How to write a killer business plan
What is a business plan?
To move forward with a business concept or steer an existing company into the future, you need a clear idea of where you’re heading and how to get there.
A business plan will ensure that you are firm in your own intentions, and guide you when targets are being missed or the way ahead is unclear.
Business plans are also essential for getting others on board, including investors, partners and early hires. For people to trust you with their money and time, they need to thoroughly understand your goals and the steps you're going to take to reach them.
Step-by-step guide to writing a business plan
1) Executive summary
The executive summary sits at the very start your business plan, but you may want to write it last, as it is essentially an overview of your proposal.
The executive summary can be thought of as an ‘elevator pitch’. If you only had a few moments of an investor's time, how would you succinctly and convincingly persuade them that you have a brilliant and workable business model?
Key to the executive summary is the company’s unique selling point; what sets you apart from the competition. You may also want to mention how you’ll operate, your target audience, sales projections and any investment needed.
2) Your business
This is where you start getting into the fine details. Ask yourself what problem you are solving for customers, and how your method will differ from the competition.
In this section you can also outline how long your business has been established, what kind of experience you have if the business is new, and the legal structure of the company.
You also want to capture the company’s overarching aims. What is your mission statement, or driving purpose? What are the business objectives?
When setting up these goals, try to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
3) Market analysis
Ideally, you will have done some research into your customer base and the existing market for the type of product or service you’re offering. This can be quantitative (based on measurable data), qualitative (based on individual opinions and experiences) or a mixture of the two.
Once you have this information, you can explain who your target market is, its size and likely behaviour. If the market is likely to change or grow, this transformation and its reasons can be predicted in outline form.
Another important part of market research is analysing the competition. How will you differ in your approach from similar businesses, and how will you find an edge?
4) Strengths and weaknesses
Many business plans include a grid showing the business’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
At this point, you should get specific about your USP: that perfect point of overlap between what customers want, what you can do well, and what competitors aren’t doing a good job at offering.
However you wish to craft this section, it’s a chance to demonstrate thorough understanding of the challenges facing you, and the aspects of the company that are most worth highlighting and steering towards.
At this point in the plan, you’ll want to drill down into how things will run. You may want to go over the management and company structure, with information about the achievements and professional background of each team member.
Details on the products and services offered can also be introduced, along with pricing, marketing and sales strategy, and funding information, if applicable.
A good place to end is financial projections. This includes a breakdown of the costs you’ll incur, the funds you need, and the expected revenue in a given timeframe. It’s possible to present this numerically or graphically.
Any supporting information, such as reference letters and credit reports, can be added in a subsequent appendix.
Reduce business expenses with Airwallex
Calculating business costs is an important part of any business plan, and every reduction in expenses is a worthwhile step towards financial success.
Related article: What Is a Business Continuity Plan?
Tilly manages the content strategy for Airwallex. She specialises in content that supports businesses in their growth trajectory.