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Business plan

A GUIDE TO WRITING A BUSINESS PLANWriting a business plan is one of the most important tasks when starting up a new business. It will help you set targets, collate all your ideas, plan for the future of your enterprise, and confirm that your idea for a business is realistic and workable. The business plan is also an essential tool for attracting funding to get started. It is a dynamic document that should be reviewed regularly to help you monitor and measure the performance of your business.This factsheet describes what a business plan should include, how you should go about writing one and what you will achieve by doing so. It includes hints and tips as well as sources of further information.It is aimed particularly at start-up businesses that need to raise funding, but the principles are equally valid for established businesses looking to grow.The benefits of writing a business plan The business plan is principally for you and your business partners and it can help you to:• Bring together your ideas and research into a structured format.• Decide whether or when your business will be commercially viable.• Clarify your business purpose to yourself and communicate it to any partners or staff.• Predict future scenarios and pitfalls and address them before they threaten the success of your business.• Set out the strategy for your business, particularly your marketing strategy.• Set targets and objectives, including sales and financial targets, so you can monitor your business' performance on a continuing basis.How to approach the planIf you are also hoping to use your business plan to convince an investor or lender to support your business, it is crucial to understand their objectives and address them in the plan so you can be certain of meeting their particular lending or investment criteria.It is important to make your plan stand out from the crowd, so make it easy to read, comprehensive yet concise and ensure there is no contradiction. For example, check that the figures you include in the plan for expenditure on equipment are the same amounts as you put in your financial forecasts - all too often these do not match and so the business plan loses credibility.Where possible, identify as early as you can what your prospective investor needs to know about you and your business. If you state the assumptions you have made in reaching your conclusions (the market research results that led you to your calculated sales forecasts, or why you have chosen to locate your business in a particular place,for example), the investor will not be left guessing as to your intentions or think that you have not addressed certain key issues. Be honest,clear and believable.Remember that the plan needs to be realistic and still convince investors that the business can be successful. This means they will want to see evidence to back up any claims you make. The plan will also need to show that (at least in the medium term) the business will be able to support you and any borrowing requirements you may have.What should be included in the plan?Every business and situation will be different, but the following headings are useful 'stepping stones' to include in any business plan and will ensure you address the most important issues that an investor, bank or other funding body may have.Table of contentsInclude a table of contents listing the main sections and page numbers in the plan. If it is difficult to find key information among a mass of text that has no logical index, the person assessing the business plan will be frustrated, and hence less likely to consider the plan positively.Executive summaryThis should be a brief summary of the rest of your plan and should be no more than two pages long. It is the first thing that an investor will read and so it must be well written, should excite the reader and ideally should stand out from the many other business plans an investor or lender will receive.There are four key ingredients that investors will be looking for in your executive summary:• What it is that makes your business idea, product, service or approach to your market unique or original, and gives you an edge over similar businesses and products?• What experience you and your team have in your target market, or in this line of business, that will make a funder confident that you are capable of making it succeed.• How you have demonstrated, or at least illustrated, that your business is going to stack up financially, and will be viable and profitable.• How and when the funder will get their money back, or what your plans are to ensure that the investor will achieve an exitwith an attractive return when you eventually sell the business or buy back their shares.You should also include in the executive summary:• Details of the business name, its owners and address.• Details of the products and services you are going to sell.• A summary of your target market and competition.• The amount of finance needed, for what purpose and over what term.• The amount of money you and your business partners are investing.Aims, objectives and visionFor most people, the aim of starting up in business is to provide a degree of independence and the opportunity to generate a reasonable income. However, investors will want to know what really motivates you, so, for example, it will be important to consider the following types of questions:• Why are you going into business and what do you want out of it?• Will the business supplement your main income or replace it?• Are you starting the business as an investment, to sell as soon as you can?• Will your business provide jobs for family members?The answers to questions like these will have an impact on your business' aims, development and strategy. For example, if you are starting a business as an investment opportunity, the focus of your planning will be leading up to your exit - the sale of your business. Your strategy must therefore focus on building your business quickly and maximising its value to get the best selling price possible. Where do you want your business to be in five years? Try to articulate this soyou can demonstrate how you will start to move your business towards that point.Defining your business vision will help you identify clear and challenging objectives, and determine how you will go about achieving these goals as your venture evolves.Business description and purpose What exactly will your business do? Be as specific as possible about the type of business you are starting. If you are going to open a restaurant, for example, will it be a family restaurant serving goodquality, local food at competitive prices in a family-friendly environment?Or will it be more upmarket, serving gourmet dishes to discerning customers in an intimate setting?How will your products and services differ from those offered by your competitors? Why should customers want to come to you and howwill you differentiate your business to make it successful?When describing your business, think of it in terms of writing a mission statement. This statement should give a clear summary of the purpose of your business, and should be easily understood by you, your staff, your customers and your potential investors.If you cannot describe your business in these specific terms, you should rethink your business idea, focusing on your business' core purpose, target audience and mission.Legal status and licencesWhat legal status will your business have? Are you intending to be a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company? These decisions will affect your tax liability and determine when you will pay tax, and hence will have an impact on your cash flow. Investors may also be concerned about the legal status of the business and the impact on liability, and you need to be sure that you have chosen the most appropriate legal status to meet your future needs.Choosing the Right Legal Status for your Business for further information.Do you need any licences before you can start trading? (If so, you need to demonstrate you are aware of what you need to apply for and that you have taken steps to do so.) Food businesses, childcare businesses and businesses that involve animals, among others, need to obtain licences from their local authority. .If you intend to operate your business from home, you may need to obtain planning permission or building regulations approval. Evidence that you have obtained the necessary approvals should be provided in the plan, together with details of any necessary permissions from your landlord or mortgage provider.Management processes How will you manage your business? Getting organised will makeyour business more efficient and ultimately enjoyable. Even if you are the only person involved, it is still worth looking at your key skills,responsibilities and management processes at this stage. Your plan will need to consider the following key management areas:• Marketing and sales.• Finance.• Recruitment and staffing.• Product development or product sourcing.• General management.• Administration.You will also need to set out how you aim to monitor your business' performance (against objectives and targets), and to co-ordinate the roles of any key staff.Marketing strategy To succeed in any business you will need to have a thorough understanding of your target market, including its size and the shareyou hope you can realistically achieve. Once you have developed a clear understanding of your market in terms of size, location, groups of potential customers and their profiles, potential competitors, trends and influencing factors, it's easier to define your overall marketing strategy clearly. You can break this down into objectives and targets relating to the volume and share of the market (or market segments) you hope to achieve and when you intend to achieve them.For example:• Who are your initial marketing targets (specific groups or market segments)?• What products, services or particular deals will you offer to them?• What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and how does this differentiate you from your competitors?• Is there a specific volume, value or share of these markets thatyou hope to achieve?• When do you hope to achieve these targets by?• Why are you choosing these markets first?• Who will you target next, for instance in six months' or a year's time?Marketing planHow will you carry out your marketing? Once you have a clear marketing strategy, you need to be clear about how you are going to make it happen. A detailed marketing plan should explain how you will go about achieving each of your marketing targets and objectives (as defined in your marketing strategy above) either by particular target segment, by type of marketing activity, or both.Such a plan will include some or all of the following:• The marketing methods you will use for each segment of your target market.• The specific action you are going to take to reach eachsegment.• A timescale or timetable for each marketing activity.• The people or organisations that are going to carry it out.• The estimated costs to undertake particular marketing activities(your marketing budget).• How you will monitor and review progress.• How you will handle the response to your marketing.• If it helps, think about the four 'P's, of product, price, promotionand place.Income. However, investors will want to know what really motivates you, so, for example, it will be important to consider the following types of questions:• Why are you going into business and what do you want out of it?• Will the business supplement your main income or replace it?• Are you starting the business as an investment, to sell as soon as you can?• Will your business provide jobs for family members?The answers to questions like these will have an impact on your business' aims, development and strategy. For example, if you are starting a business as an investment opportunity, the focus of your planning will be leading up to your exit - the sale of your business. Your strategy must therefore focus on building your business quickly and maximising its value to get the best selling price possible. Where do you want your business to be in five years? Try to articulate this soyou can demonstrate how you will start to move your business towards that point. Defining your business vision will help you identify clear and challengingobjectives, and determine how you will go about achieving these goals as your venture evolves.Business description and purpose What exactly will your business do? Be as specific as possible about the type of business you are starting. If you are going to open a restaurant, for example, will it be a family restaurant serving goodquality, local food at competitive prices in a family-friendly environment?Or will it be more upmarket, serving gourmet dishes to discerning customers in an intimate setting? How will your products and services differ from those offered by your competitors? Why should customers want to come to you and how will you differentiate your business to make it successful?When describing your business, think of it in terms of writing a mission statement. This statement should give a clear summary of the purpose of your business, and should be easily understood by you, your staff, your customers and your potential investors.If you cannot describe your business in these specific terms, you should rethink your business idea, focusing on your business' core purpose, target audience and mission.Legal status and licences What legal status will your business have? Are you intending to be a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company? These decisions will affect your tax liability and determine when you will pay tax, and hence will have an impact on your cash flow. Investors may also be concerned about the legal status of the business and the impact onliability, and you need to be sure that you have chosen the most appropriate legal status to meet your future needs. Do you need any licences before you can start trading? (If so, you need to demonstrate you are aware of what you need to apply for and that you have taken steps to do so.) Food businesses, childcare businesses and businesses that involve animals, among others, need to obtain licences from their local authority.IIf you intend to operate your business from home, you may need to obtain planning permission or building regulations approval. Evidence that you have obtained the necessary approvals should be provided in the plan, together with details of any necessary permissions from your landlord or mortgage provider.Management processes How will you manage your business? Getting organised will make your business more efficient and ultimately enjoyable. Even if you are the only person involved, it is still worth looking at your key skills, responsibilities and management processes at this stage. Your plan will need to consider the following key management areas:• Marketing and sales.• Finance.• Recruitment and staffing.• Product development or product sourcing.• General management.• Administration.You will also need to set out how you aim to monitor your business' performance (against objectives and targets), and to co-ordinate the roles of any key staff.Marketing strategyTo succeed in any business you will need to have a thorough understanding of your target market, including its size and the share you hope you can realistically achieve. Once you have developed a clear understanding of your market in terms of size, location, groups of potential customers and their profiles, potential competitors, trends and influencing factors, it's easier to define your overall marketing strategy clearly. You can break this down into objectives and targets relating to the volume and share of the market (or market segments) you hope to achieve and when you intend to achieve them.For example:• Who are your initial marketing targets (specific groups or market segments)?• What products, services or particular deals will you offer to them?• What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and how doesthis differentiate you from your competitors?• Is there a specific volume, value or share of these markets that you hope to achieve?• When do you hope to achieve these targets by?• Why are you choosing these markets first?• Who will you target next, for instance in six months' or a year's time?Marketing planHow will you carry out your marketing? Once you have a clear marketing strategy, you need to be clear about how you are going to make it happen. A detailed marketing plan should explain how you will go about achieving each of your marketing targets and objectives (as defined in your marketing strategy above) either by particular target segment, by type of marketing activity, or both.Such a plan will include some or all of the following:• The marketing methods you will use for each segment of your target market.• The specific action you are going to take to reach each segment.• A timescale or timetable for each marketing actuirements, the sources of finance you have available to you and any additional finance you may need going forward. This should include:• The cost of starting your business.• Your personal budget.• Details about your own finance that you intend to invest.• Details about any additional finance you have secured.• A table showing what you plan to spend the finance on(provide details of each piece of equipment or service you are buying and its cost).• A break-even analysis and timing calculation to help you understand how much of your product or service you need to sell at a given price to cover all your costs and contribute towards your profit, and when this break-even point will be reached.• A detailed cash flow forecast that will help you to estimate how much available cash you will have in any particular futuremonth. • A profit-and-loss forecast to help you estimate when your business will start to make a profit, which will be essential for your longer term success.• A balance sheet forecast to provide you with a snapshot of the trading position of your business, to identify what your business will owe, what it will own and how strong it will be financially at a particular point in the future. Operational requirementsWhat do you need to do to turn your operational plans into action? In other words, how will you make everything happen in your business?Details about your operational requirements will be essential when preparing your financial forecasts, while other information will be needed for basic perational planning. Outline your plans for the following aspects of your business and estimate the respective costs involved:• Premises - provide details of the premises and a sketch planof the layout.• Equipment - list what you will need to buy and show prices you have identified.

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