Author Archives: hesty

Where to Get Free Business Plan Samples

A lot of people go online to find free business plan samples to “save time” so that they don’t have to “do all the writing”. My advice is watch out!

Your plan is supposed to be your plan!

My experience with the prewritten plans is that most people get lazy with them. After they cut and paste their business name in and do a little customizing of the first few pages, they tend to skip changing the rest. This defeats the purpose of doing a business plan in the first place which is to help you plan (it’s in the name, right?) how your business is going to operate successfully.

If you cut out the planning stage and don’t figure out how your business is going to make it, you really hurt your chances of that happening.

Another big problem with prewritten plans is people forget to take out some stuff that doesn’t apply. Then, inevitably, at a presentation or meeting they get asked about it.

Imagine how embarrassing it is to have to explain that there is something in your plan you didn’t even realize was there! It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the people you are trying to pry money out of when you don’t even know what’s in your business plan!

Even if you find a plan that seems close to what yours is going to be, the research you have to do and the specifics that apply to your business are going to be significantly different. The time saved is going to be next to nothing compared to just simply creating your own plan.

The best approach is to use a good program that helps you write your own plan with the information about your business as quickly and efficiently as possible and then also provides you with the opportunity to get help and a review so you can be sure your plan came out the best it can be and it actually helps you launch your business instead of just copying someone else’s.

Free Business Plan Advice and Business Plan Template

The very first step of your business career should be to start creating a highly focused Business Plan. Without a business plan you are setting out on the route to failure – guaranteed!

Look at it this way, when your build a house you must lay the foundations for the house to stand. The same rules apply for any business; whether it’s a home based business, high street business, or even an internet business; you simply MUST HAVE a business plan.

The problem is for the majority of aspiring entrepreneur’s, they do not know what to include in their business plane, or if they do, they put the business plan at the bottom of their drawer, never to be seen again!

So, the first step in writing a business plan that is guaranteed to bring you success is to get down the basics. The basics should include details of you as the primary business owner, and also any other ‘key players’ in the business. Within these details you should include contact details for every relevant person, just in case you need to contact them in an emergency. Once you have gained all of the relevant details should now start to focus on the following areas:

Your business idea Within this section you should write down your business ideas. Don’t worry, a business plan is a working document, and therefore you can change the business plan as your ideas and creativity progress.

The aim of the business Within this section of the plan try to detail what the main aim/objectives of the business are. You should try to include short, medium and long term aims of the business. Where do you want to be in 3 months time? Where do you want to be in 12 months/36 months and 60 months time etc?

Your product and services Within this section you should concentrate on providing details that are relevant to your product or service. Always, and I mean always, aim for quality in everything that you do. Who’s going to make your product? Who’s going to deliver the service and are they capable of delivering the same high standards that you expect? Remember, without other’s help, you will not succeed in business.

Trade accounts Within this section you should include define details that relate to your trade accounts. Are you going to meet with them face-to-face, or are you going to communicate b telephone and e mail? It is very important that you meet up with your trade accounts from time to time in order to build up a relationship/

Business funding Within this section of the business plan, try to define details that relate to the funding of your business. Are you going to fund the expansion yourself, or are you going to seek capital from a third party such as a bank or venture capitalists? Whichever you choose, make sure you can afford the repayments!

Other areas of your plan should include Business premises, staff details, further costs and expenses, inventory and action for progress.

Writing A Business Plan – Four Key Pointers For Success

All businesses, of whatever size or stage in its development, need to have formal business plans in place, prepared by the management and not their accountants, and fortunately there are many now many free business plan templates available on the web to help you in business planning.

Why Prepare A Business Plan?

There are four main reasons why you should prepare a business plan. These are not mutually exclusive, and as the business changes and grows the business plan should be regularly revisited and reviewed since these issues will apply equally well to an established business as to a start up.

The first is to plan in the widest sense. In preparing a business plan you are preparing first and foremost a plan and the process is one of thinking through what you are going to do in the business, how you are going to do it, what are the separate projects that will have to be completed to reach the end goal and when by, what resources you will need to have in place and when, what the risks are and how these are to be managed, and so on.

The second is that from setting out your plan of action you can then assess and understand the likely financial performance and requirements of the business. You can examine the key sensitivities involved in your forecasts and take a view on the financial risks, and potential rewards involved.

This is critical as the third reason for preparing a business plan, which is often seen by some managers, mistakenly in my view, as the real point of the exercise, is to provide it to investors or lenders in support of a request to raise funding.

The fourth reason is that that plan provides an objective benchmark and milestones against which the progress and success of the business can be checked.

So, whatever the initial reason for carrying out a business planning exercise, management should always use the process as a chance to genuinely plan the business, and not just as an exercise to produce a document that is never looked at again.

What Should A Business Plan Contain?

You can now find many examples of business plan templates on the web which will vary in the content and headers they use as there is no definitive list of contents. In general however, a business plan should cover the following items, which will provide a pack in a format that prospective lenders or investors will generally find acceptable.

  • Company details including company number and logo;
  • Contents;
  • Executive Summary a brief summary of the plan covering all areas and being no longer than say 2 pages;
  • History and Current Position;
  • Products or Services;
  • The Market;
  • Operations;
  • Management and Staff including an organisation chart where appropriate;
  • Financial Analysis a summary of the financial projections;
  • Investor or Funder Deal and Exit Plan where the plan is being used to raise finance this is where you set out the proposed support you are seeking and what is in it for the funder; and
  • SWOT Analysis a summary of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the business.

The plan should also be backed up by appropriate appendices giving the financial information such as historical Statutory or Audited Accounts, up to date management accounts and three year financial forecasts, all of which should obviously tie in with the body of the plan itself. In addition there needs to be the non financial information required to support the plan which will normally include CV’s for each of the Directors and any other key personnel, examples of marketing material, details of the business’s professional advisors and any other supporting documentation that may be relevant such as significant new orders.

To What Extent Can Or Should You Vary The Format?

If you do use a business plan template, don’t hesitate to tailor it to your business’s particular circumstances. Every business has its own characteristics, and each writer will have their own style so every business plan will be different.

Whilst the headings given above are relevant for most businesses, the focus of attention will vary depending on the purpose of the plan and the intended recipients.

If the plan is being written for internal purposes then it may concentrate on tasks such as Marketing or Operations and be used to attribute tasks, set timescales, targets and rewards, and then used to help co-ordinate and monitor an agreed overall agenda.

If you are preparing the business plan to support an application for a loan then the financial and trading data, and in particular the cash flow analysis, will be critical parts of the document. Lenders will be particularly interested in the assets available as security, any other existing borrowing, and will closely scrutinise the detailed financial forecasts.

If the plan is to be shown to potential investors then you will need to be careful that you comply with the requirements of the Financial Promotions Order as failing to do so can lead to criminal penalties. Like lenders, potential investors will review the financial forecasts and proposal within the business plan, but they will also be looking to establish a potential valuation of the business at the time of the proposed exit.

What Makes A Good Business Plan?

As hopefully will be clear from the comment above, this will depends partly on what it is to be used for, however any business plan should be:

Concise – It should be short and to the point;

Comprehensive – a potential funder more likely to provide finance if they are able to clearly understand the product, market, funding requirement, opportunity, the skill sets of key personnel and the financial projections, then if they can’t;

Clear – it should be written in clear plain English, (and be properly spell checked and proof read), but the message or propositions should be clearly stated so that the target audience can understand what it is that you want from them, as well as the all important what’s in it for them;

Owned you must clearly be able to present it and answer questions on it, including on the financial projections and assumptions, from potential backers.

The last point is a critical one. All too often when potential financial backers speak to business owners about the numbers in a plan that has been presented, they receive the answer ‘Oh my accountant put the numbers together for me’, which immediately raises questions about how realistic the forecasts are.

After all, if you don’t understand what the projected financial performance of your business is, the how is a funder expected to believe that you can make it happen?