There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to write a business plan. But there are some key things to consider. Check out our free templates — one for start-ups and a quick-focus template for growing businesses.
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Use this free template to help you write a great plan for launching your new business.
A business plan helps you set goals for your business, and plan how you’re going to reach them. When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to do a full and thorough business plan.
Quick-focus planning to make sure you work on the right things for your growing business - every day.
It’s important to take time to reflect on your business strategies and plan. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or time-consuming task.
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.
Think about what you, your team, and your business are good at – all the attributes that will 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.
Think about the things that could stop you from achieving your objectives. This might include 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.
Think about the external conditions that will help you achieve your goals. How can you 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?
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.
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.”
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.