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Whether you’re planning on being the next young apprentice, facing the dragons in the den (the TV show that is) or are starting your very own business and need some sponsors, the first step is writing your personal business plan. But where do you begin? The good news is that you don’t need to spend days creating your strategy if you hire a professional business plan consultant that can help you put pen to paper and create your ideal business plan.
Even if you want to prepare it by hand, here are some essential steps you’ll need to take to ensure your plan stands out above the rest:
1. Executive Summary
This is the introduction to your business plan; it should be a summary of everything you will say in greater detail in the following pages. It should be captivating like a story and set the tone; if the first chapter isn’t great, people will not keep reading. You should spell out the content goals of your developed plan, hitting all the highlights. If you are using your proposal to get investors, this section is vital for you. Be sure to include background information about your business, the market opportunity, your capital requirements, a mission statement, an overview of management, competitors, your firm's competitive advantages, and a summary of your financial projections over the next three years.
Top tip: Ensure that your executive summary doesn’t exceed three to four pages; you don’t want to bore the reader. Many business professionals write their executive statement last to ensure it summarizes everything that has been included in the plan.
2. Business Description and Overview
This section is designed for you to provide more information about your business. You’ll need to inform your readers about the purpose of your business. Are you a new fashion brand focusing solely on sportswear for tennis players? Why did you decide to develop this company? You’ll need to prepare a mission statement, business model strategy and any existing strategic relationships. You must also include present outlook with future possibilities. Think about other markets within the industry, will these new products and developments benefit or adversely affect your corporation?
3. Product and Services
Here’s where you talk about the sole reason for your business; the go-to product or service. You need to clearly discuss what you’re selling and why your product/service are better than the competition. If you sell products, state whether you are the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer and give examples of your manufacturing process, availability of materials, how you handle inventory and fulfilment. It’s also important to include any patent, copyright or trademark information here. If you plan to feature new products or services in the future, include that here as well.
4. Marketing Strategy
In this section, you spell out your marketing strategy, addressing details of your market analysis, sales, customer service, advertising, and public relations. You should explain how you reach your target customers. What promotional tactics and digital marketing channels are you currently using? What brand positioning do you desire for each? Many businesses use this space to showcase their vision of why their business will be successful, backing that up with market research that identifies their target market, industry and customer trends. Include information on both your planned and historical marketing strategies.
5. Competitor Analysis
Competitor Analysis goes hand in hand with market research, in order to be successful, you must have a clear understanding of what opposing companies are providing. Once you have done that you need to explain why and how you plan to achieve greater success than them. Who are your competitors and what are each of their key strengths and weaknesses? In what areas will you have or gain competitive advantage and how?
6. Design and Development
This is the meaty part of your plan. Here you should provide details of your sales strategy. What is your action plan? How do you think you’ll reach your target audience and dominate the market? The design and development should outline how you plan to operate the business throughout the entire cycle to reach its goals. Provide investors with a description of the product’s design, chart development and budget.
7. Operation and Management
If your business plan is designed to attract investors; you’ll need to include information on current executives and managers working for the company, along with examples of how they have reached your business goals. “For investors, it's an important element to include who these people are and what their experience is,” said Tim Berry, president and founder of Palo Alto Software. The operations and management plan is aimed to describe just how the business functions on a continuing basis. The operations plan will highlight the logistics of the organisation such as the various responsibilities of the management team, the tasks assigned to each division within the company, and capital and expense requirements related to the operations of the business.
Top tip: If you’re a small business, you should also include information on employees. If you’re planning on hiring, this section should also outline the organisational structure and responsibilities of the team.
8. Financial Factors
In the financial section, you provide the measurable income, pay-outs and profit of everything you stated in the previous seven sections. This is where you include your projected profit and loss statements, balance sheets and cash flow for the next three years. It’s a good idea to consult a certified accountant when putting this section together. The numbers here should back up everything else that you’ve claimed in your proposal.
Top tip: You should write this section once you have completed everything else in the plan to double check that your numbers add up correctly.
"A business plan will be the best indicator that can be used to judge your potential for success. It should be no more than 30 to 40 pages in length, excluding supporting documents” says Linda Pinson, author of Automate Your Business Plan for Windows. With that an in mind, if these eight steps are addressed well, you’ll be on the road to building company success. A great business plan that’s formatted correctly and packed with ample samples is an indispensable ingredient to significantly increase your odds of succeeding as an entrepreneur.
Have you got any other top tips to business plan writing? If so, let us know in the section below…