small business business plan template

What goes into a business plan?

business plan ideasKnowing what goes into a business plan is the perfect way to ensure that you aren’t missing out key information which will be key to the future of your venture

A business plan is more than a simple document. It’s a guide and tool that will help you to outline and achieve your goals. It’s also a management tool that allows you to analyse results, make decisions, as well as showcase how your business will operate, its growth and how you will achieve it.

If you’re thinking of starting a business or planning to pitch your business to investors, writing a strong business plan can improve your chances of success.

Take your time when developing your plan as it will not only be important for guiding you through the beginnings and near-future periods of your company, but also for landing you the loan you’ll need to get your venture lifted off the ground.

The importance of the business plan

A business plan is essential for any business, small or large. It helps to articulate the business’s goals, strategies and how it plans to achieve them. The process of creating a business plan can also help to clarify the business’s value proposition and key differentiators. In addition, a well-crafted business plan can be a valuable tool for raising capital and attracting investors.

While a business plan is not required in order to start a business, it is highly advisable to create one. A business plan forces the entrepreneur to think through all aspects of the business, from the initial concept to the long-term vision. It also provides a roadmap for success, helping to keep the business on track and ensuring that all key stakeholders are aligned with the company’s goals. For these reasons, a business plan is an essential tool for any serious entrepreneur especially for the first year of trading.

The business plan run-through

We’ll now run you through our checklist for everything you need to include in your own small business plan. Certain features may not apply to all business types, such as if you’re located solely online, or are planning on having no online presence (not recommended) whatsoever, but many of the following points will be universally applicable.

Business plan template

It’s always a good idea to go and get a free business plan template from somewhere on the internet before you get started on everything. This will give you a good idea of most things you need to include and ensure that you aren’t missing out on any key elements that will have a negative effect on your business venture further down the line. This will hopefully make sure that you’ve got all of your financial information firmly lodged into the business plan, as well as how you’ll cover the cost of things if your run into trouble.

There are many free templates that can be found with a simple Google search, so try not to worry about the layout too much, as you’ll be able to change it as you see fit.

Here’s some advice

We understand that not everyone has experience of writing business plans, regardless of the scale; after all, this is probably why you are reading this article. So, with that in mind, we feel the need to not only let you know what to include in your business plan, but how to write it. While nobody can write up your own plans for you, here are our top tips on making a great small business plan:

Don’t be afraid of keeping it short 

At the end of the day if your business plan is extremely long and detailed, nobody is going to want to read the whole thing, and therefore no one probably will read it all the way through. This, of course is an issue, because when it comes to gaining funding, you need the potential loaner to know the ins and outs of your future company.

The other issue with making it overly extensive is that your business plan should ideally be a tool that you can use in the future. When you get to a point where you want to make refinements to the structure of your company, you should be able to look back over your plan and finalise some decisions from there. So, keep things short and sweet and have an easy time during the years ahead.

Use it as an idea tester for your business

Working through your business plan, and beginning with a one-page pitch, can help you test the feasibility of your business’ original concepts and ideas well before launch day rolls around.

As you work through everything from your branding and mission statement, to your budget and future hopes, you are best of getting some feedback in different areas and look out for any recurring criticisms that seem to be popping up. This can be as basic as having a tutor or peer reviewing some of your ideas, or leading statistical surveying and talking straightforwardly to your potential client base.

The more you test and survey components of your plan, the more effective your plan and organisation will ultimately be. This can save you from going through days building up a strategy that simply isn’t doable.

Try not to become intimidated

 You should understand most people opening up small businesses in the UK year after year are not business professionals with first class degrees and a long history of success. Most new business owners are simply beginning their ventures to try new things, pursue a career in something they are passionate about and change their lives for the better.

Remember that you are in the same boat as everyone else with this and there is very little to be afraid of. Enjoy the experience while you can and get creative. If you have a strong concept for your business, there is no doubting that it has the chance to succeed.

Executive Summary 

This section should also include your mission statement and basically be the outline of what your company is and what it will try to achieve in the future. Use this section of the business plan as your elevator pitch if you like; if somebody only read this one part of the plan, they will have a clear understanding of what you are as a business and what you stand for, if you write it effectively.

It is important you get this section right, as it is the first and arguably most important part of the plan that potential lenders will read before deciding whether to award you with a business loan, so that you can get your company off the ground. The executive summary will likely be a few pages long, so don’t shy away from going into detail where you feel the need to.

You could include:

  • The outline of what your business is and aims to be
  • Company background
  • Market opportunity
  • Management overviews
  • Financial highlights
  • Competitive advantages

Business description and structure

If the last section of the plan contained your elevator pitch of the business, think of this part as going into further detail and getting into the nitty gritty and what your business actually is and what it’ll sell/offer. If you’re selling products and services, detail what they are and how they’ll be manufactured here. Also include information on how you’ll handle inventory, the availability of materials you’ll need to use, as well as other operational details.

If you’re planning on offering a service to your customers, talk about the value proposition they have to your customers and describe exactly what they will be. You can also cover topics such as, strategic relationships, administrative issues, intellectual property you may own, expenses, and the legal structure of your company, in this section of the business plan.

You could include:

  • The products and services you’ll offer to customers
  • The manufacturing methods you plan to use
  • Value propositions
  • Product-related expenses

Market research 

In this section you will want to include your up-to-date analysis of the market your business will going into. Look at the positions of other companies in the current market and iron out which will be your main competitors. Also, be sure to include your main strategies here in this section of the plan, so mention your potential sales forecasts, any milestones you aim to reach within your first year as an active business, advertising, and public relationships.

You should aim to provide as much market analysis as possible in order to demonstrate the vast amount of research you have conducted before thinking about starting a business of your own. Nobody should go into any sector with a blind eye and think they can be successful.

You could include:

  • Detailed market analysis
  • How you’ll stack up against your competition
  • Sales forecasts and financial milestones/targets
  • Advertising and marketing strategies

Management and personnel

This section is rather straight forward as all you really have to do is provide bios of any company executives and managers that will have active roles within the business. You could also mention how their past experience and market-expertise will help you to achieve your business’ goals/milestones.

Remember that all investors will start off as non-believers in your company and it is the role of your business plan to win them over as they read through it. Therefore, highlighting how your team has vast amounts of experience will be extremely useful when it comes to winning the lenders over. They need to know that their investments will be secure and worthwhile, so do everything you can to show them.

You could include:

  • Bios of your management and company executives
  • Information on their previous roles within the industry
  • How it will all help your business to accomplish its goals

Financial documentation

This is the part of the business plan where you will provide the numbers that back up everything you described in your organisational and marketing sections. Include realistic projections of your profit and loss statements, a balance sheet, and your cash flow statements for the next three years. These should be future projections, not your current accounting output.

You could include:

  • Balance sheets
  • Realistic financial projections
  • Cash flow statements

What else makes a great business plan?

Along with all of the things we’ve already mentioned (which are the key points to include), you could also add in these extra inclusions to make your plan stand out from the rest of the pack that lenders receive on a weekly basis:

  • Target market
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial forecasts
  • Long term strategies

When to update your business plan

As this year continues to flash by at a blistering pace, this moment is a reasonable opportunity to ponder your business methodology and update your strategy. Doing this every year around a similar date will help you stay competitive and maintain a sound income.

While a yearly audit uncovers the higher perspective from each point, month to month surveys help you centre around what should be worked on every day. It’s anything but’s a specialist once every year and attempting to review changes in your wellbeing for that entire time, as opposed to going in for ordinary registration.

You ought to likewise refresh your marketable strategy is if something major happens to your business or inside your industry, similar to a difference in area or the insolvency of your fundamental rival. While large occasions may request revising entire areas of your field-tested strategy, you’ll update, adjusting and growing explicit focuses generally.

How to update your business plan

Here are the means engaged with refreshing your marketable strategy so that it’s prepared for the year ahead. Past adaptations ought to be documented instead of overwritten, so you generally have a record of your advancement year-on-year.

Get reacquainted with clients

No one is more essential to your future income and development than your clients. You may as of now be having easy-going discussions about costs, items and contenders across the counter, yet there are more viable approaches to get what clients — and their practices — are attempting to advise you.

Utilise a feedback tool

Digital receipts can be utilised to request feedback from clients and customers in today’s world. This permits you to plunge into more engaged conversations about your presentation and their steadfastness away from the public field of social media or review websites.

Examine what individuals are purchasing

Break down sales information from your coordinated retail location framework to perceive what items or administrations are performing best and which continue to leave stock. A retail location framework that allows you to see deals down to the individual level through a customer index, will assist you with seeing all the more so if your target fans are who you thought they were, if their purchasing propensities have changed, etc.

Return to your motivation

With these experiences, you can start to rethink your business recommendation, item offering and valuing system. What are your clients are purchasing most and what issues you’re helping them tackle? What they need and how your offer reacts to that want are significant focuses to accentuate in your arrangement.

Review your sales performance

Your point-of-sale framework can be utilised to analyse sales results from past years and contrast these and what you projected in your strategy initially. With your average sales performance, month-to-month pictured as a chart, track this line forward along a similar way — this is a fundamental projection for the coming year.

Observe what irregularity or different means for influenced sales at various times, and make sure to contemplate these in your projections. What occasions this year could cause different changes? Whenever you’ve thoroughly considered potential deals openings and dangers, you would then be able to refresh your strategy with the numbers.

Address your team

Your team are probably going to know about regions in the business that are needing additional asset. Maybe they’ve seen long lines hindering clients, or a build-up of unanswered client care messages, showing the requirement for a recruiting support or a staff rebuild.

They can likewise give you understanding into which frameworks are working, what items individuals consistently give good criticism on and how they feel the business has advanced as the year progressed.

Invigorate your spending plan

Expanded money flow is prone to remain your greatest concentration as an independent venture. What techniques in your last strategy succeeded or bombed in conveying this? What’s more, how do your plans this year influence the size of the spending that you’ll require? Changes like developing your group, opening another area or dispatching another item will all influence how much cash you’ll spend and hence the amount you need to have in the bank.

Check your opposition

Contest can arise and vanish whenever, so re-try a competitor analysis in your refreshed marketable strategy.

For any new competitors, consider:

  • The benefits they offer that you currently do not
  • Why individuals are purchasing from them
  • What evaluating procedure they’re utilising
  • Your competitive advantage

For any competitors who are not, at this point in business, consider:

  • Why they’re not, at this point on the lookout
  • What their clients are currently missing out on
  • Whether you’re prepared to fill that hole
  • Any competitors that could fill that gap themselves

As you refresh and grow your unique field-tested strategy, you may run over choices or projections that looking back appear to be confused. Realise that this is OK — building a business is a craftsmanship just as a science.

You know quite a lot more now than you did a year prior, and with your refreshed field-tested strategy underarm, you’re prepared to make a better go of the time to come.

In summary

Ensure that you spend enough time developing your small business plan, so that it is detailed, lengthy and covers all aspects that need to be covered. Hopefully by reading through this guide you will now be more aware of exactly what you need to put into your business plan and understand the reasons as to why.

Do your market research, see how you’ll fit into the sector and begin to develop your target audience. Afterwards, you can ensure that you have all the correct financial information included in your documentation and you’ll finally be ready to submit your business plan to potential lenders and investors. Good luck with the future of your business ventures.