It’s happened: you’ve finally hit on an amazing business idea — and you’re 99.9% certain that it has legs, that it will provide you with the income and life balance you’re searching for. You genuinely can’t wait to get started.
It’s at this point that one of two things tends to happen.
1. You run at it full pelt, throwing all of your cash at product development or landing your first client before you’ve even thought about your long-term goals. Before long, you start hitting serious roadblocks, like being overwhelmed by admin or running out of capital.
2. Despite your boundless enthusiasm, you feel paralysed. You have absolutely zero idea of where to start.
Of course, neither scenario is ideal. And the antidote to both is this:
Creating a comprehensive business plan.
This is a fundamental part of starting a business that many entrepreneurs gloss over. Whether they don’t think they need one or are daunted by the prospect of creating one, it’s something that gets filed away into the “someday” drawer.
Which is unfortunate. Because creating a business plan doesn’t just provide you with a step-by-step roadmap for getting your business off the ground, it can provide you with the information you need to avoid common pitfalls, mitigate new business admin overwhelm, and ensure that you’re building your business in a way that’s going to be sustainable in the long-term.
It’s also a key document that you’ll need to have in place if you want to want to secure funding for your new business in the form of a bank loan or if you want to persuade investors to take a chance on your idea.
And it doesn’t have to be the headache you’re imagining.
Just follow these 6 steps to create a plan that will turn your business dream into reality.
1. An executive summary
The first section of your business plan is an overview of your business and your plans for its future.
It’s the short version that investors will use to decide whether it’s worth reading the entire plan , it’s an excellent document for you to share with prospective employees, and the act of writing it is a great way for you to gain clarity on what your business is about and where you want to take it.
You’ll want to include things like:
What the business is all about.
Your short and long-term goals.
An overview of your target market.
A brief description of your key products and services.
A summary of your financials.
Top tip: many business owners find it easier to write this section last, after they’ve written the bulk of the plan and have refined their goals and plans for the business.
2. Define your business
The second section of your business plan is where you get into the details of what your business actually is.
It should include information about the problem you’re trying to solve, the people you’re planning to help, and the role your products and services will play in this.
How do your products or services work? Are you planning to produce an entirely new product or have you created an innovative design that puts a new spin on an existing product? If there are alternatives to the product or service you plan to offer, what makes your offering stand out?
Do you have already have experience in this industry or do you have transferable skills you can call upon?
You should also include information on whether you’ll be operating as a sole trader, limited company, or partnership.
3. Market analysis
This section is where you dig a little deeper into the market you’ll be operating in.
You should consider including:
A detailed description of your target market: it pays to be specific here as solid knowledge of who you’re selling to will help direct your sales and marketing plan.
Competitor research: how busy is the market already? Who are your main competitors and how are you going to encourage customers to try your products/services instead?
Market trends: what trends are emerging in your market? And how could you take advantage of shifts in consumer behaviour or protect yourself from the risks of a downturn?
4. Sales and marketing
Having completed the previous two sections, you now have a much clearer idea of who you’re marketing to and where you’re going to position your business.
Which will make it far easier to come up with an effective sales and marketing plan.
Your sales plan
To determine your sales plan, think about how you’re going to price your offerings and where you’re going to sell them.
If you’re a product-based business, are you going to sell from your own premises or team up with existing retailers? Either way, plan out what that looks like, from the logistics of renting retail space to the markups you might have to add to your products if you’re selling through a third party like Etsy, Amazon, or a local store.
If you’re a service-based business, what will your sales process look like? Do you require brick and mortar premises or will you be conducting business solely online? What do the logistics of each option require?
Your marketing plan
Now you know what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and where you’re selling it, you can create your marketing plan.
This might include things like an online strategy: a website, social media campaigns, building an email list, or online networking.
Or it might cover things like partnering with local businesses, promoting your business through in-person events, or even engaging in a good, old-fashioned leafleting campaign.
However you decide to market your business, outline the specifics here, from the steps you’re going to take and the businesses you’ll need to reach out to, to any hurdles you might have to overcome during the process.
We’ve reached the nitty-gritty of how your business is going to run.
Which means it’s time to think about:
Premises: where will your business run from? Will you need to invest in equipment to make that happen? Will you have to spend time locating an office?
Personnel: how many people will it take to make this work? Outline your plans for the personnel you might need to engage, whether it’s extra hands to help create products, or experts to help you conduct sales calls or take care of your marketing plan.
Even if you’re registered as a sole trader and plan to work alone for now, it’s worth thinking about extra help you might need in the future, like contractors who can take care of additional work during busy periods or professionals with skills who complement your own and who you might want to team up with to enhance the services you plan to offer.
Your admin: this is a big one because many new business owners quickly find themselves completely overwhelmed by the volume of admin involved in running a business.
So how ow are you going to deal with it? Could you reduce your potential workload by investing in software that will automate everyday business tasks and free up your valuable time to work on creating new products or growing your client base?
This could look like email marketing software that allows you to create email campaigns — automatically sending promotional emails to people who’ve registered their interest in your products.
Or it could be investing in online accounting software, like Clear Books, that allows you to automate everything from invoicing and purchase tracking, to financial reporting, including filing Making Tax Digital VAT returns.
It might be last on the list, but this is a vital piece of the business plan puzzle, particularly if you plan to seek outside investment.
Things to include:
Projected start-up costs: include the things you’re bringing to the business, like computing equipment you already own, as well as the initial investment you’ll have to make on things like raw materials, rent or utilities for new premises, or office equipment and software fees.
Sales forecast: take a look at what you expect future sales to look like, including the number of units/services you think you could realistically sell each quarter and the price at which you’ll be selling them.
A profit and loss forecast: use the figures from your sales forecast and knowledge of your overheads to project your profit and loss figures.
Cash flow statement: your cash flow statement will highlight how much money will be in your bank at any given point, taking into account money coming in and money going out.
Balance sheet: this will give you (and potential investors) an overview of your financial health at a specific point. It includes outstanding debts, the assets you already have, and the net difference between the two.
Turning your business idea into a concrete enterprise is incredibly exciting — but it’s also a lot of hard work. And without a solid plan in place, it’s easy to become bogged down in everyday admin, or to stall because you don’t know where to go next.
Forming a business plan, based on the steps above, is an excellent way to gain both clarity and simplicity. Because when you know what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them, and when you know exactly how to make running your business easier, from hiring extra help or automating your finances and other business admin with the right software, you can truly focus on what matters to you:
Creating (and eventually growing!) your business.
Clear Books Online Accounting & Payroll Software
Clear Books is an award-winning online accounting software for small businesses. Thousands of business owners, contractors, freelancers and sole traders across the UK use our easy-to-use online accounting software to manage their business finances. All users benefit from the outstanding free telephone and email support. Clear Books was launched in London in 2008 and offers a free 30 day trial with free ongoing support and bank feeds. We’re rated as ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot.