How to write a business plan - checklist

Entrepreneur writting a business plan

Your business plan should be the roadmap for how you run your business - and it's vital if you want to attract finance. Follow our tips to create your plan

  • Clarify the purpose of the business plan, and whether it will need to 'sell' your business to outsiders such as potential investors.
  • Review your business SWOT analysis (SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats); consider including a summary with the plan.
  • Begin the plan with the history of the business, and an outline of your product or service and its USP(s).
  • Describe the market segments in which you compete, market trends and key drivers', and the nature of any existing customers or key targets.
  • Outline the main competing products and suppliers, how they compare with yours and why you will be able to compete effectively.
  • Explain how you market your product - its market position, pricing, promotion, and distribution channels - and how you sell.
  • Set out the structure and key skills of your management and employees; assess their performance and motivation.
  • Analyse your operations - premises, production facilities, management information systems - and any plans for improvements.
  • Provide historical financial information; highlight key figures (such as sales, key operating and financial ratios) and trends, and explain anything unusual.
  • Provide the latest financial information - an up-to-date balance sheet and profit and loss and cash flow statements.
  • Prepare financial forecasts for the next few years; explain key assumptions and any contingency plans covering key areas of uncertainty.
  • Make sure that the plan is short and focused; move any detailed information (eg market research, extensive financial information) to an appendix.
  • Write a one- or two-page executive summary at the beginning of the plan.
  • Read through the plan to ensure that it sets out a realistic strategy and action plan in a professional manner; ask advisers for their comments.
  • Regularly review progress against the plan and update it as necessary.

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