Your business plan is a management tool and is designed to suit the structure and needs of your particular business. There is not a one-size-fits-all business plan or a set formula that you have to follow.
This leeway to design your own business plan can feel quite daunting at first, but this is easy to solve if you identify the reasons why you need a business plan. These could include setting business goals and objectives, establishing performance requirements and assessing whether these have been achieved, or communicating messages to people inside or outside your company.
The structure of your business plan
A business plan usually serves a number of purposes. It is a good idea to identify the purposes you’d like your business plan to achieve because this could affect how you choose to structure and write your plan. For example, you’re likely to focus on different information depending on whether your plan is intended as in internal document for management to refer to, or for raising finances from an external source.
Use the three business plan structures in the table below to find the best structure for your business. Because there is no set way to structure a business plan, the format is one of personal preference. You might find one outline is more suited to your business than another.
Table of contents
Table of contents
Personnel skills and resources
The benefits of your product
Long-term plans and needs
Sales and marketing overview
If you’re writing your business plan as part of the process of applying for a loan, it is a good idea to include a one-page cover letter. The cover letter should include the following.
The type of loan you are looking for
The amount of the loan and period you wish to borrow the money
What you need the money for
A reference to the business plan attached
If you are applying for a loan, you will probably also need to include more detailed personal information, including your tax returns, bank account statements, assets, liabilities and other business interests.
Writing your business plan
Keep your business plan as short and simple as possible. Use simple language and short sentences so that it is easy to understand and edit your draft to remove unnecessary words. Use bullet points or tables if this makes ideas easier to read or understand.
Present your facts and information so that they flow logically rather than jump around, and make sure that the information presented in different sections supports each other. You don’t want to present information that does not add up or raises questions about the accuracy of your plan.
Do not give in to the temptation to overstate the truth, and bear in mind that the figures you present will need to back up the words in your business plan.
Start by jotting down points and ideas under each of the headings you plan to include in your business plan. Then sort these ideas so that there is a logical flow. At the same time, look out for any gaps or weaknesses and fill them in with the necessary research.
Start writing your business plan as soon as possible and keep refining and editing your work to keep it as short, simple and easy to understand as possible.