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- Business and self-employed
- Business finance and support
Write a business plan
Download free business plan templates and find help and advice on how to write your business plan.
Business plan templates
Download a free business plan template on The Prince’s Trust website.
You can also download a free cash flow forecast template or a business plan template on the Start Up Loans website to help you manage your finances.
Business plan examples
Read example business plans on the Bplans website.
How to write a business plan
Get detailed information about how to write a business plan on the Start Up Donut website.
Why you need a business plan
A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.
A business plan helps you to:
- clarify your business idea
- spot potential problems
- set out your goals
- measure your progress
You’ll need a business plan if you want to secure investment or a loan from a bank. Read about the finance options available for businesses on the Business Finance Guide website.
It can also help to convince customers, suppliers and potential employees to support you.
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How to write a business plan
- Starting Up
A robust business plan is crucial to the success of your new business.
A well-written business plan is important when you’re about to start a business opens in new window .
A business plan is a document that gets to the heart of what your business does, how it works and – most importantly – what makes it different and what will help it succeed.
A good business plan should:
- explain your business objectives opens in new window ;
- be a roadmap that can help you achieve your business objectives;
- highlight potential problems so that you can avoid them impacting on the business;
- identify opportunities and gaps in the market opens in new window ;
- detail shortcomings such as running out of money;
- provide information to help secure a loan or investment opens in new window .
A business plan should be a living document.
Rather than file it away, use it to monitor progress and keep your new business on track.
Starting a business doesn’t come with a set of instructions.
We know that understanding the many different types of financial product in the marketplace can be difficult.
Our Making business finance work for you guide is designed to help you make an informed choice about accessing the right type of finance for you and your business.
Download your free copy
Writing your business plan
This guide will help you research opens in new window and write a good business plan.
It covers presentation and the audience you are writing for, the sections and information to include.
- Business Plan Structure – How to structure and order your business plan, and how long it should be.
- How to approach writing a business plan – Writing for your audience and what your plan should include.
- Business objectives – How to define your business goals over the short, medium and long term.
- Skills and experience – How to detail your experience, and how you’ll tackle any skills gaps opens in new window .
- Target customers – Who your customers are, and what your pricing approach opens in new window is.
- Market and competitors – How to analyse competitors opens in new window and identify market trends.
- Sales and marketing – What promotional activities you’ll use to attract customers opens in new window .
- Operational plans – How to define staffing opens in new window and premises needs opens in new window .
- Financials – What financial information to include, such as breakeven points and margin.
- Appendix – What to put in the appendix at the back of your plan.
1. Business plan structure
It’s important to get the structure right.
Make sure your plan is readable, clear, and easy to understand – and base your content on evidence.
To see a detailed example of a business plan structure, download our free business plan template opens in new window .
- Length – Keep the length to a 15-minute skim read, including only essential information. Put additional detail in the appendix for further reading.
- Executive summary – This appears at the beginning of the Business Plan and should be the last thing you write, summarising everything that is covered in the Business Plan. This includes the business opportunity, customer need, your business proposition and why it will be different in the market.
- Structure – Keep everything simple, using short paragraphs and bullet points, and include relevant graphs and tables, if appropriate. If using statistics, list the source of the information.
- Language – Avoid technical jargon and ‘management speak’, sticking to clear, concise language in plain English. Get a friend to proof read it for spelling errors and to highlight parts that aren’t clear.
Some things are best left out of a good business plan.
Avoid fancy graphics, needless animation and distracting sound effects.
Use readable font sizes – too much small text can make your plan hard going.
2. How to approach writing a business plan
The foundation of any good business plan is research.
You’ll need to find out about your market opens in new window , calculate revenue forecasts opens in new window , and learn about target customers opens in new window .
A good business plan should answer crucial questions about your business.
- Work backwards – Start with your business goals or when you think that your business will start making money, and work back to figure out what you need to do to make your business profitable.
- Be realistic – Make the financials realistic, and look at worse case scenarios so you get a view of what could go wrong and what you would need to do to put things right.
- Be honest – Highlight weaknesses in the market and your business, then detail how you’ll address them and include that in the plan.
- Review the plan – Read the plan from your audience’s perspective, and double-check assumptions. Are they realistic, what could go wrong, and how would you handle a problem that cropped up?
3. Business Objectives
Business objectives opens in new window summarise what your business does and what it offers.
This section should be no longer than a few paragraphs or a single slide, providing a top-level summary of your business.
- Define your business – What does your business do? What services does it provide? opens in new window Who will access it and how much will you charge?
- Be specific – Avoid generic, one-word descriptions such as ‘ hair dressing ’ or ‘plumbing’.For example: Instead of simply writing ‘” Dog grooming opens in new window “, a better description would be: “This is a mobile dog grooming business, delivering grooming services, nutrition and exercise advice to dog owners throughout Hertfordshire. Our fleet of dog spa vans provide tailored treatments using only organic products to your doorstep.”
- Short term objectives – List what your business will achieve in the next year, or its first year of operation.
- Medium – long term objectives – What are the business goals including financial targets in the next one to two years?
Use S.M.A.R.T. objectives to help set your business goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – and list both financial and non-financial goals, such as the impact it will have on customers and how your brand will be viewed opens in new window .
For help with setting goals, read our guide on setting business aims and objectives opens in new window .
4. Skills and experience
It’s important to show how your previous experience and skills opens in new window make you qualified to start your business.
A few lines on your experience and skills is useful here.
It’s a good idea to attach your CV as an appendix to the business plan for additional information too.
- List relevant experience that directly relates to the new business, along with key skills that will be helpful for your start up.
- List relevant education, courses and transferrable skills such as bookkeeping opens in new window or using Microsoft Office. Explain how they’re relevant.
- Be honest about skills and experience that you lack. Explain how you’ll address this, such as training opens in new window , hiring specialist staff opens in new window or outsourcing elements opens in new window of your business.
5. Target customers
Customers are the heart of any business plan.
It’s essential to show that you understand potential customers and know what they’re looking for from your products and services.
There’s a variety of ways to learn opens in new window about your target customers, including online research, focus groups and surveys.
This information will allow you to choose the right marketing channels opens in new window to offer the ideal product at the right price.
- Include customer demographics – Summarise gender, age and average income or expenditure.
- Location, location, location – If your business is based on footfall, such as a coffee shop opens in new window , or it covers a geographic area such as mobile dog grooming, detail the location of your customers. If it’s an online business opens in new window , your reach might be nationwide, but again show the target demographic, e.g. 18 -30 male and female.
- Addressable market – What is the total size of the customer base opens in new window that would be interested in your business? For example: The addressable market opens in new window for a dog grooming business would be all dog owners in the UK that spend money to groom their pets.
- Target market – Within the addressable market, identify the number of customers your business can target opens in new window . These are customers your business can realistically reach via marketing opens in new window , and is usually constrained by location, pricing and the reach of your marketing activities.
- Customer segmentation – How would you describe large groups of your customers? What are their characteristics? How do they buy products similar to yours? For example: Dog owners who spend lots on grooming and pet services and are willing to pay for luxury treatments could be labelled ‘pampered owners’. By identifying customer groups, you can develop a service that meets their needs (in this case, luxury dog grooming services) at prices they’re willing to pay opens in new window .
- Customer need – Explain in a paragraph the problems faced by the customer, what solution your business will provide, and the benefits of that solution to the customer. For example: Many families living in England have children with gluten intolerance who can’t eat the majority of school snacks, and there are few affordable alternatives available. This business helps parents by offering a range of gluten free, affordable school snacks with packaging that’s fun for kids. This results in happy, healthy children and removes the stress parents feel when packing lunchboxes.
- Set pricing – What will your business charge for products and services opens in new window ? Show how you figured out pricing, examining costs and how much customers are willing to pay. Detail how your pricing stacks up against competitors opens in new window . Is it lower or higher? Why would customers pay more? How can you afford to price it less? Remember being cheaper isn’t always the best way to start a business.
For methods to find out more about your customers, read our guide to market research techniques opens in new window .
6. Market and competitors
Use your business plan to examine the market opens in new window that you’ll be operating in.
Knowing what’s happening in your market, which competitors you need to monitor opens in new window , and their strengths and weaknesses, lets you exploit gaps in the market that will help your business succeed.
This is your chance to show that you really understand your market and ensure your business is able to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
This section should include:
- Market overview – Describe the general market in a few paragraphs, highlighting trends and developments that could be an opportunity. Trends include sales growth opens in new window , new technology, greater efficiencies or new routes to market. Developments may include new regulation or legal requirements opens in new window .
- Market research – Describe briefly the research you’ve carried out, such as surveys, online research, mystery shopping or attending trade shows. Please don’t carry out your research with family and friends – use an unbiased source.
- Competitor overview – Who are the main competitors in your market? Write a short summary for each main competitor. You can include details such as market share, their products, pricing, how many customers that you think that they have, and their marketing activity.
- SWOT analysis – For each competitor and your business, conduct a SWOT analysis opens in new window . This is short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your business? How will you address these? What are the future threats that could hurt your business, and where are there potential opportunities?
It’s worth spending some time thinking about the SWOT analysis, and put the SWOT into the main body of the business plan – even the weaknesses!
- Your unique differentiator – What is different about your business compared to the competitors you’ve listed? What weaknesses does your business exploit and how will that attract customers? Explain how and why your business is different in a paragraph.
7. Sales and marketing
How you position your products or services is critical to its success.
This section of a business plan should explain how you’ll reach your customers, how you’ll sell to customers opens in new window and your marketing goals.
- How you’ll reach your customers – What marketing channels opens in new window will you use to reach your customers? Look at where competitors advertise or promote their business. List two or three key channels you can use, and summarise the activity and results you expect these channels to achieve.
- Detail your sales processes – How will you sell your products or services, for example, will you take orders over the internet in a shop opens in new window or provide quotes for your service personally? What are the costs involved in selling? What is the average revenue per sale that you expect?
- What is your key message? – Examples could be great customer service opens in new window , more features or a higher-quality product. How will you communicate that message in your marketing activity?
If you’re starting out in marketing and advertising, you can find advice in our guide on how to advertise your business opens in new window .
8. Operational plans
The operational section concerns how your business will work, what staffing you’ll need opens in new window , where you’ll operate from opens in new window , and the suppliers you’ll use opens in new window .
You’ll need to explain your reasoning behind each one, as well as include details such as salaries and information about your supply chain opens in new window .
- Supply chain – Good suppliers can help your business grow opens in new window , while bad suppliers can create cash flow opens in new window and operational difficulties. Research potential suppliers and shortlist the best opens in new window . What are the risks in using them,? Create a short list of intended suppliers and the relationship you have with them.
- Management – Identify the key roles in your business during start up. How will you recruit to fill the roles? Create a diagram showing the management structure, and list salaries and recruitment costs. Have they made an investment in the business?
- Staffing – What staff do you need opens in new window ? What productivity do you need from staff, such as the number of customers a staff member can serve in an hour? Provide a summary of the roles, and link to details such as salaries, working hours, activity levels opens in new window and hiring costs in the appendix.
- IT, systems and machinery – Explain the IT and infrastructure requirements of your business, such as costs involved in buying machinery and IT platforms. How long would development take and cost? Budget for buying office equipment opens in new window , and include details of information management systems opens in new window , bookkeeping, stock and quality control systems.
- Premises – Where will your business operate from? Explain your reasoning, including any specialist facilities. If you’re running a business such as a shop opens in new window , explain why you’ve selected this location. Costs related to premises can be included in the cash flow forecast.
- Legal and regulatory – If applicable, identify any regulatory authorisations, permissions, or requirements opens in new window that apply to your business, such as planning permission or food safety requirements if opening a restaurant.
- Insurance – What insurance does your business need opens in new window ? Detail who supplies it, what it covers and how much it costs. If you don’t need insurance, explain how you would handle an operational crisis.
- Risks – What could stop your business operating?
Financials underpin your business plan with hard numbers.
If you’re already trading, you’ll be able to use historic revenue data to forecast the profit and loss of your business opens in new window .
If you’re a start up, you’ll need to explain your assumptions and show evidence in your financial forecasts.
Complete a cash flow forecast opens in new window and include it in the appendix.
- Show historic figures – If you’re already trading, show your business activity over the past 6 months in an ‘actual’ cash flow.
- Create a one-year forecast – Show all costs the business needs to start up. Include an explanation of key assumptions such as pricing and the cost of equipment or machinery needed.
- Be realistic about funding – Identify the start up costs needed opens in new window to get your business off the ground. Explain what funding your business will need, what it will be used for, and what type of funding opens in new window you require. Include repayments of any loans opens in new window you are intending to take out.
- Risks and exit strategy – What are the risks to your financial assumptions? How will you manage these risks? If it goes wrong, what is your exit strategy from the market?
For help with working out your launch costs, read our guide on how to calculate business start up costs. opens in new window.
It’s a good idea to put further detail in the appendix, and refer to it throughout the business plan.
Assumptions explained in detail:
- CV and details about senior managers or business owners
- Market research information, such as survey results
- Insurance opens in new window and regulatory information
- Cash flow forecast opens in new window
Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:
- Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality
- First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship opens in new window
- Entrepreneurial behaviour opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or its subsidiaries, or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.
You might also like:
- 24 business ideas for 2024
- What documents do you need when applying for a business loan?
- Understanding business growth – strategies for start-ups
HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES SUCCEED
What do you need to know about starting a business?
- Start up business ideas
- Set up a business
- Skills and wellbeing
- Business planning
- Financing a business
- Tax and National Insurance
- Business law
- Sales and marketing
- Business premises
- Business IT
- Grow your business
- Types of business
- Testing business ideas
- Product development
- Is running a business really for you?
- Start up stories
- Registering as a sole trader
- Setting up a limited company
- Business names
- Buy a franchise
- Buying a business
- Starting an online business
- Setting up a social enterprise
- Small business support
Protect your wellbeing from the pressures of starting and running a business and develop key business skills.
- Dealing with stress
- Manage your time
- Write a business plan
- Business strategy
- Start up costs
- Start up funding
- Setting prices
- How to work out tax and NI
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Licences and registration
- Protecting intellectual property
- Insurance for business
- Workplace health, safety and environmental rules
- Looking after your customers
- Promote your business
- Your marketing strategy
- Sales techniques
- Research your market
- Creating and optimising a website
- Commercial premises
- Premises security
- People management
- Recruitment, contracts, discipline and grievance
- Employment rights
- Hiring employees
- Buying IT for your new business
- Basic IT security
- Preparing for business growth
- How to scale up your business
- Funding business growth
- Start exporting
- Personal development
Essential guide to writing a business plan
Your business plan outlines what your business does and what you are trying to achieve. It explains what the market opportunity is, what makes your business special and how you will make it a success.
Writing a business plan helps you:
- check that your business idea makes sense
- plan your sales, marketing and business operations
- identify potential problems and how to overcome them
- set out your objectives and the financial return you expect
- work out what financing you need
- convince other people to back your business
Why write a business plan?
How to write a business plan
Your business and products
Your market and competition
Your marketing and sales
Management and personnel structure
Your business operations
1. Why write a business plan?
Writing a business plan helps you think about what you are doing.
- The plan sets out your strategy and action plan for the next one to three years, or sometimes longer.
- As part of the process, you set concrete objectives and plan how you will achieve them.
- Writing a business plan helps you focus and develop your ideas. Priorities are identified. Non-priorities are dropped, saving precious time.
- Putting the plan in writing makes it easier to spot any gaps where you have more work to do.
- Once written, the plan is a benchmark for the performance of the business.
- By involving your employees in the planning process, you can build a successful, committed team.
You may need a business plan to explain your idea to other people
- A business plan is essential if you are raising finance from a bank or outside investors.
- A good plan can help you attract new senior management, or business partners such as distributors and agents.
- You should tailor your plan to the target audience. For example, you may want the plan to 'sell' the business to your bank manager or investors.
- Ask the intended recipient if there are any specific issues they want the plan to address or a template you should follow.
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2. How to write a business plan
Base your business plan on accurate, detailed information where possible. But do not include all the detail in the plan. Leave the detail for operational or marketing plans.
Keep the plan short
- Focus on what the reader needs to know.
- Cut out any waffle.
- Make sure there are no spelling mistakes.
- Detailed business plans are often quickly shelved because they are difficult to use on an ongoing basis.
Include any detailed information you need in an appendix
For example, you might want:
- detailed financial forecasts and assumptions
- market research data that backs up what you say
- CVs of key personnel (essential if you are seeking outside funding)
- product literature or technical specifications
Base your business plan on reality, or it may be counterproductive
- Over-optimistic forecasts can lead to increased overheads followed by a cash flow crisis and drastic cost-cutting.
- Be realistic, even if you are selling the business to a third party. Financiers, business partners and employees will see through over-optimistic plans that ignore weaknesses or threats. Management credibility can be damaged.
Make the plan professional
- Put a cover on it.
- Include a contents page, with page and section numbering.
- Start with an executive summary. This summarises the key points, starting with the purpose of the business plan.
- Use charts, if helpful.
Even if the plan is for internal use only, write it as if it were aimed at an outsider
- Include company or product literature as an appendix.
- Give details about the history and current status of the business.
Review your business plan
- Read through the plan from your target reader's point of view. For example, try to imagine the impression the plan will make on your bank manager.
- Check the plan is realistic. Include evidence to back up what you say (perhaps in the appendix) or provide evidence if needed.
- Make sure you assess the risks. What might go wrong (eg if your main supplier closes down or you lose a key customer) and what would you do about it?
- Concentrate on the executive summary. People often make provisional judgements based on this. Only then do they read the rest of the plan to confirm their decision.
- Show the plan to friends, business peers and expert advisers for comments. Which parts did they not understand or find unconvincing?
3. Your business and products
Explain the history of the business.
- When did it start trading and what progress has it made to date?
- If the business is just starting up, what is your personal industry background and what progress towards launching the business has been made?
- Who owned the business originally?
- What is the current ownership structure?
Describe what your product or service is, avoiding technical jargon if possible
- In general, what makes your product or service different ?
- What benefits does it offer? What are its disadvantages and how will you address these?
- What changes and improvements are you planning?
Explain any key features of the industry
- For example, any special regulations, whether the industry is dominated by a few large companies or any major changes in technology.
4. Your market and competition
Describe the market in which you sell.
- Highlight the segments of the market in which you compete. What are the key characteristics of customers in each segment and what influences their purchasing decisions?
- How large is each market segment? What is your market share?
- What are the important trends, such as market growth or changing tastes? Explain the reasons behind the trend.
- What is the outlook for each important market segment?
Describe the nature and distribution of existing customers
- Do they fit the profile of the chosen market segment? If not, why not?
- Are sales largely made to one or two major customers?
- If you are a new start-up, do you have any confirmed orders and who are your best prospects?
Outline the main competition
- What are the competing products or services ? Who supplies them?
- What are their advantages and disadvantages compared to you? For example, price, quality, distribution.
- Why will customers buy your product or service instead? How will your competitors react to losing business and how you will respond?
- Never openly criticise or underestimate competitors.
5. Your marketing and sales strategy
Where do you position your product or service in the market.
- Is it high quality and high price?
- Is it marketed as a specialist product due to a particular feature?
- What unique benefits does it offer customers? For example, product reliability or customer service.
- Which of these benefits are you going to highlight?
What is your pricing policy?
- Explain how price-sensitive your customers are.
- Look at each product or market segment in turn. Identify where you make your profits and where it may be possible to increase margins or sales or cut costs. Set your pricing accordingly.
How do you promote your product or service?
- Each market segment will have one or two promotional methods that work best. For example, social media marketing, direct marketing, advertising or PR.
- If you are considering a new marketing strategy, start small. A failed investment in marketing can be costly.
What sales channels do you use to reach your target customers?
- For example, do you sell directly to the customer, or through retailers or agents? Do you sell online?
- Compare your current channels with the alternatives. Note the distribution channels used by your competitors.
- Look at the positive and negative trends in your chosen distribution channels.
How do you do your selling?
- Look at the cost-efficiency of each of your sales methods . For example, online sales, in person, through an agent or using telesales.
- Include all the hidden costs, such as management time when calculating prices or return on investment.
- Explain how long it takes to make sales (and to get paid for them), what the average sales value is and how likely customers are to give repeat orders.
6. Management and personnel structure
Set out the structure and key skills and experience of the management team and the staff.
- Clarify how you cover the key areas of production, sales, marketing, finance and administration.
- Address any areas of deficiency, and your plans to cover this weakness.
- Explain your recruitment and training plans, including timescales and costs.
Analyse the workforce in terms of total numbers and by department
- Compare the efficiency ratios with competitors, or with similar industries. Useful figures might be sales, average salaries, employee retention rates and measures of productivity.
Be realistic about the commitment and motivation of the workforce
- Show how committed you and other members of the management team are. For example, how much you have invested in the business.
- Consider how you would survive the loss of a key member of the team.
- Note any unusual upward pressure on pay levels.
- Spell out any plans to improve or maintain motivation.
7. Your business operations
Look at the capacity and efficiency of your operations, and any planned improvements.
What premises does the business have?
- Do your business premises meet your current and future needs? What are your long-term commitments to property?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the present location? Should the business expand or move?
What production facilities do you have and how is production organised?
- How modern is the equipment?
- What is the capacity of the current facilities compared with existing and forecast demand?
- Who are your key suppliers? How do you select and manage them?
What management information systems are in place?
- For example, management accounts, sales, stock control and quality control.
- Are they reliable? Can they deal with any proposed expansion?
- A financier will be very concerned if management information systems are inadequate. Management of a business is always limited by the quality of the information available.
Are your IT systems reliable?
- Is IT a key strength (or weakness) of your business? The development of IT systems to help your business is usually an important issue.
What quality or regulatory standards does the business conform to?
- For example, ISO 9000 or CE approval.
8. Financial forecasts
Your financial forecasts translate what you have said about your business into numbers.
Set out historical financial information for the last three to five years, if available
- Break total sales figures down into component parts. For example, sales of different types of product or to different groups of customers.
- Show the gross margin for each sales component. List what costs are included as direct costs for each component.
- Show the movement in the key working capital items of stock, trade debtors and creditors. Use ratios such as stock turnover (in months), debtors period (in days), and creditors period (in days).
- Highlight any major capital expenditure made.
- Provide an up-to-date balance sheet, and a profit and loss account .
- Explain the reasons for movements in profitability, working capital and cash flow . Compare them with industry norms.
Provide forecasts for the next three (or even five) years
- The sophistication of your forecasts should reflect the sophistication of your business. A small business may only need sales, profit and cash flow budgets .
- A more complex, asset-based business - or one with complex working capital requirements - will need balance sheet forecasts as well.
- Use the same format as for the historical information, to make comparison easier.
- Clearly state the assumptions behind the forecasts. These should tie in with what you say in the rest of the plan. For example, if the plan says that the market is becoming more competitive, profit margins should probably be falling.
- Be realistic about forecasts in new markets. For example, how much resource can you devote to selling, what success rate can you expect and how long will it take to convince new customers ?
- Look at the overall trends of historical and forecast numbers. Are they believable? Do the forecasts allow for the possibility of problems and delays in payments that could affect cash flow?
- Consider 'what-if' scenarios. For example, consider what will happen to your cash flow if sales are 20% lower than forecast (or 15% higher).
Put detailed financial forecasts in an appendix at the end
Include a detailed list of assumptions. For example:
- the profit margin on each product
- how long it takes to collect payment from debtors
- what credit suppliers will offer you
- what financing you are expecting and the interest rate you will pay
Use the cash flow forecast to predict any financing requirements
- Add an extra contingency element onto the funding requirement shown in the forecast (perhaps 10-20%). Think about what mid-month peaks might be.
- Identify what types of financing you want. For example, long-term loans or an increased overdraft facility.
- Include the likely interest or dividend costs of any new finance.
- Carry out sensitivity tests on the cash required by changing key factors, such as sales or margin. Note the outcomes.
- Explain why the financing is required and what it will be used for.
If necessary, get help
- Small business advisers at banks and business support organisations may help you put together financial forecasts free of charge.
9. SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis helps show that you really understand your business and the key external factors that you need to deal with.
Set out a one-page analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Strengths might include brand name, quality of product, or management experience.
- Weaknesses might be lack of finance, or reliance on just a few customers.
- Opportunities might be increasing demand or a competitor going bust.
- Threats might be a downturn in the economy or a new competitor.
Be honest about your weaknesses and the threats you face
- Spell out mitigating circumstances and the defensive actions you are taking.
Driving your business forward
Identify what makes you better than the competition.
- Think about what the key ingredients of your future success will be and how you will strengthen your position in the market.
Establish your overall business aims
- Where do you realistically intend to be in three years' time?
Decide on half a dozen key objectives that will make a significant difference
Many businesses think in terms of:
- income - more sales, better margins
- customers - new customers, higher levels of customer satisfaction
- products - improving existing products, launching new ones
- human resources - recruiting new employees, developing new skills
Set clear targets
- You should know exactly what you want to achieve, by when.
Work out how you will reach these targets
- Look at each aspect of your business in turn and create a step-by-step action plan for it.
- Get help preparing a business plan and financial forecasts from your local enterprise agency .
- Find an ICAEW chartered accountant or an ACCA accountancy firm for help with financial forecasting and business planning.
- Find a trade association relevant to your sector through the Trade Association Forum.
Browse topics: Business planning
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How to write a business plan
Home / / how to write a business plan, business planning and writing a business plan are two processes.
It seems they are often over-debated, over-analysed and over-complicated. But they’re actually quite simple.
Creating a business plan should be a rewarding experience, not a daunting one. Your business plan should clarify and prove to you - before anyone else - what your business is and what it will achieve. Crucially, it will map how to get there.
We've written an expanded version of this popular article. Stay here for a quick read or visit our guide - How to Write a Business Plan - for more in-depth information.
What should a business plan include?
There is no one ‘ideal’ way to write a business plan. There is key information a business plan should include, however.
An executive summary
A short description of the business
Your marketing research and sales strategy
Details of your staff structure / management team
Information about how the business operates
How long should a business plan be?
If you're preparing a business plan for external consumption - say a bank or investor - you should think in terms of 20-40 pages of information. If the plan is for internal use only - for instance, to structure and focus for your management team - you don't have to go into as much detail and 5-10 pages can be enough.
Tips for a readable business plan
To be a useful document that helps your business thrive, it should be:
clear – straightforward language, sensible structure
concise – short enough to keep people's attention
based on fact and evidence – to provide a firm foundation for decision making
A good plan can be skim-read in about 15 minutes. To help the reader, format your document to make it easy to read:
use bullet points and clear headings to break up dense text
have plenty of white space around the margins
use tables, graphs and pictures of products
Don't want to start from scratch? Find out about using a business plan template .
Business plan contents
The executive summary.
This is a synopsis of your entire business plan. Its role is to highlight the key points that you go into in greater depth later in the document.
It’s sometimes the only section a potential backer will read - so it has to be enticing and easy to digest, whilst also providing a good understanding of the business.
Typically, the executive summary should cover a couple of sheets of A4 paper / 800-1200 words.
Description of the business
This section should cover the basics of the business:
where it has come from
where it stands today
where you plan to take it
Include details of when you plan to start trading or (if already started) when trading began. You should also provide details of the company current legal structure:
Describe your product and your unique selling points. USPs. In other words why people will want to buy what you're selling. Outline how you plan to develop your product or grow the range you have to offer.
Provide details of any patents, trademarks or design rights you own. If intellectual property - whether in the form of clever branding or unique technology is important to the success of the business - explain how this can be defended.
Market research and sales strategy
Provide details of your competitors - direct and indirect.
Who are they?
What is their market share?
What niche will your product or service fill in the existing market?
Our articles on competitor analysis and SWOT analysis can help you identify who you’re up against.
Equally important, you should be clear about your customers.
If you're a B2C company – that means you’re selling direct to individual members of the public - you should provide details of the target group. Details like age, gender, income, interests, etc.
In the B2B market – that means you sell to other businesses - you should detail the kind of company you are planning to reach.
In both cases, the plan should explain why your target customers will buy from you. Provide some information about the size of the market and the market share you plan to achieve. We've got lots of articles on market research for startups.
Your management team and employees
Investors and financial backers will want to know if you have the people and skills in place to deliver your goals. Provide information on your managers and all members of staff.
What’s their experience?
What skills do they bring to the business?
What role will they be fulfilling?
Include external advisers such as lawyers and accountants as this will also provide assurance that you have the necessary skills in place.
Set out how much time and money each person will contribute and what you plan to pay in terms of salaries. This will help both you and external parties assess whether you have the right cost base in terms of personnel.
Include details of your current or planned location , costs and why you chose it.
Provide details of the facilities you require to produce your product or service. This should include both in-house facilities and any aspects of the business that have been outsourced.
Management information and control systems are also an important element in the operational mix.
You should explain what systems you plan to use - for instance, stock control, quality control - across the business.
Your financial forecast
This is the crucial section. It explains everything you've previously said about the business, but in numbers.
You'll need to include forecasts covering sales, profit and loss and cash flow.
Typically, these forecasts will cover three to five years and cover:
where the business is now, financially
where it will be in the short term future
where you see it going
You’ll need to consider and answer questions like:
How quickly will sales grow?
When is the business expected to turn a profit?
What is the cash flow outlook?
You should include information on:
the capital you require
all sources of revenue
any securities (investment assets) you hold
This section can be tricky for new businesses because the figures are all educated guesswork, based on the demand and price point suggested by your market research .
You need a clear idea of your target audience. Once you know that, you can work out how big the market is and how much your customers are spending on similar products at the moment. Factor in your own unique sales proposition and you can put a figure on likely sales.
This does, however, just produce an estimate. Try to ensure your financial projections are realistic. Don’t include over-optimistic / unrealistic figures. And always include details of the research you've carried out to arrive at your forecasts.
Find out more about:
how to create revenue forecasts
understanding key accounting principles
Can I use my business plan to get startup finance?
Yes, that’s certainly one of the benefits of writing a business plan. You can show it to lenders and investors when you apply for a loan.
Is there a business plan template for startups?
Team Transmit have a recommended business plan template for people considering starting a business, specifically designed for people who are at the very start of their business planning journey. It covers all of the essentials to get you thinking strategically about your business.
Think your business idea is brilliant but need some money to get started? Find out how entrepreneurs like you used their Government-backed Start Up Loans .
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