Business Plans

What Are Business Plans?

Owners of businesses generally write business plans in order to prepare for growth and promote investment capital. The business plan would detail every aspect of the business and is often used as a guide by management to achieve company goals and facilitate growth plans. Typical types of business plans include, but are not limited to, start-up, operations , strategic, internal, and growth plans.

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How do I write a Business Plan?

Every business needs to have a solid business plan, whether it’s to provide direction or attract investors. A business plan is essential for the success for your organization, but, how do you go about writing one – what should it contain? Getting started can be tricky, so, here are seven recommended steps for writing your ideal business plan.

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Why do I need a business plan?

Simply put, if you are looking to expand your business, seeking to be more competitive or just wanting to achieve a particular business goal – then yes, you're going to need one. Whether you are just starting out or have been established for years, business planning is vital and potential clients, business associates, and investors will all want to know where you're going and what's your plan to achieve it.

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6 Types Of Business Plan

Start-Up Business Plans

A start-up business plan would typically include details describing the company and its intended make-up, the products or services that you intend to sell or provide, market evaluations and your projected management team. Should you need investment, then potential investors are going to require financial analysis which should include income, profit and cash flow projections as a minimum.

Operations plans are internal plans that consist of elements related to company operations. An operations plan, specifies implementation markers and deadlines for the coming year. The operations plan outlines employees’ responsibilities.

Providing a high-level view of the company, a strategic business plan looks at the business as a whole and would often include mission statements, definitions of critical success factors, strategies for achieving essential business goals and implementation schedules. A strategic business plan includes all aspects of the business and details their role in achieving the larger company goals.

Internal business plans are intended for specific departments or sections of your business such as the Marketing team or IT department for example. The plan typically would start with your businesses current state (operational costs and profitability) then calculate if and by what means the business will repay any capital required for the project, new equipment or resource. It will invariably provide information about project marketing, tech support costs and additional staffing requirements. Additionally, they may include a market analysis illustrating target demographics, market size and effects on company income.

The feasibility business plan poses two main questions regarding a proposed new business venture – whether that venture be a new acquisition or the provision of additional services: will the venture turn a profit; and, will it help towards achieving company goals. A feasibility plan ends with recommendations for going forward.

Also commonly referred to as expansion plans, growth plans provide in-depth details of proposed growth. If that proposed growth requires investment, then a growth plan may include complete descriptions of the company, its management and officers. The plan would normally include all company details to satisfy potential investors including financial sales and expense projections.

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7 Steps For Writing A Solid Business Plan

Do your homeworkIdentify the purpose of your planConstruct a company profileDetailed documentationStrategic marketing plan – get oneAdaptability – make it relevant to all audiencesShow passion

To write the ideal business plan, you must first know your company, your product, your competition and the market that you are entering. In other words, it’s your responsibility to know everything you can about your business and the arena you are about to fight in. Read everything you can about your industry and talk to everybody.

A business plan describes the nature of your business, the sales and marketing strategy, the financial background, and contains a projected profit and loss statement. However, your business plan can serve several different purposes and have multiple roles.

In addition, your business plan will act as a road map providing direction and helping you to avoid common pitfalls. That’s important to keep in mind if you’re self-funding or bootstrapping your business. If however, you want to attract investors, your plan will have a different purpose and you’ll have to write your plan in a more targeted way - it will have to be as clear and concise as possible. When you define your plan, make sure you have defined these goals personally as well.

Your company profile includes the history of your organization, what products or services you offer, your target market and audience, your resources, how you’re going to solve a problem and what makes your business unique.

Company profiles are often found on the company’s official website and are used to attract possible customers and talent. However, your profile can be used to describe your company in your business plan. It’s not only an essential component of your business plan; it’s also one of the first written parts of the plan. Having your profile in place makes this step a whole lot easier to compose.

Investors want to make sure that your business is going to make them money. Because of this, investors want to know everything about your business – so, document everything, include expenses, cash flow and industry projections. Also, don’t forget seemingly minor details like licensing agreements or your location strategy

A great business plan will always include a strategic marketing plan. This typically includes achieving marketing objectives such as:

  • Introducing new products
  • Extending or regaining market for existing products
  • Entering new territories for the company
  • Boosting sales in a particular product, market or price range. Where will this business come from? Be specific
  • Cross-selling (or bundling) one product with another
  • Entering into long-term contracts with desirable clients
  • Raising prices without cutting into sales figures
  • Having a content marketing strategy
  • Enhancing manufacturing/product delivery

Each marketing objective should have several goals (subsets of objectives) and tactics for achieving those goals In the objectives section of your marketing plan, you focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the marketing tasks for the year ahead. In the implementation section, you focus on the practical, sweat-and-calluses areas of who, where, when and how. This is life in the marketing trenches.

The potential readers of a business plan are a varied bunch, ranging from bankers and venture capitalists to employees. Although this is a diverse group, it is a finite one. And each type of reader does have certain typical interests. If you know these interests up-front, you can be sure to take them into account when preparing a plan for that particular audience.

For example, bankers will be more interested in balance sheets and cash-flow statements, while venture capitalists will be looking at the basic business concept and your management team. The manager on your team, however, will be using the plan to “remind themselves of objectives."

Because of this, make sure that your plan can be modified depending on the audience reading your plan. However, keep these alterations limited from one plan to another. This means that when sharing financial projections, you should keep that data the same across the board.

Whether you’re sharing your plan with an investor, customer or team member, your plan needs to show that you’re passionate and dedicated, and you actually care about your business and the plan. You could discuss the mistakes that you've learned, list the problems that you’re hoping to solve, describe your values, and establish what makes you stand out from the competition.

By explaining why you care about your business you create an emotional connection with others so that they’ll support your organization going forward.

3 Reasons Why You Need A Business Plan

1 – A Business Plan Is Essential To Solicit Finance

If you’re seeking finance for your business, you’ll need to show banks and investors why they should invest in your business. Lenders and investors will only risk their time and money if they’re confident that your business will be successful and profitable. A thorough and well-researched business plan:

  • shows that you’re serious about your business
  • helps lenders and investors to understand your business idea
  • shows your predicted profits and income streams.

Your marketing plan is also a crucial part of helping you to attract funds.

2 – A Business Plan Helps You To Prioritise

A complete, thoughtful business plan is one of the most valuable tools in helping you reach your long-term goals. It gives your business direction, defines your objectives, maps out strategies to achieve your goals and helps you to manage possible bumps in the road. Preparing a business plan will help you work out the goals you want to achieve, and the strategies to achieve them. This means you can focus your resources and energy on what you need to do, rather than spreading yourself too thin. The planning process also helps you to consider possible bumps in the road and put a plan in place to better manage them if they do come up.

Once you’ve got a business plan in place, it’s a good idea to regularly review and update it to:

  • remind yourself of your goals and priorities
  • assess whether your strategies are working
  • adapt to any new changes in your environment
  • make the most of new opportunities as they come your way.

Your marketing plan is also a crucial part of helping you to attract funds.

3 – A Business Plan Gives You Control Over Your Business

Developing your business plan helps you to step back and look at what’s working in your business and what you can improve on. If you have employees, the planning process can be a good opportunity to seek their feedback on possible ideas and improvements. Your employees will value this opportunity to contribute to the business.

Taking the time out of your business to plan will give you a sense of control about the future of your business and pay off in the long run! Business planning can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but many successful businesses look at it as an opportunity. The planning process helps you learn about the different forces and factors that may affect your success. If you’re already in business, it helps you to step back and look at what’s working and what you can improve on. Instead of worrying about the future, a business plan helps to give you a sense of control over your business and your livelihood.

Writing and researching for your business plan gives you the chance to:

  • learn about your industry, market and competitors
  • write down exactly where you are in the market and where you’re headed
  • identify challenges you may come across and work out strategies to avoid or overcome them
  • understand your business finances, including managing cash-flow and determining your break-even point
  • set specific goals, timeframes for achieving them and how you’ll measure performance
  • make sound business decisions that focus your activities, maximise your resources and give you a competitive edge.