How to write a great business plan

by Jennifer Chamberlin

December 2018

adventure.jpg

On the eve of a new year, full of 365 new opportunities, maybe you’re dreaming of a new life, a new way of earning the money you need to survive.  If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, then you’re going to need a plan, a clear method to be successful.  But if you’ve never studied business, if someone else has always been the boss, where do you start? 

One of the first steps before starting any new business should be a great business plan. A thorough business plan gives you the opportunity to investigate your proposed idea in detail, thus ensuring that the idea is a justifiable risk. All new businesses hold an element of risk, but a great business plan will allow you to analyse all the critical factors and be as confident as you can, that your idea is a winner.

Keep It Real

It’s very easy in the early days of your brilliant new idea to get carried away and believe that it just cannot fail. However, many brilliant ideas do end in failure! Key point number one when writing a great business plan is, to be honest. Kidding yourself and ignoring any alarm bells you may uncover could result in a costly business mistake.

The whole point of a business plan is to prove to yourself and then to others, that your idea is not only viable, but has the potential to be profitable.

Research, Research, Research

Don’t skimp on the research! Ensure that you do your due diligence and look at all the possible scenarios from as many angles as possible.

Research your competition well. Find out who your competitors are and how well they are doing. How long have they been in business and how successful are they? How will you make your business different to theirs? Is there room for you, or is the market already at saturation point?

Evolution

If your initial idea turns out not to be as great as you’d hoped, don’t just toss it in the bin, something made you believe it had merit. It could be that by adapting the idea, you could still make it work. All businesses must evolve, or they will be doomed to failure. Trends and markets move fast, so you must stay on top of the game if you want to succeed.

Financials

Don’t get sucked into the financials. Your theoretical financials are just that, theoretical. The chances are they will never actually turn out the way you predict anyway, they are there as a guide.

One tip I would give, is to do with marketing. When you come up with your marketing budget, double or triple it. Investment in marketing is often undervalued, but it is the most essential component to drive customers to you. No customers, no business.

Demonstrate Why

Concentrate on the reason your idea is such a great one and demonstrate unequivocally why this is so. Is it an untapped niche or the next big thing? If it’s such a great idea how come no-one else is doing it?

Don’t just look at the opportunities, also analyse the risks. A business plan that doesn’t admit to and detail the risks is not a real business plan.

What to Include

A good business plan should include:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Overview and Objectives
  3. Products and Services
  4. Marketing Plan
  5. Sales Strategy
  6. Competitive Analysis
  7. Operations
  8. Management Team
  9. Financial Analysis
  10. Funding Request

I will not go into detail about what each of these 10 points should include, as there is a wealth of information available to help you with this online already. (I’ve added a link to a very useful website at the end of this article below)

Professional Help

If the thought of writing a business plan is overwhelming, then you can always get help. In France, a good place to start is with your local Chamber of Commerce or Artisans, and also the training centres who often work hand in hand with the local employment centres.  It’s also a good idea to get a professional to look over your plan anyway, to ensure you have everything covered.

Good luck with your new venture, and remember, keep it real!

Here’s the link to a resource I recommend: https://diytoolkit.org/tools/business-model-canvas/