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A Grown-Up Guide To… Business plans

What is it?

According to www.gov.uk, a business plan helps you to clarify your business idea, spot potential problems, set out your goals and measure your progress.

 

Who does it affect?

Anyone who owns or manages a business.

What you should do…

Keep it short and focused.  You don’t have time to write a 100-page document, and no-one will have time to read one.  A business plan is supposed to be a useful tool, something you use and refer back to, helping you stay on track and achieve your goals.  Keep it to a couple of pages.  It’s not useful if it ends up relegated to a filing cabinet.

There is some key information you should include when you write your plan:

 

A summary

It goes at the front, but write it last.  Use it to highlight the key points, what you are going to do, when it’s going to happen, who’s going to do it and the results you expect to see.

 

Opportunity

Who are you and what you do?  What problem are you solving or what unique service are you offering?  What are your competitors doing, what makes you different?  Define your target audience.  Who are your customers, how do you communicate with them, how do they find you?  What are the gaps in the market?

 

Objectives

What are you going to achieve in the next 12 months?  What’s the success measure?  Use the SMART criteria to help you structure your objectives.  Think about business goals, specific projects, sales and marketing, finances and HR.  Your objectives can relate to any element of your business.

 

Execution and resources

Go through each of your objectives and think about resources.  Do you have the necessary talent and capacity in your existing team, do you need to outsource some things, or hire more people?  If you need to hire, what’s the role you need to fill?

Think about financing your objectives if they need funding.  Do you have sufficient cash reserves, will your cashflow cover the expense, or do you need to source investment?

Also use this section to think about your marketing activities.  How are you going to tell people about your business, how do you retain existing customers and keep them engaged, how will you generate new business?

 

Timeline

Write down a simple timeline to structure what’s going to happen and when you expect to see results.

 

Budget and forecast

Create a monthly budget to include your expected costs, revenues and profits.  Think about your overheads and any investments you will make in the business.  Think about retained customer revenue and new customer revenue.  Including more detail here will make it easier to track and refine your plan throughout the year.

 

Contingency planning

Think about some ‘what if’ scenarios so you know what you will do if something happens.  What happens if you lose your biggest client to a competitor?  What happens if a key member of your team resigns?

Contingencies don’t all have to be bad, they can be good as well!  What happens if you win a significant new contract, do you have the capacity to deliver it or can you scale up quickly?  What happens if you achieve all your objectives in the next 6 months, what will you do next?

If you need some assistance with this section, check out our guide to business continuity.

 

Once you’ve written your plan…

…it’s important that you use it.  Refer back to it monthly.  Check your objectives, timeline and budget to ensure you are on track and are achieving everything you set out to do.  Things change, so refine the plan to make sure it stays accurate and relevant.  It’s a business tool but tools can only help you if you actually pick them up and use them.

 

Need more information?

A google search will bring up some useful online resources.  The Princes Trust produce a really good guide to writing a business plan.

If you’d like some help writing your plan or if you’d like someone independent to have a look at what you’ve written then #talktoagrownup.  We’d love to help you do more business, with more people, more profitably.

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