Business plan creation advice and tips

Michael Lister, managing partner at MLP Solicitors, is often approached for advice by the owners of new and growing businesses seeking funding from their bank. Here are his top tips for creating the perfect business plan.

I have seen countless business plans drawn up by business people seeking financial assistance, in one form or another, from their bank. Many are poorly prepared and don’t make sense. This may sound harsh, but it’s true.

Give the preparation of your business plan careful thought and follow a few simple guidelines. It is essential that you succinctly provide the right type of information to enable your would-be lender to make an informed decision with ease.

Here are my top business plan creation tips:

  • Don’t assume that the banker will know everything about the specific kind of business you’re in. He may, he may not. There are thousands of types of business from airlines to zoos. He can’t possibly have a detailed knowledge and understanding of them all. Remember he’s a generalist. Describe what your business does and how it makes a profit. Use straightforward language as far as possible. Tell him what market you’re in – who your customers are, who your competitors are. If possible, give reliable, impartial information about your market – local, national, worldwide.
  • Do organise your business plan into sections so it’s easy to refer to the information. Use headings and sub-headings. No one likes ploughing through pages of print, trying to find the relevant parts.
  • Do support your request for funding with solid facts and figures. You should supply previous year’s audited/certified accounts, up-to-date management accounts and forward projections. Projections must make sense and be achievable and, ideally, backed by firm orders.
  • Do be precise and concise. If your funder likes reading fiction, he’ll know where to buy a good book! Stick to a clear, reasoned outline of your objectives and the exact purpose of the funding. Vague phrases like ‘contribution to the expense of the marketing effort’ are likely to switch him off. Make the plan as short, compressed and readable as possible.
  • Don’t forget to include how you see the borrowing being repaid. The banker likes to know as it helps him to sleep at night.
  • Do include a section on the management of the business. The people involved in the business are more important than anything else. In a nutshell, put yourself in your banker’s shoes. Imagine that YOU are considering the business plan. The ones which stand out from the crowd are those that are accurate, focused, realistic and above all, make sense.

Securing finance from banks has never been harder so following these simple rules for business plan creation has never been so important. Good luck.

Formulating a winning business plan to secure funding

Three successful entrepreneurs tell us how they first managed to secure funding through formulating a winning business plan.

Brett Raynes, managing director of IT company Backup Direct, had to grapple with his balance sheet before getting funding.

There is an element of having to play the game with business plans. Anyone can mess around with spreadsheets to forecast profitability and growth.

But you do need to know the numbers to convince investors. They have to be confident that you have a grasp of them. If you don’t know them, it shows a lack of credibility.

On my first business plan, the balance sheet didn’t add up. The investors scoffed at me and dragged me over hot coals.

However, I managed to pull it off, as the people investing knew me and had worked with me before. Investors are also backing the person, so they will want to know that you know your subject and have a track record.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is grasp your subject and the words will follow.

Andrew Pearce, managing director of conference call company Powwownow, perfected his business plan over several pitches.

When we first wrote a business plan to get investment, we had no idea of the kinds of questions we would get asked. It was very much a trial and error process. So we started by pitching to angels that we didn’t think would invest anyway as guinea pigs.

Before we got funding we pitched to about seven different investors. Each time we tweaked the business plan accordingly and by the fifth and sixth pitch we weren’t changing much anymore.

Mark Payne, owner of The Coffee Lounge, used a chartered accountant to secure funding through the government’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme.

It took seven months for us to get the EFG and I honestly didn’t think it would go through. We used CBHC chartered accountants to put the plan together and without professional help, I don’t think we’d have done it.

I’ve been in business for more than 20 years and I’d never had to produce a business plan before. Instead I used things like overdraft facilities as funding.

These days if you want a loan a business plan is something you have to have. I think the key is to have a good accountant, know the market and when it comes to securing the EFG, you really need your bank manager on side. Ours knew the area and the market so put forward a really good case for us. If it had just been left up to head office, it wouldn’t have gone through.

Further reading:
Writing a business plan: the basics

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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