Keys to writing a strong business plan

Steve Lewis, Investment Director for MEIF Maven Debt Fund, discusses important factors to remember when writing your business plan.

So you’ve decided you want to write a business plan? Great! A clear and comprehensive plan can be beneficial to the success of your business and can be a requirement if you are looking for external funding. Whether you’re a start-up business or a large corporate, every business needs to know where it’s going.  So where exactly do you start?

  1. Research

It’s probably fair to say that as a business owner, you will have a pretty good idea of the fundamental drivers of your business and those of the environment in which you operate. Often though, this information will be in your head and to create a robust business plan, you are presented with the task of putting it all down on paper.

As well as including all the relevant existing information you have concerning your business and industry, you may need to undertake further reading and research about key drivers including facts and metrics on your product or service, market, and competition. 

  1. Writing the plan

Now the research is complete, get ready to start writing. Anyone picking up your business plan should be able to understand exactly what your business does and where you want it to go. A comprehensive plan should give a clear picture of the key dynamics and stakeholders in your business. Key sections you should include are the: executive summary, company description, products and services, market analysis, financial plans and projections and information on the management team.

Whilst all the sections are important, there are a few sections which take greater priority:

  • The executive summary

The executive summary is essentially, your ultimate elevator pitch where you introduce your business idea, background, plans and expected results. A good executive summary is a call to action and excites the reader, encouraging them to read on. 

Whilst the executive summary is at the top of any business plan, it should be written last, since it is the summary. A business plan is written from the bottom up, so you need to work out all the details before you can write the summary.

  • The financials

You need to know your numbers. You have to prove to potential lenders and investors that your company is in a sound financial position, or at least working towards it, if you are seeking funding.

Your full financial forecasts should include a projected profit and loss statement, a projected cash flow statement, and a projected balance sheet; preferably covering at least two years.

Potential investors will be looking for signs of growth, high returns and a clear exit strategy whilst potential lenders want to make sure that you have a healthy cash flow and are able to cover your expenses and manage the day to day running of your business.

  • Management team

The management team section will include information on each key person’s industry background and experience, role and duties in the organisation. When describing team members, include everything that’s relevant to the potential success of your business but keep each biographical description brief and to the point.

 

Top tips

And finally, from many years of reading business plans, a few tips that might be worth considering:

  • Keep it brief

Think of the reader as someone with little time to give to read your plan. Make it stand out – if you can’t “sell” your business in a few pages then dozens and dozens won’t do it!

  • Make it look interesting

Add some visual elements to bring your plan to life. Think infographics, photos, charts, and graphs!

  • Avoid jargon

Make sure you avoid jargon that the reader won’t understand (it may be very obvious to you but can lead to people getting bored quickly!)

  • Check for spelling mistakes

An obvious thing but not a good start if they are there.

  • Follow the old maxim
    • Start by telling them what you are going to tell them (Introduction)
    • Then tell them (main body)
    • And then remind them (Summary).
Are you looking for funding for your business?

If your business is in need of finance to help unlock its growth potential, MEIF Maven Debt Finance may be able to help. Contact Maven’s local team today to find out more. Don’t worry if your business plan isn’t comprehensive, Maven can support you in creating the foundations of a plan for your business.

Not based in the Midlands? Maven has significant experience of managing regional growth funds across the UK, including on behalf of the Northern Powerhouse and Finance Durham, and since 2009 has invested over £340 million in more than 180 UK SMEs to support their growth strategies.

 

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