A business plan is essential for all businesses of all sizes. It sets out a range of critical information, including financial projections, leadership team experience, competitor analysis and market information. Businesses use this document to raise money, to devise sales and marketing strategies and to encourage partnerships, so it’s important to get it right. Follow our virtual business service guide to find out more.
Essential elements of a business plan
Whichever audience you’re talking to, there are some essential elements that should be included in every business plan:
A summary – an executive summary should always be at the top of your plan. This includes the most important elements from the rest of the plan and is a persuasive but accurate piece of writing that aims to hook the reader, ensuring that they continue on to read the detail. Bear in mind that if you are dealing with investors in particular, the summary needs to spark their interest. Otherwise, your business plan could end up on the ‘rejected’ pile sooner than you’d like.
A business description – what does your business do? This is where you set out the details of your business, whether it is product-led or a service business. Don’t go into lots of detail about you or why you set up the business – put yourself in the shoes of your reader, and write down the key points you’d want to know if you were thinking of investing or partnering with a company like yours. Make it factual, not salesy.
Financial information – as any business virtual assistant will tell you, it’s vital that you include relevant and realistic financial information, including projections on market share, costs, price points and volume. You might want to get your accountant to help with this. It’s particularly important that you don’t over-estimate your financial success. Think Dragon’s Den – the investors always want to know more about costs and how many units you think you can sell, or service contracts you think you can achieve.
Competitor analysis – who’s doing the same as you? How established are they, and what market share do they have? How is your offering different to theirs? A succinct competitor analysis – without making unsubstantiated claims or letting your own opinions get in the way – will help the reader to see what market opportunities there might be for your business.
Market analysis – this is where you can demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of your target markets. Investors and partners will want to see that you have done a significant amount of work on your target market and customers, including any seasonal considerations, saturation points, price comparisons and new opportunities. You can enlist the help of a virtual assistant for business to help you research your market so that you have up-to-date information from referenceable sources.
Route to market – how are you going to sell your products or services? Do you have a sales and marketing plan to help you build your profile? Do you know how you will move from interest in your product to making a sale? Have you got support for your processes – either in-house or from a sales support virtual assistant, for example? Having a clearly demonstrated route to market will impress potential investors and partners.
Leadership team and advisers – people who read your business plan will expect to see that you either have the relevant experience yourself for the market you are in, or that you have been using expert advisers to help you. Put in the details of people on your board and your key advisers, along with a short biography. Don’t claim any expertise you don’t have – a serious investor will expect to see evidence.
Presenting your business plan
Whilst the content of your business plan is vital, it’s also important that it is professionally presented. You can do this by outsourcing the presentation to virtual typing services, which will ensure that the plan looks professional, has excellent spelling and grammar, includes the right references, tables and graphics and gives a great first impression of your business.
If you’re thinking about looking for investment in your business, ready to find partners to help expand your business, need to update your current plan for your bank or have been asked to put a business plan together for any other reason, our virtual business service is here to help. Feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or use our contact form in the menu above.