Would you like to learn how to write a business plan that will help your business thrive? Follow the 14 tips listed below and you’ll see how your business plan becomes memorable and inspiring to those who read it.
1. Include each of the key business plan sections
A business plan includes 10 distinct components, each of which cover specific information.
These sections include the following:
- Executive Summary
- Company Overview
- Industry Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Plan
- Operations Plan
- Management Team
- Financial Plan
2. Don’t write your plan alone
When you write your business plan alone, you only have yourself to vet each idea. But when you invite your management team or a consultant or peer to work on the plan, you receive the benefit of multiple perspectives. That way, you’ll be able to recognize wrong patterns, cracks in the idea, missed opportunities and more.
3. Keep in mind your stage of business
Not every company’s business plan will be alike. Take a company with years of experience, for example. When writing their business plan, that company can offer lots of previous company-specific results and data, as evidence of their ability. But as a start-up, you won’t have this luxury. You will need to create a business plan by projecting what you intend to achieve, using your current skills and strengths.
4. Customize the plan to the intended recipients
A business plan can be addressed to multiple people, depending on its objective. If your objective is to procure finances for your business, the recipient might be a venture capitalist, bank or angel investor. If your goal is to get a facility to rent, the recipient will be a landlord. Or, if your objective is to hire qualified staff, the recipients might be prospective employees.
When writing your business plan, you must focus on the recipient’s needs. For example, more detailed financials when it is an investor or detailed job roles/descriptions if it’s prospective employees.
5. Ground the business plan in authentic, reliable research
Your business plan should tell the intended recipient how big the market is, who your customers are, and how you are different from competitors among other things. This information should be based on actual, reliable and current research about the market/industry, customers and your competitors.
If your research is faulty or misguided, your business and plan will lose credibility.
6. Don’t write a plan longer than 25 pages
An ideal business plan is typically between 15 & 25 pages. Any shorter and the recipient may feel you haven’t done sufficient research. Anything longer and the reader might be discouraged to take the time to read it.
7. Make your business plan visually appealing
Nobody likes to read page-upon-page of wordy content. A good business plan uses lots of visualizations.
Remember to include graphs, infographics, charts, product images and even brand logos in the plan. This will not only engage the reader, but it will ensure that the details of your plan are retained and remembered.
8. Let your USPs be a key selling point
When writing your business plan, allow your business’ core strengths and abilities to shine through. Explain with examples and data how your unique selling propositions (USPs) can benefit customers.
9. Create financial projections that are as realistic as possible
Financial projections are immensely important when writing a business plan. Here are a couple of tips to create more accurate financial projections:
Make a list of assumptions on which you base the financials (this is necessary if you are a start-up). These assumptions could include –
- number of products/services offered;
- price charged for each offering;
- number of purchasers;
- frequency of sales per month/quarter;
- estimated expenses.
Create 2-3 different scenarios of how these assumptions might play out. Of these, have at least one that explains a negative scenario. This is important, because realistically, very few businesses actually are able to meet their financial projections in the first year of business.
Draw up projections for 5 years, but assess the first year on a monthly or quarterly basis.
10. Don’t try to launch too many offerings at once
Many startups make the mistake of thinking they can launch multiple products or services at the same. This is rarely done successfully. Rather, focus on successfully launching and growing on product/service and then plan to add more later.
11. Be sure to highlight your core team’s accomplishments
Often, it is the legacy of the company leaders that attracts investors, landlords, employees and other stakeholders to the business. Their presence will reduce uncertainties that investors and other stakeholders have about your inexperience in the business.
Include team member bios in your plan and highlight their key accomplishments.
12. Personalize data and statistics
It’s really important to give lots of statistics, figures, case studies and data in your business plan. But instead of just listing them, explain how they relate to your business or how you can use this data to your advantage. For example, if there is a trend towards self-service in your industry, and you offer self-service options, then stress the importance of this.
13. Carefully craft your executive summary
Your executive summary can make or break your pitch. This is the very first thing – and sometimes the only thing – that some recipients read in a business plan (especially if they are inundated with plans). When writing a business plan, be sure to clearly explain your business, discuss why it is uniquely qualified to succeed, and succinctly summarize the other sections of your plan.
14. Don’t ignore the cover page
Finally, don’t ignore your cover page. As they say, first impressions matter. An aesthetic cover page that offers a clear understanding of who the plan is from and what it is about, can help you achieve your goal.
Armed with this knowledge, you can now create a winning business plan to take your company to the next level.