How to write a killer business plan
What is a business plan?
To move forward with a business idea or steer an existing company into the future, you need a clear idea of where you’re heading and how you’re going to get there. Creating a business plan will ensure that you are firm in your intentions, and help you set out a path to achieve your objectives.
Business plans are also essential for persuading other people—such as investors, partners and early hires—to believe in your idea. For people to trust you with their money and time, they need to thoroughly understand your goals and the steps you plan to take towards reaching them.
Your step-by-step guide to writing a business plan
1) Executive summary
The executive summary should sit on the first page of your business plan, but many people choose to write this section last. That's because it's essentially an overview of the entire plan.
Think of the executive summary as an ‘elevator pitch’. If you only had a few moments of an investors’ time, how would you succinctly and convincingly persuade them that you have a brilliant and workable business model?
Key to the executive summary is your business’ unique selling point. What can you do that your competitors can’t? You may also want to mention how you’ll operate, your target customers, sales projections and any investment needed.
2) Your business
This is where you get into the finer details of your proposal. Ask yourself what problem you are solving for customers, and how your solution differs from the competition.
You should also outline when your business was founded, what kind of experience you have if the business is new, and the legal structure of the company.
The key here is 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, aim to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
3) Market analysis
Do some research into your potential customers and the existing market for the 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’ll know who your target market is, its size and likely behaviour. If the market is likely to change or grow, this movement and its reasons can be predicted in outline form.
Another important part of market research is competitor analysis. Find out who your key competitors are and how you can gain an edge over them.
4) Strengths and weaknesses
Many business plans include a grid showing the business’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
This is an opportunity to get specific about your USP: that perfect point of overlap between what customers want, what you can provide, and how you’re different from other solutions on the market.
However you wish to craft this section, it’s a chance to demonstrate thorough understanding of the challenges facing you, and how you plan to overcome them.
At this point in the plan, you’ll want to drill down into how your company is run. You may want to go over the management and company structure, and include information about the achievements and professional background of each team member.
You can introduce details of how your products are manufactured, or how your services are provided, along with your pricing, marketing and sales strategy, and funding information, if applicable.
A good place to end your business plan is with your financial projections. This includes a breakdown of the costs you’ll incur, the funds you need, and your 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.
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Related article: How to run effective competitor analysis
Tilly manages the content strategy for Airwallex UK. She specialises in content that supports businesses in their growth trajectory.
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