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Developing a Business Plan

A Business Plan is a document designed to allow a business to plan for the future, allocate resources, identify key decisions and prepare for problems and opportunities. It helps to plan for the future since it makes the entrepreneur think carefully about the business and commit all the main information and ideas to paper.

Contents of a Business Plan

  • Executive Summary – Often the first thing people see on the business plan and sometimes the only part they will read. One to two pages in length and is the summary of the main features of the business. It should contain highlights from the rest of the plan and should be set out in an interesting and informative manner.
  • Business Description – Includes the following information:
  1. Start Date for the business or how long the business has been trading
  2. The type of business and sector of the market it trades in
  3. The legal structure i.e. sole trader, partnership, limited company
  4. The entrepreneurs vision for the business
  • Product or Service – Description of the product or service sold:
  1. What makes it different from the competition
  2. What benefits are there to the customer
  3. Plans for further development
  4. Information on any protection of the ideas (patents, copyright, trademarks)
  • Market Analysis – Analysis of the market, competition and customers. Where they are, how to reach them and how the product or service meets their needs.
  1. The market, data about the size and growth of the market
  2. The customer, who and where they are
  3. The competition, who they are, their strengths and weaknesses
  4. The future, how might the market change in the future, what response do you have?
  • Strategy and Implementation – Analysis of the key decisions and strategies that need to be carried out; this must be linked with who is responsible for carrying them out. This section is split into marketing and sales strategies.
  • Marketing
  1. Pricing
  2. Promotion
  3. Sales Strategies
  4. Consider the marketing mix here
  • Sales
  1. Location, is it owned or rented, what are its advantages and disadvantages
  2. Production, are they owned or leased, how old are they, what is the capacity?
  3. Systems, stock control, quality control, financial management and ICT
  • Management Team – Description of the key members of the business, their skills and experience. It is also likely to contain data on the number of employees, how the business is structured and salaries.
  • Financial Plan – This will be a number of the key financial documents such as the profit and loss statement, cash flow forecast, balance sheet and break even analysis. It might also include financial ratios as well as any assumptions the business has made while putting its financial assumptions together.

Where to get help

Small businesses can get a lot of help in the early stages. Some institutions provide help and guidance, others provide templates.

  • Small Business Advisors – Link you to a mentor or give you examples or advice on the documents you need to fill out.
  • Accountants and Bank Managers – Give information on how to create a good business plan
  • Government Agencies – The government sees small businesses as a vital component to the economy. There is a *Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, they can offer help and advice and can advise on government grants.

Resources Required

  • Time - Entrepreneur may still be in employment and has little extra time to create the business plan
  • Determination - To complete the plan in the necessary detail
  • Vision - Clear idea of the business and its Unique Selling Point
  • Numbers - Must contain all the financial information. Nothing can be missed out on this.
  • Planning - Being organised and performing a number of activities at once

Problems with small business planning

  • Time - Most likely the main thing and entrepreneur has little of. If they are completing the business plan while trading they will be busy with day to day running. Otherwise, they might just want to get the business started as quickly as they can.
  • Money - Advice can cost money and cost can be incurred from the opportunity cost of the entrepreneurs time.
  • Expertise - The entrepreneur might not know enough about the product or service market to be able to construct a business plan. They must familiarise themselves on all aspects of the process.
  • Opportunity Cost - Some people may feel the time spent on a business plan is wasted time since they could be selling their product / service.


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