In my capacity as a Business Support Manager at Chiene + Tait LLP, we regularly review business plans from clients in order that they can leverage bank loans or independent funding. Over the years, there are a couple of key things that I’ve learnt that can help a business plan stand out against its competitors.
The first thing is to ensure that you use a simple layout, are consistent with your font and don’t forget to spell and grammar check your document before you give it to anyone. Also, make sure you get at least two people to review it and check for any omissions or errors.
1. Don’t forget to start with an executive summary
If all else fails this is the section that the readers (and there may be more than one) will review and provide an overall picture of your business. It’s important to get this bit right – start with a brief, concise explanation of the business idea and cover why your business is unique. Also give a brief synopsis of your financial information to let the reader understand your current position.
2. Then it’s time to produce a company overview
This is the bit that goes into the detail about your business – its history, why you started it, what it does, who it helps, how, what you have achieved to date and the milestones you’ve achieved. If necessary, include details of your barriers to entry such as regulations etc. This section will give the reader all the information they need to know about your business in order to help them understand what you are trying to achieve.
3. Include an industry analysis
Now it’s time to highlight where your business is placed within its industry. What do you do differently from your competitors and why you are currently in your choice of market? Are there opportunities for growth? From where? Why? What are your challenges? Consider the impact of seasonality. This section will give the reader confidence that you truly understand your sector and what the future potentially holds for your industry. It may be useful to include your marketing plans here, and how you plan to implement these.
4. Provide a customer analysis
In order to make a business successful, you need to know your audience. Who will be buying your product? What are the demographics of your audience? Why they will buy your product? What is your unique selling point (USP) to the audience? Consider the concentration of your customers. Having an understanding of your customer shows that you fully appreciate where your future growth will come from.
5. Your management plan is next up
Before a funder will invest in your business, they will need to know that you have the staff capacity to deliver. This is where a management plan is essential. This section outlines who your team members are, what they do, details of their qualifications and experience, and any mentor/board assistance you have in place. Including a management plan helps a funder to see how you aim to deliver your vision with the help of your team, along with good governance and a team of advisers. On the flipside, you should also acknowledge any gaps you have, for example problems with staffing or lack of management advice.
6. Financial plan
Any funder, whether they are a bank, investor or other business will want to know about your finances. It’s best practice to provide information on what income you are looking for and where this will be spent so that the funder knows what their money is going towards. Equally, you need to show what you plan to spend the funds on and provide expenditure highlights on significant items.
7. Remember this is your opportunity to shine!
No one knows your business better than you. Talk about it (but use simple language and avoid jargon!) and convey your passion for what you do but don’t try and write war and peace! The document should be succinct, and convey the key points. Try to use graphics such as images, tables and charts where appropriate to illustrate your text and make it easier to read. Perhaps include suggested logos or sample menus for example. If applicable, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis might illustrate your thoughts better than pages of text.
Overall, be realistic about your business and know the details inside out so you can backup any questions an investor has.
If you have any further questions, I’ve recorded a webinar that talks through these points in more detail. You can find it online here and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like any further help!
C+T Business Support Department