A business plan is a document that outlines the goals of a company, and what they hope to achieve. It can be used for many different things, including fundraising and attracting investors. But only if it’s written well! This blog post will walk you through how to create the perfect business plan from scratch. We’ll cover everything from choosing a good title to outlining your assumptions and hypotheses. Ready? Good, then let’s get started.
Step One: Brainstorming and Research
The first step is to brainstorm the topics that you will cover. The ones that come most easily are probably those where you have a lot of experience, or where your company has already got some traction. If it’s not obvious what sort of things should go in here, think about how potential investors might look at your business; what questions would they ask? What do they want to know? You can also consider other sources such as industry reports, government statistics, or academic journals for inspiration on what people outside of your organization have identified as key issues within the area. There may be sections from previous business plans (written by yourself or others) that could be useful reference material too! Once you’ve got some ideas for sections, write them all down in a list.
Step Two: Writing the Content of Your Business Plan
Once you’ve got your brainstormed topics listed out, it’s time to start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). This part is going to take more than one step–this is where you actually fill in the details! The next few steps will give tips on how best to do that. There are no hard and fast rules about what should go into each section; they’re just suggestions based on what would be useful or relevant depending on your organization and its goals.
A good rule of thumb when writing anything like this is “show don’t tell”. That means instead of saying something like “we are a global enterprise”, you should include data and statistics that show how big your company is (such as “we have clients in 57 countries”). If something isn’t quantifiable, give examples to explain what it means. For example, if you want to say “we are really good at marketing our products”, don’t just write that – instead try saying something like “in 2017 we achieved $XX million of revenue from sales in this channel”.
Here’s one sample section for the business plan outline:
Brainstorming and Research
* Company Overview – [here goes some content about my company] * Marketing Strategy – [write an overview of the marketing strategy here] * Sales Forecast & Targets – [include a table or graph here] * SWOT Analysis – [write about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the company]
This is where you introduce your organisation to the reader. This should include some basic information such as what it does, where it’s based and its history. You can also use this section to outline any recent developments or changes which have happened within the company. If there are any noteworthy partnerships or collaborations which have been formed, mention them here too.
In this section, you’ll want to go into detail about how you plan on marketing your products or services. This includes things like the channels you plan on using, how much money and resources will be allocated to marketing efforts, who is involved in developing these strategies etc. You should also include a breakdown of your budget for each channel (e.g., $XX million from TV advertising, $YY million from trade shows) – this can then form part of your financial forecast section too if you want!
Sales Forecast & Targets
This part goes into detail about what sort of revenue or sales numbers you expect over the next few years. This would typically consist of some basic figures such as total expected revenue by year X and may take any number of forms: graphs showing an upward trending line indicating growth over time; tables with rows indicating key milestones with associated revenue figures; or any other way that makes it easy for the reader to understand at a glance.
This section outlines your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This analysis can be helpful in understanding how well-placed your organisation is to achieve its goals as well as identifying any potential risks which could impact future success.
Once you have all of these sections written out, your business plan will be looking pretty good! If you’re feeling stuck on what to write or need some more ideas, don’t forget to check out resources like industry reports, government statistics or academic journals for inspiration on what people outside of your organisation have identified as key issues within the area. There may also be relevant publications like analyst reports that are worth reading to get a sense of what other people in the industry think about certain issues.
Final Tip: One thing which may help you when writing your business plan is to keep it simple and avoid making things too complicated. The best way to do this is by thinking about how investors or clients would want to consume the information – for example, if they were going through their inboxes looking for something interesting and came across your email pitch, what sort of summary statistics would they expect? What kinds of graphs or tables might catch their eye instead of just words? Try not to overload them with lots of detail but focus on providing as much value as possible in an easily digestible format!
Step 3: Construct a Believable Financial Forecast
This section of your business plan is all about the numbers. Here you’ll want to include a detailed forecast for the next few years detailing how much money you expect to generate and where it will come from, as well as an estimate for what you think your company’s value may be at these points in time (which can then feed into valuation). This part of your document should also contain some detail on any additional funding needs or capital requirements that might arise during this period – e.g., if certain contracts need signing but funds are not available right now, say so! Investors love being told exactly where they stand when it comes to finances and unfortunately there isn’t really any way around it other than telling them like it is.
A final word of warning on this section: you need to be 100% honest and realistic at all times when writing your financial forecast as it will likely provide a strong indication of how well-positioned the business is for future success if people can trust what’s being presented here. That means telling investors things like “we don’t have enough money” or “our margins are too low”, even though they may not sound good in isolation, should always be included because otherwise (depending on their experience) they may easily come away with a bad impression about the overall health of your company which could jeopardize any future fundraising efforts!
Step 4: Valuation & Exit Strategy
This part is pretty straightforward: simply put some numbers and commentary around what you think your company will be worth in the next few years (or whenever) based on where you expect it to be at that point in time. Then, for each year of the forecast period, say how much money you plan to raise through investment or other means, e.g., if it’s a private company, then give details about any upcoming rounds with expected valuations, milestones that need funding etc…
Finally, this section should also contain some detail on what sort of exit strategy is being pursued by the business – either an IPO or M&A deal are common targets here, but don’t forget that things like trade sales can still provide great outcomes so make sure not to leave these out! The more precise information provided here, the better as investors will want to know that you have a well-thought-out plan in place and are not just winging it.
Step 5: Management Summary
This section is all about introducing key members of the management team and highlighting their relevant experience. This doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list, but try to cover who is heading up each area of the business, what they’re good at, and how long they’ve been with the company. A quick paragraph on why each individual was chosen for their role should suffice; – after all, investors want to know that you haven’t just thrown anyone into these positions without thinking things through!
If there are any external advisors or consultants who are playing a major role in helping run the business then don’t forget to mention them as well!
Step 6: Competition & Competitive Advantage
This section is all about telling the investor what you think your company does better than anyone else in this space and why. You should make it clear how your product or service differs from those of any direct competitors, e.g., if there are other companies offering a similar service but yours has more features or fewer bugs – whatever makes sense for the situation at hand, really! Then briefly explain why exactly these differences exist (i.e., where do they stem from?) either because of factors within the company itself, like its culture, or perhaps due to external reasons such as access to some sort of funding that others don’t have, etc… The key point here is to give investors a clear idea of what makes your company stand out from the competition.
Step 7: Marketing & Sales Strategy
Here you will want to cover off how exactly you plan on marketing and selling your product or service, as well as any future plans for expanding into new markets, etc… It’s also worth including some details about who will be doing all this work – so whether it’s going to be in-house staff (if there are enough people) or external partners/agencies that are getting involved, then say so! If the business hasn’t really gotten round to launching anything yet but has had conversations with potential customers, I would suggest showing these along with quotes from them saying they’re interested in buying once something is ready.
This section is also a good place to talk about pricing, i.e., how you plan on setting your rates and whether these are going to be fixed or flexible. Obviously, investors want to make sure that the company isn’t planning on undercutting everyone in order to steal market share which could lead to unsustainable losses down the road – so try and present all of this information in a way that shows you have a solid understanding of what you’re doing!
Step 8: Financial Projections
Assuming everything has been going well up until this point, it’s now time for some projections about the future! This section should contain detailed financial data for each year of the forecast period including sales, costs, profits (or losses) and key balance sheet items like assets and liabilities. Obviously, the further out you go into the future the hazier things become so it’s not always possible to give a 100% accurate picture – but try to be as realistic as possible when putting these numbers together.
One thing to keep in mind is that investors will want to see how your business is going to make money over time, i.e., what’s the path to profitability? So make sure to include a section discussing how you plan on becoming profitable (or at least breaking even) and any assumptions that have gone into this analysis.
Step 9 Conclusion & Financials
Use this final bit at the end of your business plan template as an opportunity to wrap up everything that’s gone before using some great closing sentences which really drive home what makes your company worth investing in… try and make things sound exciting while also making sure there are no loose ends left untied (i.e., didn’t forget anything!) As mentioned earlier on, having financial projections included will obviously make a big difference to how seriously your business plan is taken so remember to include them in an appendix if possible; – otherwise, there’s no harm including then as part of the main body of your document.
Just for fun, here’s one example (written by me!) that you can use or adapt when putting together your own company plan:
As the founder and CEO at TechHub I have been responsible for overseeing all aspects of its growth since day one. Since our launch back in 2009 we’ve gone from strength to strength growing into Europe’s largest startup incubator with over 700 members based across 13 locations worldwide. Prior to founding TechHub, I was also involved with several successful companies where I held positions ranging from marketing manager before moving on to become head of business development. I have over 15 years’ experience within the startup community and am one of TechHub’s founders, but my true passion comes from working directly with aspiring entrepreneurs providing them with valuable insights into how they can improve their businesses both in terms of process and strategy. Overall, I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as a bad idea or company – only those which are executed badly!
Other Sections Worth Including In Your Business Plan Template
Obviously this template has been designed so it covers all the bases while being easy to follow and understand… however, if you’re looking for some extra sections then here are two worth considering adding (if relevant). The first talks about your competitors whereas the other is all about you, your team, and any advisors that might be helping.
Do You need To Look At Competitors & Industry Trends?
This section, if you decide to include it, will talk specifically about the competitive landscape in which your business operates – so who are the direct competitors? What makes them different from each other and most importantly how does this impact on your company’s own unique selling proposition (USP)? Answering these questions should make it very easy to decide what sort of things need changing within your business plan template if needed… It’ll also help highlight strengths that can hopefully be exploited to generate more sales or market share over time! Below I’ve included a sample competitor analysis table but feel free to add anything else you think would make sense when writing your own competitors section.
About You and Your Team (Optional)
This is one of the most underrated sections in any business plan as it really allows you to showcase your team – who are they? Why do they want to be involved with this new startup project? What have they done before which sets them apart from everyone else… etc, etc. It’s also a great place for potential investors or customers to get more information about the actual people behind your company so make sure you include at least their names, previous experience/roles & contact details if possible! Here’s an example template that you can use when writing up this sort of personal profile but feel free to adapt it until it works best for yourself:
- Position In Company:
- Previous Roles & Responsibilities:
- Education Details:
- Hobbies & Interests:
- Personal Philosophy or Quote:
- Contact Details (Email, LinkedIn Profile, Twitter Handle, Website etc.):
- Summary of Bio / Experience:
As you can see, this is a great opportunity to let people know more about you and your team… so make sure you take advantage of it! And with that, we come to the end of this business plan template. I hope you’ve found it helpful and that it’ll give you a good starting point for putting together your own company’s plans. Remember to read through the whole thing and do your best to ensure that it’s relevant for you, your business idea or startup… but don’t worry about any spelling mistakes because once you’ve started writing everything will just flow naturally!