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Secrets of writing your own business plan
| What clients say
When do you need your Business Plan?
And by all means discuss your ideas with your friends and family. But it's a big mistake to show anyone who might be interested in backing you financially your plans until they have been professionally prepared. There are two reasons for this advice. The first is that it is not reasonable to expect other people to be able to visualise a finished conception from your rough sketches. They are more likely to judge your scheme on what they see rather than what you really envisage.
The second reason is that, above all, a financial backer will be looking for evidence of professionalism on your part. That doesn't mean you have to be an expert in everything, but it does mean you have to know when to use the services of professionals.
What goes in the business plan?
You need to give an overview of your company and its product or services, saying what need it fulfils.
Next you'll need to quantify demand for your product or service, size the market and give an analysis of competitors already in the marketplace.
You'll need to write in detail about what makes your company and your product unique or different from all the other products available on the market.
Your report needs a very comprehensive section on sales and marketing. Backers are going to want to know where sales are coming from and how you are going to get and manage those sales.
If your business plan suggests that, because you have built a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door, then I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed. The world doesn't even know your mousetrap exists and couldn't care less even if it also answers the phone, does the dishes and grants three wishes one of which is for unlimited money. Your marketing plan must say in detail exactly who is going to buy your product and how you are going to lead them to buy it.
Your report needs a section on the management team, giving your business credentials, track records, and stressing the strengths that members of the team bring to your new venture. especially in sales and marketing.
Most important of all, your business plan must set out your sales projections, your projected costs and show when you will get into profit. Your backers will be interested in one thing - return on investment, and your plan must spell that out for them.
In summary, to generate your business plan, you'll need to research your market place and your competition. Work out how you are going to reach your target market. Write up the capabilities of your management team. Spell out your marketing plans in detail. And provide a spreadsheet that shows your revenue, your costs, your projected cash flow and your projected profits.
Then you'll need to line up some suitable potential backers, get appointments to see them, and pitch your idea to them.
There are some useful advantages in getting a professional to prepare your plan.
An outsider's viewpoint
As well as a business plan, you will be getting a reality check on its feasibility from someone who can be objective. Your friends and family will think your ideas are brilliant. A business planner is someone who isn't afraid to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about your baby - while there is still time to remedy weaknesses.
You will also be getting someone with experience to cast a critical eye over the important figures. How realistic are your sales forecasts? And your costs? And what about your cash flow forecast?
The reason most new businesses fail (and most do fail) is that they run out of cash - cash to buy raw material and cash to pay the wages, and the rent. They run out of cash because they overestimate their revenue and they underestimate their costs.
In many cases, the owners of the new venture have not conducted any serious market research, so they have no real idea of demand for their product or service.
And in almost all cases, the new business owners have not made proper provision for marketing their product or service, beyond a website, a blog and a Facebook page.
The marketing part of the business plan is in some ways the most important, because in the critical early stages immediately following the launch the marketing campaigns are likely to be the only tools directly affecting the generation of revenue.
"Over the years Richard has bought a wealth of insight and knowledge to a range of PR events I have undertaken and ensured they achieved maximum results."
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The Business Plans Expert
Last updated 4 March 2013