A business owner benefits from having a business plan in a written form for many reasons.
The strategy, plan and whole vision for a business is far easier to visualise if it is put down on paper than it remaining in your head.
It is easy to ‘just know’ what you want and decide how you are going to go about achieving that, however, it is not necessarily good business sense to keep it all to yourself.
It can also be easy to put a task like this off because it appears to be a ‘big’ project, however, by breaking it down in focused topics, each section can be completed more easily than you might believe.
Why is a business plan important?
There are a number of objectives that will be met when a business plan is complete.
1. A business plan is written to create a strategy that is effective for your business and its growth in time.
2. The ability to present a professional document to investors, venture capital firms and lenders provides credibility and creates a more likely opportunity of attracting them with a view to gaining financial support.
3. The financial needs of your business can be determined and reviewed.
Where do I start?
The reason for having a business plan is important. There is no point completing one for the sake of it and pitting something insignificant to you down on paper.
To make things simpler, a business plan can be considered as a longer CV, with the aims and objectives, mission and values and everything that you have in my mind about your business. This will allow you to share a credible and professional document with potential partners and investors to build interest in your business.
A business plan is a never ending work in progress and should be reviewed and updated periodically.
You might look back at your first business plan and feel reassured of the elements that have remained constant (including your objectives and values, short term vision, longer term vision in part and the company’s style and mission).
However, a business plan will change over time; it will constantly adapt to meet the needs and wishes of you and your business as you grow and develop.
There will, therefore, be some parts of the business plan that you write that you can look back on and smile because there is always a need in business to tweak and flex in order to thrive.
Your business plan defines your business
A business plan allows you to set your goals within a realistic timeframe and it provides you with a structure that you can focus on to review and build upon so that it is easier for you to make decisions and run your business effectively.
What are the benefits of using a business plan?
As a business owner, the strategic focus required can become overwhelming when things get (good) busy. Having a business plan allows you to look from ‘outside in’ to view your business in an overall arching way and in more detail.
Having things written on paper can help you prioritise and plan what you want, need and when, providing you more likelihood of success in achieving your goals and objectives.
It makes focusing on your business strategically easier so that you can make and manage any required changes (there will always be the need to flex and adapt) so that you can do your best to keep your business moving forward at the pace you want it to whilst keeping it under control.
It is important to note that it can be quite easy for a business to take control of you that will lead to overwhelm, possible burnout.
What do you include in a business plan?
The procrastination of completing a business plan may come from not knowing exactly what to include.
However, it is not complicated and if you approach it logically, it can be completed in a relatively short time.
The basic information that you should include in your business plan can be categorised in sections.
Possibly the most important section of your business plan, the Executive Summary is what will be read in more detail and should be able to provide any reader a detailed enough snapshot of what, where and how, of your business which is of course backed up with proof of evidence.
Within the Executive Summary, a business summary that includes you, your company’s name and logo, the objectives of the business, its values, vision and mission together with a synopsis of your knowledge, skills and expertise will allow you map out your strategy quite quickly.
Products and Services
When considering what you are selling, whether it is your expertise and experience within the service you provide, it is useful to identify what your ‘Unique Selling Point’ (USP) is. This sets you apart from your competitors and will allow you to plug a hole in the market because you are providing something that others are not.
Resources are something that you can easily question.
What do you have to hand and what do you require in order to achieve what you want?
Finances – what is your budget, what is in the bank and how much do you require?
Products – what stock do you already have in supply and what else do you need?
People – is it going to be you doing this alone or will you need others from the start?
Technology – a note to remember is that you should ask your Accountant to advise you on reclaiming costs on technological equipment through your start-up costs.
This is often in people’s heads but it is important to carry out research on who your target audience is. It can be easy to get carried away in what you are planning to achieve but forgetting where, in the market, your client is.
Your marketing strategy can easily be identified and then defined through a SWOT analysis because it is visually easy to work out where things lie.
With your marketing strategy in place, the pricing of what you want to charge for your products or service can be determined.
When deciding your pricing strategy, your monthly expenses and start-up costs should be considered, together with completing your cashflow forecast for the next twelve months.
Legislation, Insurance and Best Practice
All relevant legislation should be acknowledged within your business plan, including what accreditation is required that you have, what insurance is required for your business, whether or not police checks, such as DBS, is relevant and what policies are in place that you adhere to.
It is worth noting down, in your business plan, deadlines to the tasks that you set yourself for the next few months.
This provides you with visual accountability to keep you on track and provide realistically achievable objectives in order to launch your business effectively.
Why do I need a contingency plan?
A contingency plan is important to ensure that you can proactively resolve a problem that occurs before it becomes too big or far gone.
Your pricing strategy should be reviewed. Although you should make sure that you are not over-pricing your product or service it is equally as important not to under-sell yourself. If people believe things are ‘too cheap’ they are unlikely to feel they are reviving value from the product or service.
If a problem occurs and a contingency is required, this might require changing your ideal client / target audience. There may be recognisable areas that you can tweak from your marketing research that allows you to do this seamlessly.
Your marketing strategy should be reviewed and updated, as necessary. This might even lead to a change in the business model that you first adopted.
You may wish to change the product or service that you offer and this might be diversifying. A change in product might take longer to implement but if it is required, it is worth considering.
How to write a business plan
If the correct format is followed, with headings and sub-headings that should be included in a professional document, a business plan can be easily written with minimal effort.
There are many templates available and these can be useful as a starting point for your business, and whilst they may be formatted in a certain way that may help form objectives and the process in which to achieve them, it is important that you put your own stamp on it by using your own ideas and strategies.
Like any template, it should allow for nothing to be missed. It is set out for you to follow so that you can fully engage in your business plan to create a professional and credible document.
Using templates allows you to create your own style and consolidate your brand.
Your business plan is your most important document that paves the way of your own business.
AKA Virtual Assistant’s Business Plan Template is your first step to putting your best plans down on paper.