When starting or growing a business, it’s important to have goals and visions on how you’re going to achieve your aspirations. By creating a business plan, you’ll be able to collate your future plans, goals and everything in between to drive action, bring people on board and set out your business strategy. We know that getting started can feel overwhelming, so in this guide, we’re going to walk you through how you can write your business plan and elevate your business to the next level.
7 Steps to Writing a Business Plan
1. Executive Summary
Your Executive Summary is one of the most important parts of your business plan, as it provides anyone who reads your business plan an overview of your business and entices them to read it in more detail.
This section will prove beneficial for your business, especially when you’re looking to onboard potential investors or business partners, so with this in mind, it’s worth making this section as interesting as possible to keep the readers engaged.
It can seem complex to write an overview before completing the rest of your document, however, our top tip would be to draft the rest of your business plan first, then come back to your executive summary. This will help you write your summary with points from throughout your business plan, and make it a concise, compelling overview.
2. Company Overview
Your Company Overview helps provide the reader with detailed knowledge about your company, from where it started and why your business was created, to where you aim to be and what you plan to do to get there.
It’s important to ensure that your company overview provides information which will give the reader a strong understanding of your organisational structure, what makes you different to your competitors, an overview of the products and services offered, your objectives and your purpose and mission.
This section of your business plan will aid your company in the long term, helping ensure that you remain on track as you grow, and provide insight into why your business exists as more people get involved. In terms of your business, you’ll certainly see huge benefits, in particular, when trying to attract investors, members of the senior leadership team or lenders.
3. Products or Services Offered
The products or services offered section of your business plan should be easy to digest and provide the reader with key knowledge of how your business makes its money. If your business offers something completely new, this is where you can explain how it will benefit your customers, and if you’re offering an existing product or service, you can demonstrate why it’s different from your business and how you’ll fit into the current marketplace.
Some businesses have a large portfolio of products and services, however, by spending the time detailing your specifications and intricacies, you’ll be demonstrating that you have a strong knowledge of your market and your offering. You don’t have to overthink this section, by making sure that you know the features and benefits of your offerings, you’re going to prove that you have the right fit for your customer base.
A fantastic way to receive extra credit in this section from readers is by providing an overview of your pricing model, outlining how your prices are decided and what factors can lead to potential changes. Doing this will showcase your strategic planning and understanding of the market complexities.
4. Market Analysis
Your Market Analysis section gives you a fantastic space to illustrate your expertise and the research you’ve been undertaking in the current competitive landscape. You have a great opportunity to highlight how your business stands out from the competition and how you can take an extra chunk of market share.
When writing your Market Analysis, you could consider breaking it down into two main areas:
- Demonstrate your understanding of your competitors, their offerings, strategies and market share.
- Lay out the current size and potential growth of the marketplace for your business’s offerings, you could even consider including current and future trends.
- Provide an overview of the specific types of customers your business is planning to serve.
- Describe the specific characteristics of your potential customers, right down to their age, locations and typical habits.
It may sound like a lot to dive into, however, this task can be broken down and simplified. Our top tip for conducting a market analysis is to conduct a SWOT analysis, so you can dig into your business's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to ultimately understand your current position in the market in comparison to your competitors. Outside of your business plan, your SWOT analysis will help you develop new strategies to achieve your business’s goals and objectives and find areas of improvement to elevate your success.
5. Marketing Plan
Writing a Marketing Plan can seem confusing, if you’re not sure what is classed as marketing, especially in the modern business landscape. The aim of this section should be to help your reader understand how you’re planning to position and promote your offerings to the marketplace, so try to keep this in mind when you’re writing and reviewing.
You could consider starting by elaborating on the channels you’re going to use to promote and engage with your potential audiences, and the tools you’ll use to achieve this. It’s also a great chance to evaluate and define your goals in further detail, including revenue, engagement, perception and conversion rates.
When writing your marketing plan, a great place to start is by understanding the 7P’s of Marketing, as explained by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Using this model will help you understand your business from a different point of view, allowing you to create strategies and ensure that your systems are designed for your customers, enhancing their experience with your business.
6. Logistics & Operations Plan
The Logistics & Operations Plan is the penultimate section of your business plan and gives you the opportunity to present how you’re going to run your business on a daily basis and the contingency plans you have in place.
The key things to consider in this part of your business plan include your production facilities where necessary, including the processes and systems used, a list of your suppliers and how you manage them. Another area to highlight in this section could be the different distribution channels used to get your products to your customers, along with how you manage your inventory levels, to prevent your business from losing sales to competitors due to lack of stock.
We know that it can seem difficult to explain the way your business operates without physical demonstrations, however, by taking a step back you’ll be able to provide the reader of your business plan with a beneficial overview. If you write every process you’ll be able to collate this into a document, which will also help with training when onboarding future members of staff, ensuring consistency throughout the business for years to come.
7. Financial Plan
Finally, you’ll reach your financial plan, which provides the reader with information about your business’s current and future projected financial health. This is particularly useful to demonstrate that you’re responsible with your budget and have data to back up your growth plans.
Great places to find relevant information to form your financial plan include your income statements, which would lay out all of your revenue streams and your expenses, including all costs associated with your business. You could also consider including cash flow statements, which will demonstrate all of the inflows and outflows of cash, along with a forecast of your business’s finances across a specific period of time.
We appreciate that there’s a high level of detail and accuracy required, so if you’re not already within an accountancy setting, we’d recommend considering speaking to a qualified accountant to support you with writing your financial plan. They’ll be able to provide you with accurate calculations, tables and graphs to strengthen your case, ultimately increasing your chances of succeeding in what you’re looking to achieve with your business plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits of A Business Plan?
Writing a business plan can prove beneficial to your business throughout a number of different scenarios. Whether you’re looking to start a new business, or expand your existing venture, writing and updating a business plan can help you ensure that you remain on track.
Having a business plan also helps you provide information to potential investors, lenders and consultants so that they can understand your business and make an informed decision on what you’re looking to achieve. This can lead to injections of cash or further support to elevate your business to the next level in your brand’s journey.
Why is Writing a Business Plan Important?
Having a business plan is important to help your brand grow and demonstrate your expertise in your business and the competitive landscape you’re in. By ensuring that you have a business plan, you can remain on track to achieving your goals, understand your business from its core and attract potential investors to inject finances into your company to aid growth.
Can I Use AI to Write a Business Plan?
With the evolution of AI, it’s possible to write a business plan with AI tools, by using the correct prompts relevant to your business and ensuring that you proofread the content. It’s also worth remembering to check any facts and figures provided, as AI services are not always correct or up to date, so it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure accuracy.
AI tools could provide you with a great resource to help you with the preparation of your business plan and it’s worth considering using AI if you’ve got time constraints. On the other hand, if you don’t have a deadline approaching, best practice would be to complete your business plan manually, as this will help you inject your business’s personality and your personal expertise.
When Should I Write a Business Plan?
There’s no better time to start writing your business plan than now! If you’ve already established your business and have not already written a business plan, taking the time to collate the information and create one can help you build your strategies and boost your business to the next level.
If you’re a new business, or considering starting a business, writing a business plan will help you ensure that you’ve got everything ready to set yourself up for success from the start. It will help you conduct a detailed analysis on yourself and your competitive surroundings to ensure that you have the structures in place to stand out from the competition.
In either scenario, having a business plan ready will prove beneficial when you’re looking to promote your business from a high level, whether that be for support or investment, as you’ll be able to demonstrate your passion and expertise professionally.
Writing a business plan is important for all businesses, whether you’re a new start up, or an expanding organisation and will help you receive investment and support for your business to grow. By taking the time to write, and regularly update your business plan, you can illustrate your vision and roadmap which sets your business up for success in the short, medium and long term.