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Writing a business plan

Your guide to a successful business plan

A good business plan defines exactly what you want to achieve and how you intend to achieve it. Done well, it could help you to focus on the right things, gain support and – if required – secure finances.

We’ve put together a guide that could help you write yours – from knowing your customers and targeting accordingly, to choosing the right name and hiring staff.

Define your business

It’s important that you define what type of small business you are so that everyone you work with understands what you’re trying to achieve. A comprehensive business plan is the best way to go about defining your business.

Your plan should include:

  • What your business will do
  • The products or services it will provide
  • How customers will access your products or services (eg in a shop, online or by phone)
  • Your approach to pricing
  • Your long and short-term objectives – including a series of benchmarks if possible that you can check your progress against

Know your customers

Make sure you know as much as possible about who will be buying from you. For example, if you’re marketing to consumers, here are some questions you might want to ask. Knowing the answers will help you promote your business much more effectively:

  • How old are they?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their lifestyles like?
  • Do they already buy the product or service?
  • Why will they buy from you and no one else?
  • How will you tell them about your business?

Naming your business

The name you choose for your business should reflect the image you want to project to your market. Pick one that’s easy to pronounce and remember, but do some research first. Make sure your chosen name is not already in use, it’s available as a web address and will work on your business stationery. You may also consider looking into the name’s meaning in different countries and languages – especially if you see yourself expanding internationally in the future.

If you have the facilities, you could test various names to see how people from your proposed customer base react. There are companies that provide this service, or you could do it informally by asking friends and family.

Taking on staff

If you take on employees – even part-time – you’ll need to familiarise yourself with employment law and know how to get the best out of your staff. There are plenty of guides that will help you to understand the law and make decisions to suit your business, such as the number of employees you need, what you should offer them and if they will be contractors or permanent.

Here are some key things to consider

  • What are my responsibilities and what do I need to provide them with?
  • How will I make sure they are properly managed and trained?
  • What should I pay them and does it match with the pay offered for similar roles in the area?
  • Does it comply with the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage?
  • How will they benefit my business and help me to achieve my goals?

Writing it all down

When you write your business plan, remember to be clear, realistic and concise. It’s important to consider that someone reading it in the future might not be familiar with jargon or more technical terms, so writing it in plain English is advisable.

You should use research and, if possible, evidence, to support your conclusions and include an action plan. Nothing needs to be set in stone, however; business plans are dynamic documents – meaning that you should adjust your plan as your business develops.

See our in-depth guide to writing a business plan 6.64 MB . (PDF)

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