Natalie Coslovsky explains how to start a great business plan from scratch or give your existing plan a makeover.
What is your million-dollar idea? Do you want to open your own start-up? Or become a successful business owner?
Once you have the vision, all it takes is a great strategy to get you up and running. Every business strategy must begin with a great business plan.
Of course, everyone’s always really excited in the beginning. You have this great idea and you’re finally turning it into a reality. With all of these emotions, it is all the more essential that you tie down a solid business plan.
Your business plan should be a precise and detailed strategy
Your business plan is an executive outline of how you see your company unfolding, and a precise detailed strategy of how you plan on getting there.
Many companies face devastating blows right off the bat by not utilizing a business plan. Common pitfalls are not setting aside enough capital, or bringing in people with the wrong skillset. In addition, if you want to share your vision with others, be it friends and family or investors, you need to show them a perfectly spelled-out vision of where you see your company headed and step by step how you’re going to make this vision happen.
According to a study at Babson College, start-ups with business plans made twice as much capital as those without a business plan in the first 12 months. The difference between a good business plan and a great one lies in your details.
Here are the most effective ways to start your great business plan from scratch or give your entire business plan a makeover.
The key elements
First things first, you need to make sure you have all of the essential elements. Investors and partners read thousands of business plans. While you certainly want to make sure yours stands out from all of the others, these businesspeople know exactly what they’re looking for it and where to look, so make sure you keep to a familiar format to aid them in the process.
1. Executive summary
The summary is the first thing that the viewer is going to read in your business plan.
You should be very direct in this section, clearly stating exactly what you want to get from the reader. It’s also important to provide here a brief synopsis of your company’s entire business plan.
2. Market analysis
Use this space to show your readers just how much research you’ve done, and how well you know your target audience and the entire industry you’re going to be competing in.
The market analysis familiarises you with the other key players so you can focus on other aspects, such as pricing, distribution, and marketing strategies. Get specific here, listing numbers regarding the size of the market, potential for growth, and trends.
3. Company description
This section comprises a high-level analysis of how all of the different aspects of your business will come together to form your vision.
Here you should include information about the nature of your business, crucial factors that will make your business successful, and what makes your company different.
4. Organisation and management
Detail your company’s organisational structure. This consists of details about the ownership of your company, profiles of your management team, and qualifications of your panel of experts or board of directors.
5. Marketing and sales strategies
Of all of your elements, investors are looking for extra emphasis here on how you’re going to generate sales and create more customers for your business.
Define and outline each of your marketing strategies. Begin with the strategy itself and break it down into specific tactics, channels you’ll be utilising. Make sure to back up each decision with ‘why’.
Use tactics from your competitors, and remember to constantly update this section along with your entire plan, according to changes in the industry.
6. Product/service line
At this point in the business plan, you finally get to go into detail about the actual product or service your company is offering.
Make sure you emphasise not only the features of your product but also the benefits. What positive effect will this product have on your users’ lives? Establish your unique selling proposition (USP), and explain your differentiation in the marketplace.
7. Funding requirements
State here the amount of funding you will realistically need to start or expand upon your existing business. Include different scenarios of the worst and best cases.
Once you’ve analysed the entire market and set your goals and objectives, you can begin to develop your financials.
You should include in this section 3–5 years of historical data when making your final CTA.
Be realistic and be specific
Whether you’re creating your business plan to attract investors, or for the sake of your own business, to keep your entire team on track with the goals and visions, there’s more to be read in between the lines than the basic key elements in every business plan.
Remain realistic with your goals and notions. Some of your ideas may sound really good, but can you actually implement them?
Every element of your plan must be thoroughly thought out. Ask yourself: is this doable? Goals, timelines, management, you could have a flawless beautiful business plan, but if it can’t be implemented it does you just about as much good as an empty book.
Get down to the nitty-gritty and get specific. Include tasks, deadlines, dates, forecasts, budgets, and metrics. The more specific you are in your short-term and long-term goals and objectives, the easier it is to measure and see if you’re on track to meeting your vision. As you’re setting specific goals, make sure they’re both attainable and measurable. Ask yourself, how will we know if we’re on plan or not?
Think of your business plan as your platform for distributing your master idea to your audience, and also as a way to ensure that everyone in your company is following the master plan and sticking to their goals.
Make your business plan match the personality of your company and vision.
With thanks to Natalie Coslovsky at emaze
emaze offers many templates to make your business plan really stand out, and you can personalise them to feature your company’s logo to make long-lasting business impressions.
Very helpful article! Thank you for sharing.