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How to write a business plan

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to write a business plan. But there are some key things you should consider. Check out our free templates — one for start-ups and a quick-focus template for growing businesses.

Tips for preparing a business plan

  • Be clear and focused about what you want to achieve – this will help align your team so you’re all working toward the same thing.
  • Choose the type of business plan that works for you – you may like to have a document, or a business canvas might work better.
  • Keep it short, simple and easy to understand.
  • Keep your goals realistic and relevant to what is going on in the economy and in your industry.
  • Use Stats NZ’s Data for Business website to find useful business tools and statistics.
  • Contact Stats NZ to get useful business data.
  • Get out and speak with your customers to gain understanding of how your product works for them and whether it’s something they would pay for.
  • Do a SWOT analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Ask your advisor or mentor to review your plan and give you feedback and suggested improvements.

Data for Business (external link) — Stats NZ

Contacts address book

Call Stats NZ toll-free on 0508 525 525

Implementing your business plan

  • Keep your business plan as a living document – don’t leave it to gather dust on a shelf.
  • Make sure it’s easily accessible and top-of-mind for you and your team.
  • Reflect your goals in the day-to-day operations of your business.
  • Outline the most practical and cost-effective way to achieve each goal – make a note of any extra resources you’ll need.
  • Make it clear these goals are the top priority for the business.

SWOT your business, and your competition

A SWOT analysis is a great way to assess what your business does well, and where you’ll need to improve. It can also help you identify ways you can exploit opportunities, and to identify and prepare for potential threats to your business success.

Strengths and weaknesses are typically inside your business — what are you good at, what are you not so good at — while opportunities and threats are external factors.

It can be as simple as drawing a large square, and dividing it into four quadrants – one for each element of the SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Think about what you, your team, and your business are good at – all the attributes that’ll help you achieve your goals, eg. what you (and your team) do well, any unique skills or expert knowledge, what you/your business do better than your competitors, good processes and systems, and where your business is most profitable.

Weaknesses

Think about the things that could stop you from achieving your objectives, including what costs you time and/or money, the areas you or your company need to improve in, what resources you lack, which parts of the business aren’t profitable, poor brand awareness, disorganised processes, or a poor online presence. Think about what you can do to minimise your weaknesses.

Opportunities

Think about the external conditions that will help you achieve your goals. How can you can do more for your existing customers, or reach new markets? Are there related products and services that could provide opportunities for your business, and how could you use technology to enhance your business?

Threats

Consider the external conditions that could damage your business's performance – things like what’s going on in your industry, and in the economy, the obstacles you face, the strengths of your biggest competitors, and things your competitors are doing that you're not. Think about how you could try to minimise or manage the threats.

Repeat the exercise for your competition too – it’ll help you identify areas where you can beat them, to fine-tune your niche market, and make sure you’re prepared to address the challenge they pose.

Accordian Dr Feel Good50

Case study

Refine and review

Craig Jackson has dabbled in business planning before. But when he set up his ice pop business Dr Feelgood, he decided to work with a mentor.

“She was instrumental to pushing us to a very healthy product. Our first business plan was 47 pages long. It came down to four pages, which distilled down what we were doing and how we look at it,” says Jackson.

“It’s really important to ask ‘do people want your product’ and then ‘are there enough of them to buy it’? Our market validation was me going around gas stations, cafes, dairies and looking in freezers and talking to freezer managers and talking to our friends.”

Jackson regularly reviews progress against his business plan. “We’ve hit all our targets, but have learnt a lot in the first six months of operating. Places I thought we’d really sell, we don’t, and places I thought we’d never go is where we’re going.”

Review your business plan

  • Check how you’re tracking to reach key milestones in your business plan every month, and celebrate when these have been reached.
  • Stay on top of industry trends and stay connected with your customers – this will help you stay ahead of any changes needed in your business.
  • Update your business plan with any changes affecting your business or industry.
Common mistakes
  • Not being able to clearly articulate your business and the value it offers to customers.

  • Making assumptions about your customers rather than speaking with them.

  • Not reviewing and monitoring your business plan.

  • Setting unrealistic or uninformed targets.

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