How To Write the Ultimate Business Plan
Table of Contents
Your guide to writing the ultimate Business Plan
It’s safe to say that any successful enterprise needs a business plan. Whether you’re trying to identify areas for improvement, work out how effective your business is or just design a cohesive strategy, your organisation will need a viable, effective business plan.
You can think of a business plan as being the cornerstone for a successful enterprise; most companies would be lost without a business plan and have used them to success for years. It’s as they say – prior planning really does prevent poor performance.
You can put down cash to make a business work, but smart entrepreneurs will check if the idea is a good one beforehand. A business plan is a stress test for your idea – how well does it perform when you run the numbers and get the cold hard facts? Maple US is here to give you the guide you need.
A Quick Introduction to Business Plans
Let’s kick this off by taking a look at what a business plan is and how it’s used.
You can think of your business plan as a document that will tell anyone who looks at it all they could need to know about your company, what you plan to do and how you operate. It’ll have information about your business models, staffing, finances, available services and all the other details you’d need.
When an investor takes a look at the plan, they should get an instant understanding of what you want. With that in mind, your business plan needs to be easy to read and understandable – no fancy language if you can help it.
The Importance of Writing a Business Plan
As we said before, any investor you work with needs to know exactly what you’re doing to make an investment. However, you can still make a business plan even if you’re not looking for funding. A business plan can offer a lot of perks – let’s check them out:
- Writing a business plan can give you a clear understanding of what to do for the best.
- Your business plan can be used to give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the business you want to start.
- You’ll need to do market research on your target audience as part of a business plan – this can help later.
- A business plan is a good way to showcase your business for new staff – this helps with recruitment and onboarding.
- If you want to partner up with another company, then a business plan can help share important information.
The Different Business Plan Formats
The thing you need to remember about a business plan is that there isn’t a set format for writing a business plan. It’s largely up to you how you do it – some people have a page, whereas others make a document that’s dozens of pages long.
The great thing about a business plan is that it’s open to interpretation, but generally, you’ll follow one of the three main categories that get used:
- Traditional business plans are long, complex documents with facts, figures and industry-specific jargon. This is the document you’ll make for an investor because it showcases your business properly and helps them make a decision about supplying the funding.
- Lean business plans are minimal, stripped-down documents that talk about the bare essentials of a business plan. They’re usually short and sweet, and are often used for recruitment or just as a plan.
- If you’re a nonprofit business, then you’ll probably wind up making a business plan that’s less about the financial viability of your enterprise and more about the social benefits. If you’re going to work to improve the community, for example, your plan will focus on how you do that.
How to Write a Business Plan Step-By-Step - A Guide
Your best chance for success comes from a structured business plan. You need to know what to say about your business and to order the information cohesively. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide for making a traditional business plan. Feel free to use this guide as the skeleton for a business plan but add any information relevant to your business that needs to be included.
1. The executive summary
The first part of a business plan is the executive summary. It’s the last part of the plan you’ll write but also the first thing we want to talk about because some people write their summary first as a skeleton. You shouldn’t need more than a single page to write a summary, but you need to think about certain information to include:
- Your business purpose – what do you do, and why?
- Your business goals – what do you want to accomplish?
- Your product differentiation – what makes your services and goods different from the rest?
- Your target audience – who are you trying to sell products to?
- Your marketing plan – how will you convince people to buy your products?
- Your financial situation – how much money do you have to use?
- Your funding request – how much capital does your business need to borrow to start operating?
2. The company profile
In this section, you’ll talk about your company. Your passion for your business will shine through in this part of the plan because you can talk about your goals, hopes and aspirations. Most people will only need a page for this one, so you don’t need to go overboard with detail – make sure you answer these two big questions:
Who are you?
What do you want to achieve?
These questions might look tricky – they can be harder for some than others. However, answering these two questions will help you to focus on your business plan and work out where it is that you want to go.
Here’s what you’ll want to include in your company profile:
- Your business model and chosen industry
- Your values, goals and mission
- Your company history – how you came to be here and what you want to achieve
- Your staff, their roles and importance in the company
- Your objectives as a company – both for now and in the future
You can think of the company profile as being the first real test of your business – you’ll find out what you’re made of here and how it will shape you. It’s okay to take your time on it.
We do recommend you put together some SMART goals, though. These are your goals for the future, but they have a focus on being realistic, quantified and possible in a given timeframe.
3. The market analysis
The next section of your business plan is all about market analysis. You need to research your industry carefully to get the best shot at a successful business. Think about this like preparing for a business meeting – you need to know everything there is to know about your industry before you step up to speak. Here’s what you should keep in mind for market research.
Market size is a big part of the research. You’ll struggle to get customers if you enter the industry at a time when the market is smaller. You need to find data that can validate your claims about business growth. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Learn about your customer profile and use it to create an ideal consumer. Learn about their buying habits and preferences.
- Take a look at market trends because they have a big impact on your business – what is your age group? How many people would reach that in the next few years?
- At the end of the day, you need to make educated guesses about your target market. It’s okay not to know for sure, but investors need to see you’ve at least thought about it.
The SWOT analysis
You’ll probably need to sort out a SWOT analysis for your business during market research. This is where you’ll take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that your business will face.
A SWOT analysis is good for showing that you’re self-aware enough to be critical about your business. This helps investor confidence a lot – nobody wants to work with someone who displays an unwarranted amount of self-confidence with little-to-no thought for failure.
Making a competitive analysis
A competitive analysis is a big part of a successful business, and it’s lined up into three main sections – segmentation, differentiation and cost leadership.
Segmentation is about your industry niche. What are you going to focus on? How specific are the services you offer?
Cost leadership is all about your ability to change costs to either keep prices accessible or increase your profits. It’s up to you to figure out a balance.
Differentiation is about you showing that you understand what your product offers that makes it stand out from the crowd. How are you different from a competitor?
You’ll need to pick one of these areas to focus on with your business – it’s your choice though. You also need to look at your competitors. Whether you like it or not, they’re a part of the process, and you’ll always have competition in some form or another.
4. The management and organization solution
Organization and management aren’t difficult to work out. Who’s in the company, and what do they do? Your key players, whether they’re managers, directors, or IT specialists, all need to be mentioned. After all, you need evidence that you have all the main positions in the company filled or nearly filled.
5. The products and services
Products and services are a normal part of a business plan, and luckily it isn’t too difficult to work out. What are you giving people when you start trading? It’s not difficult to talk about services and things you’re going to do. If you plan to release extra services in the future, then you should definitely talk about them too.
6. The customer segmentation
You’ll need to sit down and make an ideal customer profile as part of a business plan because it demonstrates that you’ve given thought to who you’ll be marketing to and who you want to sell products to.
You need to look at things like the age and income of your customer, their spending habits, work patterns, values and beliefs. Are they looking for eco-friendly products, for example? If they are, how do you plan to market your products to them?
7. The marketing plan
Marketing is a core part of any successful business and if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to think carefully about marketing and how you’re going to promote products and services.
Having a good marketing plan is a core part of the business plan because it shows that you’ve got a strategy in place that’s been built on research and proper testing.
8. The operations and logistics solution
A successful business is bound to a good logistics and operations solution, and without it, you will struggle to get anything done.
It would help if you showed that you’ve considered the entire operational chain and logistics of all parts of your business. Here are a few examples of what you need to consider:
Try and think about your suppliers – where are you getting your products from? Are they being assembled by the supplier?
Think about the production of your products – do they come ready to sell, or do you need to look at putting them together? If so, do you need staff and a warehouse?
Consider your facilities and equipment – where will you work, and what equipment do you need to run the business? This can be computers to heavy-duty manufacturing gear.
9. The financial planning
Finances are a vital component of any business plan, and you’ll need to be able to show that you’ve given a lot of thought to your finances before you start trading.
You need money to start the business, and money for insurance, paying the wages of workers, marketing budgets, logistics budgets – there are a lot of financial considerations to make, and you need to show you’ve thought about all of them. You’ll need to have an income sheet, cash flow projections, and a balance sheet.
Our Strategies For Crafting a Small Business Plan
Crafting a business plan for your small business is complicated – here are our top suggestions for doing so:
Work out who your target audience is
Your target audience should be at the forefront of all decision-making and will influence how you approach your business.
Set clear goals from the beginning
Goals help to give you a sense of accomplishment, but they also drive the business forward. Your goals should be clear and concise.
Keep it simple and short
Any business plan or strategy you create should be short and simple. Getting complicated and trying to design complex strategies will lead to slowed progress and often failure.
From marketing materials to your everyday interactions on social media, consistency is the lifeblood of a small business. Your plan should also be as consistent in tone and sophistication to deliver an easy reading.
Work from a frame
Whether you care to admit it or not, working from a frame is the most sensible thing you can do. It’ll help you to focus your work and deliver results.
The Common Mistakes You’ll Make Writing a Business Plan
Writing a business plan isn’t an exact science, and most people will make a mistake or two along the way. Let’s talk about the common things you’ll do wrong so you can learn from your mistakes.
- Bad ideas are everywhere, and it’s easy to convince yourself you can make it work anyway – you can’t; if the data doesn’t back up your plan, let it go.
- Always make sure that your plan has a built-in exit strategy. Investors and shareholders need to be able to leave with no financial loss.
- Make sure that you choose your team carefully and have at least one technical expert available from the beginning. It helps to show investors that you are considering the online part of your business carefully.
- Always include financial projections. A business that doesn’t have evidence of its financial situation or goals for the future is destined to fail and won’t make it past the first five minutes with investors.
- Take a look at your document at least twice before you send it back. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can destroy your reputation in seconds and make you look like a novice.
Make a Business Plan With Us Today
Ultimately, your business does need a business plan, and if you don’t have one, you are more likely to fail than businesses that do. You don’t have to make a complicated business plan if you’re not going for investors, but if you’re just trying to plan out the next steps for your new company, a business plan is recommended.
Maple US can help when it comes to designing and implementing a business plan. Get in touch with us today and see exactly what we can do for you. Maple US is happy to provide assistance to big and small companies alike – we’ve got a lot of experience.