Writing a business plan or proposal is a difficult but vital skill for anyone starting up, with many issues to consider and include.
Writing a business plan or proposal is a difficult but vital skill for anyone starting up, with many issues to consider and include. Alan Gleeson, managing director of Palo Alto, offers the following tips.
1. Write from the audience’s perspective.
The starting point for any business plan should be to look at it from the perspective of the audience. What is the purpose of the plan? Is it to secure funding? Is it to communicate the future plans for the company? The writer should tailor the plan for different audiences, as they will each have specific requirements.
2. Research the market thoroughly
You should undertake market research and ensure the plan includes reference to the market size, its predicted growth path and how to gain access to this market.
3. Understand the competition
How competitive is the market? How are the incumbents competing; is there a price leader evident? Can you compete effectively with the existing players? All this is vital in your plan.
4. Attention to detail
Make the plan concise, but include enough detail to ensure the audience has sufficient information to make informed decisions. The plan should be professional, with realistic assumptions, credible projections, accurate content, presented appropriately and with no spelling mistakes.
5. Focus on the opportunity
If you are seeking investment in your business, it is important to clearly describe the investment opportunity. What is your unique selling point (USP)?
6. Ensure all key areas are covered in the plan
Include sections on your company’s product/service, market, competition, management team, marketing, operations and financials.
7. Do the maths
Costs should be documented in full and sales predictions should be both conservative and realistic. If you are not particularly comfortable with numbers, have someone assist you in preparing a simple cashflow and breakeven chart.
8. Executive summary
Arguably the most important component of the plan is the executive summary. This is a summary of the entire plan and is usually positioned at the start. If investors like it, they will read on, if not they will go no further. It should be written at the very end of the business planning process and should have a ‘wow factor’ that entices them to read further. In tandem with this, the writer should also prepare a short ‘elevator pitch’, a five-minute overview of the key benefits of the new product/service.
9. Review process
Once you have completed your plan, have it independently reviewed. Select someone detached from the process who can offer constructive criticism on all aspects of the plan.
10. Implement the plan
A plan should always be viewed as a living document and contain specifics regarding dates, deadlines and specific responsibilities. It should be constantly reviewed and updated, as well as being used in regular ‘plan versus actual’ discussions. A winning business plan will help ensure you are fully focused on what is required to achieve the company’s goals.