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Business planning

How do you create a business plan that will work for you? Our guide can get you started.

You might be looking for investment, or sketching out your business’s development. Either way, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there?

Every business needs a business plan. To be fit for every purpose, your plan should be straightforward – it should set out where you’re going, how you plan to get there, what makes you different and what could get in the way – with full costings for as much of it as possible.

Here’s our guide to what you should include.

Executive Summary

Hit your business’s key points hard: Why are you here? Why are you different? Where are you heading – and how will you get there? An executive summary will help any readers quickly grasp the main points of your plan. Start with a simple statement about what you do, and then come back to this part last, once you’ve worked everything out.

Marketing plan

What is your marketing strategy? How do people buy what you sell, and how do they hear about you? Outline your strategy and its likely cost - and don’t forget to add costings for making and getting your product to customers.

Who are your competitors?

Unless you’re entering a genuinely new market, you’ll have competition. Show you know who you’re up against and what makes you different – it demonstrates credibility and realism.

Forecast

Your forecasts should include as much detail as possible about expenditure and profitability. All financial information – income, outgoings, profits, dividends – is important. Once you’ve started keeping track, review your performance to see if your forecasts were right, see if you can spot any trends and then forecast based on what you’ve learned.

Keep going back to it

Remember – your plan is a living document. Don’t draft one and lock it away in a cupboard. Refer to it, update it and adjust things as circumstances change. The best plans have flexibility built in – and can help every business move forward.

Be specific, not speculative – what to leave out

Leave out anything not related to the financials or operation of your business, or subjective detail that could make you or your business look weak:

  • Exaggeration or inflated language
  • Promises of a ‘guaranteed return’ for investors
  • Vague projections about the worth of your market in two decades’ time
  • How clever and hardworking your team are
  • Detailed personal histories or big headshots of the founders
  • Typos or factual errors

Need a template?

There are free downloadable templates for your business plan at GOV.UK or by sector at bplans.co.uk.