15 expert tips: How to write a great business plan.
Writing a good business plan can be a make or break step for a SME Business in the fast paced New Zealand market. A strong business plan gives your investors, stakeholders and your team insight into where you have been, what you have learned, the opportunities you have – and outlines the steps your organisation must take to achieve business success.
Tips for writing a truly great business plan
1.) A business plan should be a living document. It isn’t an end point on your business journey! Your management team should be looking to constantly update and refine your business plan to keep it current and agile.
2.) Know what your offer is. Define the solution you provide. Understand why it is needed and the end benefits to customers of working with your business.
3.) Know who your target market is and identify their drivers clearly. Use research and customer feedback to justify your claims and back up your intuition. Identify any secondary market opportunities, but keep the direction of your business plan tightly aimed at your key audience.
4.) Define your marketing and distribution strategies, including: production, sales points, key personnel, time requirements, investment requirements. This detail is essential proof for stakeholders of the fact that you can achieve what you claim. Explain the what, who, where, why and how of making sales.
5.) Know your competition. What are their integral strengths, business weaknesses – and any advantages over your business. Be dispassionate and define your observations, don’t be tempted to slip into blithe stereotyping or glib statements.
6.) Define your business goals – They must be SMART goals!
(Specific, Measureable, Achieveable, Relevant & Time-bound.)
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7.) Polish that plan. Revisit your assumptions, check your goals, add new information. It’s crucial also to format and spellcheck your document. Add some design elements if you have the skills in your team. A sleek business plan is much more compelling and reassuring to stakeholders, investors and potential buyers.
8.) Give readers a personal insight into what your business stands for. You may add a section on what your personal drivers are or tell a story about how you got the company off the ground. Make it short and engaging and offer a feeling about the people behind the business identity and your organisational culture.
9.) Reassess your business plan financials. It’s sometimes better to add a safety margin to your start up costs and be conservative with revenue projections, so that at the end of the first year you don’t report a financial failure! Far too many new business owners get trapped by underestimating unforeseen costs and overestimating the money they can make initially.
10.) Check your pricing strategies. Be aware of what market prices are expected to do in 6 months, or a year, and plan ahead using projected prices for greater future-proofing.
11.) Add an incredible Executive Summary, and tailor this to the reader. State what is in it for them (WIFM) up front to get them interested right away. Change your executive summary for management, banks, investors – and make it personally relevant to the audience. You may even have an internal Business Plan and a Business Plan for investors that highlight different aspects of your business planning strategy.
12.) Check that you have a section on Service or Product Development in your business plan. What will you do to improve on your offering? What resources are you allocating to this?
13.) Ensure that you include a section on progress or note the achievements you have already made each time you refresh your Business Plan.
14.) Refine and redesign. Remove fluff-language and stick to the facts. Keep your language straight forward and matter of fact. Use graphs and other visuals where possible to reduce your word count and make your Business Plan more readable.
15.) Get an external review of your business plan! This may be your Business Advisor or a trusted colleague. Ask them to let you know if it is clear that you know who your target market is, how to covert them, what resources and strategies will be used, and what the reader stands to gain from being involved with your business.
Want help with a Business Plan?
You’re not alone! Our nationwide team of Kiwi Business Advisors are very experienced at supporting our clients through the process of writing a business plan. Find your local Business Consultant here!
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