How do I write a business plan?

Writing a business plan is a process that requires focus and discipline to successfully complete. Getting it right can be the difference between success and failure for your project, whether that is a new business launch or a fresh venture within an established business.

In essence, a good business plan will clearly articulate your goal and how to achieve it.

Sounds simple, but for many who are unfamiliar with the process it can be a daunting challenge. Keeping it too high level can mean that there is insufficient detail to shape the strategy. On the other hand, too much detail can lead to an unfocused or confusing message. Business plans are very often used to create confidence, and raise money, among third parties who do not know your business, and certainly don’t share your enthusiasm. Therefore your plan needs to be objective, focused and comprehensive.

Objective. It is important that a business plan conveys your enthusiasm for the project. However, it is important that this enthusiasm is based on facts, data and objective analysis. This may come from your own research or from analysis obtained from industry experts. Ideally it would be a combination of the two. If it is not based in fact it is not a business plan, it is a business nice idea.

Focused. The goal of the plan must be evident, simple and easily articulated. Ideally there should be just one main goal, otherwise confusion starts to creep in about priorities. However, subgoals are fine so long as they support the achievement of the main goal. All goals must be measurable. If there is any doubt about how to measure it, then it is not an appropriate goal.

Comprehensive. Here is where you need the detail. Every aspect of the business should be considered — Sales, Marketing, People, IT, Finance, Operations — together with the actions that need to be taken to achieve your goal. If the detail is not specific or it does not support the main goal of the business plan then cut it out.

Key Note is the type of resource that can be invaluable when going through this process. Unless you have carried out detailed research about the key prospective customers, competitors and suppliers within your market and industry, you may not have a compelling business plan.