How to write a winning business plan

Sylvia Pennington

Fail to plan, plan to fail?

Do you have a current business plan or is your small business or startup trading by the seat of its pants?

Part blueprint for how your venture should operate, part roadmap for the future, a business plan is vital for the long-term success of any enterprise.

As well as clarifying what it is you aim to accomplish, formulating a plan helps you anticipate challenges and develop strategies to overcome them.

It also forces you to get your financials in order – vital if you intend to seek external funding at any stage.

So what does a winning plan comprise and how should you go about writing one?

Downloading one of the many free templates available on the net can be the easiest way to get started. Formats will vary, but expect to include details of the following.

Operations

How does your company roll? You’ll need to note the nitty-gritty of day-to-day operations – stuff like where you’re based, what you sell, how many staff you have and who’s in charge.

Marketing

The ‘build a better mousetrap’ strategy is out of date – which means marketing in some guise is vital for every business, including yours. Conduct an analysis of the industry you’re operating in, your product or service and those of your competitors. How does your offering stack up and what marketing strategies are you employing to ensure sales and growth targets are met?

The future

Time to do the vision thing….Where do you want the business to be in two or five years’ time and how are you going to take it there? What are some of the milestones you’ll pass along the way?

Finances

It’s nothing without the numbers so if you’re not all over the bank statements and balance sheets already, then pull out the calculator and get stuck into some financial forecasting. Note the investment you and others have made in the business, its current trading figures and any future fundraising plans.

What’s next once you’re done?

Rinse and repeat, says Fred Schebesta, serial digital entrepreneur and co-founder of Finder, one of Australia’s largest comparison sites. He’s written his share of business plans and believes the best ones are short, sweet and a work in progress.

“These models should be reviewed regularly – at least every few months, and even more frequently if there’s been movement in the industry,” Schebesta says.

“You’ll only make money while you’re the most trusted, quickest, easiest or most comprehensive. If you slack off, your customer base won’t mind at all – they’ll head straight to the fresh option.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

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