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Business plans: What to include

Business plans: What to include

So you know you need a business plan and you understand the characteristics of a good plan. Now it’s time to sit down and create one for your organisation. But where to start? When it comes to writing your business plan, there’s no one-size-fits-all. But there are some sections you should definitely include – like an executive summary, details of the opportunity and information about your company.

Here are the sections we suggest – and what should go into each one…

Executive summary

This is the first impression your audiences will have of your business and the opportunity you’re proposing. So make it count – get their attention and give them a reason to read on.

Your executive summary gives readers a clear, concise overview of the key elements in your plan. You should set out your business mission, alongside a summary of the opportunity and how you plan to address it. You should also introduce your target market, customer profile and team – and include key financial details.

Even though the executive summary comes first in your plan, we recommend writing it last. It’ll be easier once you’ve worked through the other sections and have a clear view of the whole of your plan.

The opportunity

This is the essence of your plan. What is the customer need you plan to address? What evidence do you have that this need isn’t being addressed elsewhere? And crucially, how will your business go about solving it?

Remember to be specific. Back up your statements with statistics, customer interviews and surveys and be clear about where your data comes from. And when you outline your idea, focus on the benefits, rather than the features – and what makes your proposition unique.

This section is also where you can include a well-defined customer profile, market summary and your go-to-market strategy. You need to include your competitors – and how you plan to generate a sustainable competitive advantage.

The company

This is where you answer the question: Can your organisation deliver what you promise? Anyone reading your business plan will want to know how you’ll make money. You need to outline your revenue model and your operating model – setting out your key activities, partners and suppliers, and defining your position in the value chain. You should also include your financial plan and your sales and marketing approach.

Whether your plan is successful or not depends on its execution – and the team that’s responsible for it. Introduce your team – explain who owns which parts of the project, each team member’s experience and what they bring to the table. You should also include information about your extended team – including your board of directors, advisors and sponsors.

Finally, this section should define your key objectives and the milestones you’ll use to measure success – such as developing your first prototype or securing your first major contract. Include a timeline, but remember to focus on the short term. In a fast-changing world, your business plan will likely need to adapt in the future.

Conclusion

Finish your plan by assessing key challenges and risks. Be transparent about the assumptions you’ve made, the risks they come with – and how you plan to mitigate them.This is also the place to include your call to action and what you’re asking for. Remember to listen to the needs of your audience and be clear about what you’re asking them for – whether it’s the conditions of a deal, investment or a response from your management.

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