Sage Advice UK

How to write a business plan

When you’re starting a business or planning to expand, having a business plan can help to get you on track and get some detail behind your ideas.

However, research from Barclays shows that 1 in 4 businesses don’t have a business plan. So what are the advantages of business planning and how could it help your business to succeed?

Benefits of writing a business plan

Jennifer O’Toole, Senior Partner at accountancy firm Thomas R Dixon, says:

“A business plan is like a flight path. It lets you know where you want to go, what you want to achieve, what you have in order to achieve your goals and probably most importantly what problems you can expect along the way.”

“Being able to identify potential threats, problem areas that could affect the business, and to be able to develop coping strategies in a proactive manner rather than in a reactive stance, is key to business survival.”

It’s also a great way to share information about your business, to develop your thinking and test scenarios before you make any changes (like leaving your job and going it alone), and it gives you a way to measure how things go when you do start up.

And if you’re looking for finance, then a business plan can make a difference. Rebecca McNeil, MD for Business Lending and Enterprise at Barclays, says: “A strong plan can help applications for finance from a business loan to alternative forms of finance and investment.”

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Reasons people skip business planning

If it’s so helpful, why don’t more people choose to have one? Here are some of the common challenges:

The best format for your business plan

Many people assume that a business plan will be a hefty document containing lots of facts and figures, but it doesn’t have to be. The key thing is to choose a format that will work for you and your business. That would be:

Using a business plan will help you to focus – use a format that works for you

What to include in your business plan

What should a business plan include? Every plan is likely to be different but there are some common pieces of information that are often included:

Some business plans will include other sections, like a SWOT analysis or a full marketing plan. You might find these useful for your business, so feel free to include them too if you wish.

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How to use it

Many business owners invest time in producing a business plan and then never look at it again. While it’s valuable to get your ideas clarified and to test your thinking before you launch your business, it’s even better if it’s embedded into your day-to-day business too.

As Jennifer says: “Business planning is a continuous process – from the initial start up any business to stage two of developing and growth of existing sales and developing new income streams.

“As established businesses mature and diversify, business planning continues to play a fundamental role in ensuring that the company’s long-term strategies are being met.”

Here are some ways your business plan can work for you:

Where to get help with your business plan

Sometimes you’ll need additional information to pull together your plan. You could:

Business plan template

Thinking of starting a business or looking for investment but need help putting a plan together? Get our free, easy-to-use business plan template.

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