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What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is designed to be a structured and detailed plan for how you will run your business. There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan, but you should ensure you leave plenty of time to do it as it could take several weeks or even months to complete. Your business plan can be used to ask your bank for a loan as start-up capital for your business or to ask for investors, so it is important that it fully conveys what your business is about and the research and business planning you have put into your idea to ensure your business’s success.

  • Keep it simple and relevant. Present it in a language that readers, not familiar with your business, will understand
  • Follow the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound
  • Use the third person, it is the business you are writing about
  • Avoid graphs, illustrations, lots of different fonts and font sizes
  • Include a cover page which should show the title and business name in the top centre, and your full contact details at the bottom left
  • Include a contents page
  • Include page numbers in a footer
  • Appendices must include a cash flow forecast; anything else is optional and depends on who you are presenting to

Executive Summary

This is the most important part of the business plan. It should be short and concise, no more than 2 pages long and contain a summary of what your business is about. While it is first in your business plan, it is recommended you do this last because you will be summarising information elsewhere in the business plan. As it is your first page it really needs to grab the reader’s attention as it will determine whether they keep reading or not. Some business owners like to include in this their ‘Mission’ and ‘Vision’ or a short ‘Introduction’.

Marketing

  • Research – Summarise the research you have conducted on your target market. You do not have to include everything, just the relevant facts and figures
  • Competition – Explain the direct and indirect competition. Direct competitors are selling the same thing, indirect competitors are selling an alternative
  • Product(s) or service(s) – Explain what it is that you intend to sell. Your description should be clear and you will also need to explain things like packaging and quality
  • Pricing – This is an overview of your pricing structure. You should include any details of discounts or other offers you may be able to make
  • Place – How and where will your customers purchase from you? Eg. Face-to-face, retail and internet etc
  • Promotion – Explain how you will promote your products or services and how much this will cost. This will include printed media, broadcast media, on-line media, PR, exhibitions and networking
  • Unique Selling Point (USP) – Explain what makes your business different from the competition. What will ultimately make you stand out from the crowd?

Management and Operations

  • Management - Explain who will manage the business and skills, experience and qualities they bring to the business
  • Legal structure – How your business will be structured legally? What is the split between partners or shareholders?
  • Premises – Explain where the business will operate from and the implications in terms of costs, logistics and so forth
  • Manufacturing – If you are making something then you will need to explain the process for manufacturing
  • Suppliers – Give an overview of your main suppliers and the terms under which they have agreed to supply the business
  • People – Provide an overview of staffing requirements, the job roles and the sort of salaries you will be paying

Finance

This is a summary of the financial issues which you can place in more detail under each of the headings below.

  • Start up costs
  • Cash flow
  • Break Even
  • First Year Profit or Loss (estimate)
  • Short, Medium and Long-term opportunities

Appendices

You may add as many appendices as you like. You must include a first year cash flow forecast but the rest is optional. If you are pitching to investors then you will want as much information as possible. 

  • First year cash flow
  • First year profit/loss
  • Further two years cash flow and profit/loss
  • CVs of the owners/managers
  • Product specifications or detailed pricing structures
  • Letters of intent from potential buyers
  • Letters of intent from potential suppliers
  • Draft contracts and/or terms and conditions of trading
  • Any press or other research that might back up any claims that you are making

If you need help with your business plan and putting the nuts and bolts together for your business, then our enterprise facilitators can help. We run business enterprise and start-up courses for people who are looking to utilise their skills and experience into becoming self-employed. It is also of interest to people who wish to keep their options open, through gaining a greater understanding of how they might set up their own business and how business works.

If you are unemployed or have recently been made redundant, then funding is available for these courses. You can also participate in our Skills Support for the Unemployed and Skills Support for Redundancy programmes. Use the contact box below to find out how we can help you.

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