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Business Plans - A guide to writing a business plan

A Business Plan is essential, as it will help you to develop your new venture into a successful and prosperous enterprise by defining aims and objectives which can be worked towards and achieved over time. With the number of new businesses on the up, having a sound and well thought out business plan should help you to make your idea stand out, particularly if you’re looking for investment from financiers or for support from organizations such as Chambers of Commerce or Business Development Agencies, although it is likely that some of these will have support in place to help you write the plan.

A Business Plan is ultimately a document which contains basic information about your company’s structure, the strategies that it will adopt and a collection of financial forecasts for a given period of time, usually three years after the plan starts.

A Business Plan’s introduction is called ‘The Executive Summary’ and is often considered as one of the most important parts of the plan. Anybody who reads the plan, particularly potential investors, will look at the Executive Summary to get a flavour of the business and of the person who is writing the plan; they will then have a basic idea the business’s prospects and chances of success.

Each main functional area of the business will have some sort of strategy for its operation; the four main functional areas that you should start with in your plan are;

a. What is your product?
b. How will you produce and deliver your product or service?
a. Who is your target market?
b. Who are your competitors, and how do they market themselves?
c. How will you market your business?
a. How much do competitors charge?
b. How much will you charge, and how did you decide on the price?
c. What expenses are involved, both ‘one-off’ and ongoing expenses.
d. How will you finance your business?
e. The following financial forecasts may prove to be useful;
i. Cash Flow Forecast
ii. Starting Balance Sheet
iii. If you’re focusing on one product, consider a Break-Even Chart
a. Will you need to recruit employees?
b. What skills and qualities should any potential employees have?
c. How much will employees be paid, will it be an annual salary, wage per hour or commission based pay package?

It is important to remember that a Business Plan is not just for other people, you should be constantly referring back to the document when making decisions and developing the business so that you stack of track and achieve your original aims.

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