Posted by Sarah Brown on 01 Jan '20
How to produce a business plan that can really create success for you
There are a multitude of business plan templates on the internet but like any templates they are designed to cover all circumstances and you will be special.
I think instead of calling your plan a business plan and more useful way to think about it is as a "success plan". It needs to be in a format that you are comfortable with assuming you want it as a working document rather than to get investment. It can be excel or word or I have done mindmap business plans. Whatever works for you and anyone else that has to use it. It should be as compelling as a good story with a clear start, where you are now, a clear destination what you want to achieve and then a clear plan of how you are going to do it.
Where you are now
It's critical to be really honest about where you are now in terms of your business, your customers, your competition and your suppliers. Don't bury your head in the sand.
We have a great tool The 4Ps which will help you identify what you are great at, what perils you face and potential opportunities and then develop strategies click here to download it.
Where you want to go to
Success is not always about growth. What you want needs to be considered in terms of why you want it. What is your vision for the organisation? What will success look like for you at the end of the year and how will it lay the foundations for your longer term success? A good question to ask is "At the end of the year what has to have happened for me to feel that the business has been a success?" It's important to balance ambition with achievability. You want a short term plan which fits with your longer term vision.
How you will get there
So now you will begin bringing together your vision and goals with your current situation and creating a strategy and practical action plan to achieve your success.
Here are headings that I would generally include in a plan and some thoughts about what you might want to consider:
Be as clear as possible and inspirational as well. TYour vision/goals need to be powerful enough to keep you going when it gets tough. They also need to be clear so that when circumstances change you or your staff can know how to act to keep on course to achieve the objective. If people don't know why they are doing something it makes it very hard for them to show initiative what things change as they don't know the overall goal. It would be like telling someone to drive up the M1 without telling them the end destination, it's fine if the road is clear but if there is a crash they need to know the destination to plan an alternative route.
For example , if you want to grow are you going to recruit staff, get more efficient, takeover a competitor, hire a sales firm? Looking at your 4Ps or equivalent analysis of your current situation what are the areas of your business that give you competitive advantage and how can you protect them and capitalise on them? What are the threats and your strategies for addressing them?
The market and what you sell
Is your market growing or static or even in decline? Are larger macro or political issues like Brexit likely to impact it? Do you need to develop new products or services for the market? Do you need to improve your marketing or even look at new markets?
Who are your customers and have you got any that are too large a proportion of your business? As a guideline we advise no more than 15% from any single source. How do you get new customers and how good is your retention? What are you going to do for your customers in the coming year?
Are you reliant on any single supplier and what can you do to mitigate this risk? Will any of your suppliers be affected by Brexit if you are UK based? What are your plans?
What resources have you got, what works well and what needs to be improved and how? Do you need any different skills, more people, different equipment, to move, to expand?
How will you pay for all your plans? Cashflow is critical. It is useful to think about three different levels of forecast, optimistic, realistic and pessimistic.
There is no point writing a plan if you then never look at it but failing to plan is planning to fail. It is critical your plan is useful to you rather than what you think a business plan should be.
If you want help we are very happy to oblige. I have written 100's of business plans, growth plans, diversication plans, marketing plans and all have been unique. A good plan is what the reader needs, not what the writer likes.
You may also find these useful:
Strategic development, feasibility studies, business planning & funding bids (particularly for charities and social enterprises)