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Although we have covered a lot in our business planning section, sometimes it’s easier to have all questions and answers in one place, put succinctly and simply. The following are some of the more common questions you may have about business planning:
The short answer to this is, yes. Instead of seeing a business plan as a chore, it’s an opportunity to lay out the way your business will grow over the years and gives insight into how your organisation is performing in the present, and how it can develop in the future. It’s also essential to show potential investors and partners the plans you have for growing and puts forward a much stronger case than words alone.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question – a business plan can be anywhere from 10 to 100 pages long (although we recommend keeping it shorter so your audience doesn’t lose interest). It mostly depends on the purpose of the plan, and who the audience is. If it is an internal business plan, you can exclude certain areas and only focus on the essentials such as implementation. If you are presenting to new investors, the plan is likely to be longer as you will be outlining the business as a whole together with your present situation and plans for the future.
The best way to start a business plan is to open with an executive summary about the most important points of your business plan followed by a description of your company. From here, you can identify your target market and customer profile together with how you are currently reaching them. Follow this with an outline of your operations and how your business works on a day to day basis and conclude with a look at the current financial situation. These are just the broad elements of a business plan; for more details about what goes into a business plan, read our ‘what is a business plan’ (link to article) article that goes into more depth.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for consultation when putting together your plan, but writing your own business plan has many advantages. It not only gives you the chance to show your passion and personality, but is also a good exercise for appraising your business and really getting to know your strengths and weaknesses as an organisation. If you aren’t confident about your writing skills, get a draft down and then ask someone to help you refine and rewrite it.
Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task, and starting is the difficult part; once you get into the flow of things you'll be surprised at how easily you are able to get down all the details about your business, the current status and your future plans. Take it one step at a time and take each section as it comes. Start at the beginning; describe your business, products and goals and from there the rest will flow.
If you’re taking your first steps into business you’re going to need all the advice and support you can get. Make sure you enrol in our ‘How do I research a business idea?’ workshop, designed to help you find all the information you need to start and grow your business. That includes everything from market conditions and potential legal issues through to consumer behaviour. At the Business & IP Centre we have access to £5m worth of industry reports from top publishers such as Mintel, Frost & Sullivan and Euromonitor, as well as company data from over 144 million UK and global companies to help you better understand your target markets.