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Guide to business planning

Source: Barclays Bank Plc / BBC

A business plan isn't something you should do just to get a business bank account or business loan.

All businesses, whether new or established, should have a constantly evolving business plan in order to capture the strategic operational and financial aims of the business.

Define your business

Your small business plan should clearly state:

  • What your business will do

  • The products or services it will provide

  • How customers will access your products or services (for example, in a shop, online or by phone)

  • Your approach to pricing

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:

  • Are they young or old?

  • What do they do for a living?

  • What are their lifestyles like?

  • Do they already buy the product or service you’ll be offering?

  • What will they think of your product or service?

  • Why will they buy from you and no one else?

  • How will you tell them about your business?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you promote your business much more effectively.

Financial forecast

Think about your sales and marketing strategy, include information on how the product or service will be priced, channels to market, advertising and marketing plans.

Details of key personnel and their relevant experience are also important, as is operational information like office location, special equipment and expected employee headcount.

Include details of any finance provided by the founder or management team and indicate the key risks to the business and any mitigating action you can take.

Your plan should also include a sales forecast, cashflow forecast and a projected profit and loss account for up to five years' ahead.

Larger businesses should also draw up a projected balance sheet.

The figures used must be reasonable - avoid being over optimistic. The involvement of a qualified accountant in preparing these forecasts is recommended.

What’s in a name?

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. And make sure that it’s not already in use, is available as a web address and will work on your business stationery.

Writing it all down

When you write your business plan, remember to be clear, realistic and concise. Use research to support your conclusions and include an action plan. And remember that business plans are dynamic documents - meaning that you should adjust your plan as your business develops.

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