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Writing a Business Plan, Step by Step Guide

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by Startacus Admin

Writing a Business Plan, Step By Step Guide You already know how to write a business plan…but you have been told you don't, and now you probably believe it.


You have been told what a complicated process it is.  You have been told how difficult it is.  You have been told that without an expert by your side you will fail.  


Getting to grips with the layout, structure, and formatting of your business plan is not the most important piece of the puzzle; understanding your business model is at least 90% of the process.


Think about it like this.  


An entrepreneur writing a business plan is like a chef arranging a plate of food.


Placing the cooked ingredients and recipes beautifully on a plate takes skill and precision, but the vast majority of the work involved in ensuring the quality of the finished product has already been completed by the chef at this stage.  But, present a sloppy plate of food to a customer and it won’t matter how expertly cooked the ingredients are, it will most likely be sent back to the kitchen along with a few choice words.


Your business plan is like that very plate of food.  Present it poorly, and it won’t matter how earth-shatteringly genius your business model is, it will go down like a plate of cold spaghetti.  


So, assuming that you know your business model inside and out, it’s fair to say that your business plan is already 90% complete, without ever putting pen to paper!  


This guide will talk you through a step-by-step plan for completing the remaining 10%


** I have numbered the sections to correspond with the order in which each section would logically appear within your business plan.  However, I suggest you complete steps 3 (summary)  and 4 (overview)  last as you will be better placed to gain an overall perspective on the document at this point.


Writing a Business Plan, Step By Step GuideStep One- Focus on what you want your business plan to achieve


People tend to think of a business plan as a static and fixed document, which of course it isn't.  No business is stagnant and correspondingly, your business plan should be fully open to positive change as and when required.  


It is perfectly acceptable (and indeed preferable) to create your initial business plan with specific purposes in mind, thus focusing your efforts and ensuring that it delivers against your objectives.   


Now, I would like you to think about what you want your business plan to achieve.


You may be in pursuit of angel / VC investment.  You may be planning a crowdfunding campaign.  You may be making an application to a business accelerator / incubator.  You may be appealing for government funding.  You may be looking for a co-founder.


The possible motivations behind your need for a business plan really are myriad, but regardless of these, there is one overarching aim that you must always keep in mind; something that is the common thread between all business documents of this type.


It should form a convincing argument of the significant and reasonable potential for your business to be a relative success.


If you take nothing else away from this guide, let it be this!


Step Two- Plan the structureWriting a Business Plan, Step By Step Guide


You might be tempted to skip this step in favour of diving straight into the nitty-gritty, but please don’t… you will leave yourself flying blind and less likely to create a plan which is well structured, flows naturally, and includes all of the information you are hoping to present to the reader.  


Business plans are divided into sub-headings / sections which guide the reader through your business model in a linear fashion.  But this structure is also helpful to you as the writer, as it assists you to break down the business model, and all related information into more manageable and easily visualised sections.


Our suggested structure for your business plan is as follows


  1. Executive Summary

  2. Business Overview

  3. The Business Products and/or services

  4. The marketplace / industry

  5. The history of the business and its team

  6. The Marketing and Promotions

  7. Finances, current and projected


It may be that the nature of your industry / business model dictates that further sub-sections would be beneficial, these can be inserted as you see fit within this overarching structure.  


Each of these 7 headings will also contain a number of sub-sections;  we will deal with these individually throughout this step by step guide.


Section 1- The Executive Summary


You will be told by some that the executive summary at the beginning of a business plan is a summary of the business i.e. its aims, operations and so forth.  Whilst an executive summary often contains details pertaining to these, this is not what the purpose of the summary is.


Then what is an executive summary?


Writing a Business Plan, Step By Step GuideQuite simply it is a summary of your business plan. Startacus Co-founder Alastair Cameron, summed it up quite nicely.


“If your business plan was a novel, this would be the ‘abridged and condensed’ version; the plot is basically the same, but the detail has been highly reduced. Creating an executive summary warrants a discussion all of its own, but a helpful thing to remember when writing it is that, someone with no prior knowledge of your business idea, should be able to pick it up and understand the basics of how your business will operate, grow, make money”.


In other words it allows a person to quickly become acquainted with the entire document, without having to read it all.  If you can spark their interest at this stage you stand a good chance of carrying them through to the end, conversely if you lose them now, you may never be able to regain their attention.  


CEOs, venture capitalists, angel investors, managers, and CEOs are all very busy people, and writing a killer executive summary is your best way of keeping your business plan out of their recycling bin.


Putting together your executive summary


Your executive summary does not need to follow a rigid structure, but  one thing you must do is ensure that the first paragraph is as engaging as possible.


It should grab the reader's attention and compel them to read the rest of the summary, either by stating the innovations of your business, describing your ‘Eureka!’ moment, or presenting some other unique or interest ‘hook’.


Now proceed through each section of your completed business plan, teasing out the major interesting, engaging, convincing points, and summarising them within a few hard-hitting sentences.  


You should focus particularly on;


  • The company descriptionWriting a Business Plan, Step By Step Guide

  • The problem you are solving

  • How you are solving it

  • Any problems that you have / expect to have

  • Why you are solving it now

  • Interesting / startling facts about your industry

  • Partnerships you have developed

  • The state of your team

  • Innovative approaches to marketing

  • Growth forecasts both long and short term


 

NB:  Use the completed sections of your business plan to inform your executive summary.  Compare and and contrast their key points to ensure you have not missed out any potentially important details. 

 

In part two of this guide we will take a detailed look at how to write the remaining sections of your business plan, including; An overview of your business, the business products and / or services, the industry / market, the history of the business and its team, marketing and promotions, and finances.

You need to be a registered Startacus member to view part 2 of this guide and receive other exclusive content, get access to business deals and giveaways, showcase your startup, and connect with entrepreneurs and business leaders.


It’s free to register and takes just a few moments.  Click here to get started (opens a new window, so this article won’t get lost!) Writing a Business Plan, Step By Step Guide




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Published on: 27th July 2015

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