Business plans: A practical how-to guide

A decent business plan can add value and focus to a small businesses looking to reach its full growth potential. Getting it right is something of an art; Robert Lovell runs through some basic pointers on putting a plan together.

A business plan should help identify long-term objectives, provide a blueprint of how you will go about achieving those goals and provide metrics to check progress.

It should join up the dots between sales, HR and finance and provide a holistic analysis of a company as well as its marketplace. A business plan is much more than forecast, cashflow and profits cooked up for the sole purpose of securing investment. It should also drive your company in the right direction and provide a benchmark for ongoing evaluation.

Key content and measures

A business plan should cover objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. The best business plans aren’t long or complex, but explain only the most important information – what you want to achieve, how you will get there and the things you need to do along the way.

First, consider who will be the audience for the business plan. Is the plan needed to secure finance/investment or will it just be used for internal purposes?

All the major banks have business plan templates on their websites; however every business has different requirements and will vary depending on the type of operation and the return that you hope to realise.

Register with AccountingWEB for free and log in to read the full article, which gives more guidance on what to include in a business plan for a small or start-up business in these sections:

1. Executive summary

2. The business background

3. Markets and competitors

4. Sales and marketing

5. Management

6. Operations

7. Financial forecasts

8. Financial requirements

9. Risk assessment

10. Appendices

Presenting the plan

Tools: Pros and cons

Further reading

This article forms part of a comprehensive Business planning series  sponsored by Exact. For further advice on constructing a compelling business plan, also see:

Continued...

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Comments

WinForecast

linkcontrols | | Permalink

I always have used Sage WinForecast too, and was really happy with it, but I understand it has been withdrawn. Can anyone recommend a good alternative?

Executive summary

neileg | | Permalink

This is the most important part of the plan because most interested parties will not read the rest of the plan. You must be very clear what you are asking for and why. The rest of the plan must back up the executive summary but the summary needs to be comprehensive and comprehensible.

Or as a former boss of mine put it "If you don't say it on page 1 you won't get what you want".

re. Sage WinForecast    2 thanks

redboam | | Permalink

@ link controls: I use Figurewizard these days and strongly recommend it. It's simple and straightforward yet comprehensive and very affordable.

http://www.figurewizard.com/

Executive Summary and Cash

redboam | | Permalink

@ neileg: I agree that if the business plan is being presented to likely investors when promoting the potential of the business or for PR and similar, then the executive summary is going to come first. However those investors are also going to want to know that the plan can deliver adequate liquidity and cash flows, which in my experience are vital if the rest of the plan is to be allowed to happen.

WinForecast

linkcontrols | | Permalink

@redboam: Thanks very much! Will have a look at it now.