Tips on business planning from an online bank might not seem an obvious fit. But, as a savings specialist we want to provide insights that can make your business dollar work harder, whilst hopefully addressing some of the common pain points for small business owners. And good planning can improve the return on the money and time you invest. The benefits don’t stop here though. Guest writer Helen MacDougall, tells us why.
Brilliant business ideas ignite passion and buzz. But if they aren’t supported by a brilliant strategy for execution, most are in danger of flat-lining. A well thought out plan is an essential foundation for any start-up or established business to ensure it stays on track to succeed.
The value of the business plan
You believe you’ve cracked the next big thing and you’re full of excitement to get it off the ground. At this exciting stage, a business plan might feel like a shackle on your enthusiasm. But the benefits are beyond doubt.
A business plan will ensure:
- you know your vision
- you identify an appetite and market
- you consider all obstacles
- you are in a position to secure finance
- you have a clear direction
- you have a common goal with partners
What to include in your business plan
The internet is awash with tips and templates for the perfect business plan. Leverage these templates but don’t feel compelled to rely wholeheartedly on them. Your business is unique and your audience is looking for something that sets you apart.
These segments are important:
1. What is your business?
A concise explanation of your offering.
2. What will your business be good at?
A mission statement helps your audience understand what your business is trying to achieve.
3. What is the opportunity?
What market requirement is your business fulfilling? If you have identified a gap, do you know why it hasn’t been filled?
4. Business obstacles
Be honest. Every business has hurdles to overcome and if you suggest there are none, you will lose credibility. Show you have considered all possibilities with diligence.
5. What is your target market?
If there is no demand then you’re likely to fail. The more you can support your plan with market research data, the more convincing you will be.
6. What is your vision for the future?
Map out your journey over 5 years. Is there an exit strategy? Provide dates, financial forecasts and be realistic – it’s better to underestimate and over deliver. Don’t forget to check out whether you’re eligible for any government grants.
7. What is your brand promise?
What kind of quality can your customers expect? What are your brand characteristics and why will consumers want to be associated with it? Tips on building your brand awareness
8. What are your brand values?
What culture do you want to cultivate? Be collaborative and ensure your colleagues believe in the brand values.
9. Who are you?
Details on experience will demonstrate you have the necessary skills to succeed, especially if you are seeking investors.
Tips for style and tone
- Be concise and don’t waste time with unnecessary details
- Be creative to grab attention and let your personality shine through
- Be flexible and appreciate that you might have to change your original plan based on new information from your research
- Be visual and use graphs to bring your idea to life and make the information easier to digest
Your business plan is a living document that will change multiple times. Continue to review and polish it during the course of your business and ensure it is delivering on your initial goals.
If you already have a business plan, what segments have you found the most useful?