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How to Write a Business Plan Using a Business Plan Template

All businesses at some point started off as an idea and developed from there. Some were successful and most failed. Ask any financial advisor about starting or expanding a business and they will certainly recommend you write a business plan. A Business Plan will help you take the idea and put it into the real world and see whether it is financially viable. A Business Plan varies from Business to Business but generally contain the following components. Executive summary, Business Description & Management, Market Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operations Plan, and financial tables. These are essentially the documents you would take to your financial lender if you were seeking a loan to finance your idea.

To write your Business Plan, you have two choices. One is to hire a financial professional to do the plan for you, or you could do it yourself. If you decide to do it yourself there is a short cut you can take that will save you a lot of time and money. And that is to use a Business Plan Template. A good template will allow you to customize your plan to your particular situation. You may need to delete certain sections that don’t relate to your idea, and you may need to add certain sections. A good template should allow you to fully customize it. Once you have a good template it’s time to start working through it and filling in each section as best and as accurately as you can. Be objective. Most people will instinctively overinflate projected sales and underestimate costs. Start at the beginning and take your time to work through the template. A good template will spell out and ask you certain things about your idea therefore in each section and sub section you should be able to just answer the questions as accurately as possible. Answers can always be revised and changed at a later date. Regardless of the business, writing a Business Plan using a Business Plan template will be in the general format as follows.

The first section is the Executive Summary. Here is where you outline your idea in a nutshell and provide a brief business model as to what your idea is. It is almost like a miniature version of your Business Plan and although is the first component, it is very often the last section that gets written. A summary of what the main components of your plan are.

The second section is Business Description & Management. A good template will delve into more detail here about your day to day operations of your business. You’ll be asked questions about business structure, either sole trader, partnership or company and why this is the best model for the success of the business. Where and how do intend to start your business? Explain issues such as insurances, licenses etc.

The third section relates t Market analysis and the template will inquire into the state of the market. Is it expanding, static or declining and what factors lead you to believe that your business will be successful. You’ll be asked about the nature and strength of your competition. How did you arrive at your pricing model and what contingent plans do you have in place if things go wrong? That is, sales targets aren’t met or an injury or illness to you or another important partner? Here you’ll also be asked about your customer’s profile.

The fourth section is about your marketing plan. How do you intend to advertise and promote your business? What sort of advertising budget have you set aside? This will also include issues about the pricing of your product or service. How do you propose to execute your marketing plan? Is there a timetable and advertising mix?

The fifth section relates to the operations plan. This is about the physical infrastructure that you require to get your business off the ground. From desks to computers to light bulbs. Necessary infrastructure is often underestimated before the business starts and can quickly become a drain on finances when you suddenly discover you need one new item after another. Preparing a thorough Business Plan will make you aware of everything you will need to start your business and associated costs.

The sixth section or thereabouts will contain the financials. Ideally spreadsheets that you can input data straight into. Such spreadsheets could include, but may not include the following worksheets. Present Personal Standing in relation to private assets and liabilities, Sales Forecast, Cash Flow Forecast, Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet.

After entering all the data you then just need to printout all the information and you have your custom made Business Plan.

New Business Start Up Checklist – Essential Steps For Business Success

Starting a new business this year? Whether you’re looking to start your own business in retail, business services, or any other industries, follow the checklist below to ensure your business is off on a flying start for long term success and profitability.

Setting up Your Business

  • Register business name and company: Depending on the country you’re in, it’s generally essential to register your newly formed business name and company. This is particularly important to ensure your business name doesn’t already exist.
  • Register your domain name: Whether your new business is a retail shop or offer business services, a website is key to acquiring new clients/customers online. Whilst developing a website can take at least 3 weeks, you can register a relevant domain name as quickly as possible. The key for an effective domain name is to keep it short and relevant.
  • Register for taxation purposes
  • Business identity: Logo, business cards, letterhead/fax/invoice templates – Personally, I believe it’s extremely essential to get this right from the start. Your company/business logo should be unique, easy to recognize and relevant. It’s the single important element that your clients and future clients will recognize your business. Outsource a freelance graphic designer to design a custom logo for your business (a freelance graphic designer is much quicker and cheaper than using a graphic design agency). Once you’re happy with the logo, get your graphic designer to design matching business cards, letterhead/fax/invoice templates, and a website. Consistency with all these elements is key. Some freelance graphic designers actually offer “Business Start up Kits”. With these design packages offered for new businesses, this will be a cost effective way to develop your business identity.
  • Register your trademark (i.e. company logo): Once your graphic designer has fianlised your new company logo, trademark it! With your logo trademarked, future competitors are not permitted to copy your business name/logo.
  • Develop a website:. With the use of internet (and in particular, Google) continuing to be the fastest growing channel used by consumers and businesses, any new business should develop a website that shows their products/services, with an aim to acquire new clients/customers online. If your business is a retail store, opt for an online shopping cart. Or an online booking system to allow clients to book appointments online if your business is medical or recruitment. This is the most cost effective channel to use. Your website should also be consistent with your branding, so try and use the same graphic designer to design your website for you.
  • Open a business bank account: Having a separate bank account for your business transactions can ensure you can manage your business cash flow effectively as well as making it easier for taxation and accounting purposes.
  • Location of Office/Store/Warehouse: If your new business is a retail store, it’s essential to locate the best location that has a good balance of foot traffic but at an affordable rent. For a service business, you can start off with working virtually from home to save costs related to office space, or share a business office with another new business (so you can leverage their utilities, such as internet, phone, and even reception/secretary).

Business Identity

As mentioned before, I personally believe your business identity is critical to business success and also essential to get this right as soon as you start your business.

  • Unique logo for your business: Get a custom designed logo! It may cost a little more than a template logo, but the idea of a company logo should be unique and differentiate yourself from your competitors, so invest the time and cost upfront to have a unique logo designed. The last thing you want is the have a similar logo as your competitors. Think of the big brands: McDonalds, Google, Sony: Unique and simple.
  • Business Cards: This can be the smallest – but most powerful – marketing tool to use. Ensure your business cards are consistent with your company’s brand, and also try and include the products and/or services you offer (rather than just your company name and contact details). Having a unique design will also increase the chances of the potential client/s to keep your business card, so make sure you tell your designer this!
  • Letterhead, Fax, and Invoice Templates: Keep it simple but consistent.
  • Website: It’s easy to want fancy flash animation on your website. But is that what your customers want? My recommendation is for your website to offer easy navigation, loads quickly, WIFM (what’s in it for me), on brand and different to your competitors. Your designer can suggest a few different design templates. Again, it’s worth the extra time and money to invest in a good website. There are so many new businesses who develop a cheap website to start off with, but end up getting a new website design only less than 3 months later. So, know exactly what you want and communicate this to your designer as detailed as possible upfront (not after).