your business plan should define your customers, evaluate your target audience and opportunities, so you can be clear about who you’re up against.

The guide below covers the main sections required, including operations, marketing and staff.

Put some time in the diary to work on a plan for your business and talk to us.

We can help you develop your ideas, gather the numbers and support you if you’ve got questions on any aspect.

Why do you need a business plan?

You may be wondering why you need a plan in the first place. After all, you have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve. You know the market, you have the necessary skills. So why do you need a plan?

There are many good reasons. Here are just a few of them:

If you’ve never written a business plan before, it can be a daunting prospect. But these 10 steps will help you create the perfect business plan.

How to create the perfect business plan in 10 steps

1. The executive summary

This is where you describe your company and the product or service that it will sell. This must be brief, to catch and hold people’s attention.

Try to describe the goal and mission of your business in just a couple of sentences. Work hard at this and try to make it memorable.

Treat this section as an ‘elevator pitch’ document – it should be succinct and easy to remember.

2. Who are your customers?

Do you have a clear idea of the type of people (or businesses) who will buy your product or service? If not, think carefully until you do.

This is one of the first questions any investor will ask you about your business plan. Have your answers ready:

3. Evaluate the target audience

There’s no room for guessing here. You need to identify the people who will buy from you. Think about the following:

The better you evaluate your target audience, the more comprehensive your business plan will be.

4. What are your opportunities?

Successful businesses think big. You might be starting small, but you don’t have to stay that way. So write down the possible opportunities for your business as it grows.

For example, perhaps you’re planning to start by selling over the internet. That’s great, but how will you get traffic to your site? How will people find you online? Will you need salespeople? If not, how will you convince people to buy from you?

As the business grows, is there scope for a bricks-and-mortar retail outlet? What other opportunities will you have if your business grows as planned?

5. Understand the competition

Every business has competition. If you don’t mention yours, investors will think you’re unprofessional – or just plain naive. Be thorough, and list all your existing and potential competitors:

That last point is important. You need to explain how your business will differentiate itself from all the others. That might be based on price, service, quality, range or value. Make sure you spell it out.

6. Build a simple financial plan

All business plans should contain some financial information. This should include the overall costs of setting up your business. For example:

Good accounting software will help you create a draft financial model. Talk to us for help and advice.

7. Include an outline marketing plan

For this section of your business plan, you need to think about the five ‘Ps’:

8. Plan your operations

Put your vision to one side for a moment. What are the daily tasks that need to be done when running the business? Include all business processes such as manufacture and packaging. Try to cover all departments too, including sales and customer service.

9. Get the right people

This is one of the most important factors. Think about who you want to hire. How will you find people whose skills complement yours? And how will you convince them to work for you?

Also, think about who you want as your business advisors. You'll need people you can trust, to guide and mentor you at times when you need it.

10. Simplicity is the key

Keep it simple. Complex and long documents won’t be read – either by you or by potential investors. A business plan should be brief, relevant and focused (you can use the Xero free business plan template).

If you find yourself getting carried away while writing, stop and take a break. Then go back and edit what you’ve written. Shorter is better. The core of a good business plan should be just a few pages long.

Plan your business around your strengths

As you write your business plan, keep in mind your strengths – and also any areas for improvement. This will help you construct a plan that makes the most of your abilities, while still being realistic. That's more likely to convince investors that you're serious.

Your business plan is a roadmap for your business – but it's not set in stone. Review it at least once a year and make changes if necessary.

Above all, keep getting feedback from your advisors.

We can help you create the perfect business plan that takes you where you want to go.

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