Business management

Five tips for writing a great business plan

A business plan is a vital document for any business. It explains your proposition to potential investors and enables you to track your progress. Here are some top tips for writing a great business plan.

1. Write a clear and compelling executive summary

The executive summary is one of the first things that a reader will review in your business plan so it should be both clear and compelling. Think of the executive summary as the ‘shop window’ of your business plan: your reader should have a good idea of what to expect and be keen to read ahead to learn more. Your executive summary should include the following information, ideally on a single page and structured in concise paragraphs:

  • what your business does

  • your goals and vision 

  • your business’s unique selling point (USP) 

  • your target market

  • your marketing plan

  • a brief overview of your business’s financial plan

2. Articulate your vision, mission and goals

A key part of the plan is the business’s vision, mission and goal statements. It can be easy to get these muddled, so it’s important to articulate each of them clearly. Here’s a breakdown of what each term means: 

Mission: A mission statement is a short, snappy and inspiring way of saying what you want your business to achieve. Mission statements often begin with emotive verbs like ‘reinvent’ or ‘empower’. Your mission statement should be easy for readers to both understand and relate to. 

Vision: A vision statement concisely communicates the values and aspirations of your business. When you write your vision statement you should express your dream scenario, whether it’s to be the leader in your market or to make a difference in your customers’ lives. A vision statement is also a great place to emphasise your business’s USP.

Goals: These reflect a business’s mission and vision and provide a useful way to track progress. The goals that you document should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound), and you should aim to outline both the long-term and short-term goals for your business. 

3. Nail your product or service proposition

Your plan should include a detailed section describing the product or service your business will provide. Emphasise the unique features of your  offering, the consumer need that will drive customers to your business and the price points for your products or services. If your business will fill a unique gap in the market or you plan to do something a little differently from your competitors, be sure to capture this here. Your reader’s understanding of your product or service and why it’s required should be crystal clear after reading this section of your business plan.

4. Analyse the market thoroughly

A robust market analysis is an important element of any business plan. Here are some key questions for you to consider when you come to write this section: 

What’s the size of the market? How many people do you think will buy your product or use your service? Build up your profile of the customer by considering their values and consumer behaviours and include evidence that illustrates the size and scope of the market. 

What is your position in the market? Highlight the unique attributes that set you apart from your competitors and conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to document the elements that might have an impact on your business’s position in the market. 

Who is your competition?  Outline your competitors’ products and pricing, assess whether they are direct competitors (companies that provide a similar product or service to your own) or indirect competitors (companies in the same market that provide a different product or service).

5. Don’t spare the details in your financial plan

Investors will be particularly keen to read the financial details. It’s vital to include all the relevant information in detail and to back it up with evidence wherever possible. A financial plan typically includes: 

Profit and loss report: Also known as an income statement, this allows your reader to see your revenue and expenses (if you’ve only just started your business, this can be a forecast).

Cash flow statement: This is an estimate of what you expect to spend and receive over a period of time

Balance sheet: This show what your business owns (its assets) and what it owes (its liabilities)

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