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Ten steps to writing a compelling business plan

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1. Know your business model before drawing up the plan
1. Why write a business plan?

If intellectual property - whether in the form of clever branding or unique technology is important to the success of the business, explain how this can be defended. Remember to avoid jargon. What they want is a clear view of the business prospects. Market research and sales strategy Provide details of your competitors - direct and indirect. What is their market share? What niche will your product or service fill in the existing market?

Equally important, you should be clear about your customers. In the b2b market, you should detail the kind of company you are planning to reach. In both cases, the plan should explain why your target customers will buy from you. Provide some information about the size of the market and the market share you plan to achieve.

Provide information on your marketing and sales strategy - the channels you plan to use, pricing and service offering. Your management team and employees Investors and financial backers will want to know if you have the skills in place to deliver on your goals, so provide information, not just on your managers but all members of staff.

Include external advisors such as lawyers and accountants as this will also provide assurance that you have the necessary skills in place.

Set out how much time and money each person will contribute and what you plan to pay in terms of salaries. This will help both you and external parties assess whether you have the right cost base in terms of personnel. Include any plans for recruitment. Your operations Include details of your current or planned location , costs and why you chose it. Provide details of the facilities you require to produce your product or service. This should include both in-house facilities and any aspects of the business that have been outsourced.

Management information and control systems are also an important element in the operational mix. You should explain what systems you plan to use - for instance, stock control, quality control - across the business. Provide details of any weaknesses and how they can be improved. In addition, you should also detail your IT requirements both now and in the future. Typically, these forecasts will cover three to five years , covering where the business is now and in the short term future and where you see it going.

How quickly will sales grow, when is the business expected to turn a profit? On the site, you can download each of the 15 business plan sections individually as Word documents, or grab all 15 together in one doc. These plans are tailored to meet your financing requirements in your state, which is a huge bonus for those seeking funding through banks. These articles are editorially independent - that means editors and reporters research and write on these products free of any influence of any marketing or sales departments.

In other words, no one is telling our reporters or editors what to write or to include any particular positive or negative information about these products or services in the article. You will notice, however, that sometimes we include links to these products and services in the articles. When readers click on these links, and buy these products or services, Inc may be compensated.

This e-commerce based advertising model - like every other ad on our article pages - has no impact on our editorial coverage. This advertising model, like others you see on Inc, supports the independent journalism you find on this site. Enter your email to reset your password. Or sign up using:. Straight to Your Inbox. Why reinvent the wheel? Get a professional business plan template at no cost.

What it looks like will depend on who your audience is. To ensure clarity and simplicity, share your business plan with a friend or family member who has little or no real knowledge of your sector. If they can grasp your basic business premise you can feel confident that you are on the right track. A fundamental element of running a successful business is having a firm grip of its finances. Stuart Marks, the angel investor behind L Marks , says: Be realistic and detailed.

Engage the services of a finance professional or accountant to look over them and make sure they all make sense. When providing forecasting data in your plan, make sure this extends to 30, 60 and 90 days, as well as 12 months, three years and five years, to help you understand and set targets for the immediate to longer-term.

Another key stage in writing a business plan is to show that you have factored in a margin of error. It may sound strange, but investors care little about the business, its customers, or its owner.

Their priority is the return they will get on their money and how much they will get back, so be realistic in telling them what return they can expect. The numbers are the numbers, says Layfield. Things never go to plan, but any decent investor will know this.

2. What to include in your plan

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A business plan is a written description of your company, your aspirations and ambitions, and the methods by which you can achieve your goals. By creating a business plan, you gain a better understanding of what you need to do to reach your objectives.

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Business planning tips To build a successful business, having a clear mission and specific goals is vital. The best way to do this is to write a thorough business plan setting out exactly how you're going to turn your dreams into reality. Already have a NatWest Business account? Our experts have put together five ways to help ensure your business is a success. We think it's essential reading. See our growth strategies. It pays to have a business plan Every successful business starts with a plan. We have six key do's and don'ts and tips on how to write yours. More about.

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