Business Plan Template
PART A. SOME NOTES ON BUSINESS PLANNING
Many people think of a business plan as being a document, which is clearly true to a point. But what is just as important is the ideas and strategy behind the document and how you intend to use the document.
What’s the Right Way to Do a Business Plan?
Ignore what experts say about their way being the best. The truth is that there is no ‘right way’. It all depends upon why you are doing the plan and your own specific circumstances.
Also, the ideas below are presented as a guide. Test the ideas that make sense to you and if they work, then use them.
Why Develop a Business Plan?
The exact form of your business plan will depend on why you are developing the plan
Common reasons are:
- guide your business
- seek equity investment
- seek loan funds
- seek Government funding
If you are developing your plan for the first of the above reasons (to guide your business) then you can generally get by with a plan that just has the ‘guts’ in it, without all the bells and whistles.
Even if its only 1 or 2 pages long, we recommend that EVERY business have a written plan.
The truth is that every business has a plan; its just that sometimes the plan sits in the minds of the owner(s).
Putting that plan on paper clarifies where you’re heading and what you need to do. (Note that not being clear on where your heading is like getting in your car and driving down the road without a clear idea of where you want to get to – not a good idea.)
If you are developing a plan for any of the last 3 reasons above (to raise money), then you usually need such things as:
- a 1 page Executive Summary at the front
- more complete explanations
- inclusion of the experience and qualifications of the business owners and managers
How to Develop a Business Plan
There are 3 fundamental ways to develop a plan:
- The Single Person Approach – here the owner or one of the owners sits down and documents all the ideas.
- The Multiple Person Approach – here a group of 2 or more stakeholders get in a room together and develop the plan on flip chart paper initially. Done properly, this approach can also lead to things like (1) great new ideas; (2) lots of energy and enthusiasm, and (3) commitment from stakeholders such as investors. One option is to do this approach with experienced facilitators who guide the process. If those facilitators are also small business experts then they can not only guide the process but also provide input at the same time.
- The Combo Deal – In many instances businesses use a combination of the above 2 approaches. As one example, you might use option 2 but then use option 1 to flesh out the plan before presenting it to investors.
Which is the Best Approach
The truth is that there is no best way – each of the above has its strengths and weaknesses.
Having said that, our favourite is Option 2 (or Option 3 if you need to seek capital). This option has significant strengths in term of getting new ideas and direction which can sometimes be difficult to get on your own. Even as a sole trader you can use option 2 with a small business expert in the room with you.
What Are the Most Important Areas of an Internal Business Plan?
Here are the things that we like to see:
Purpose – why does your business exist? Of course, you might say “to make money”. But as important as it is to make a healthy bottom line, behind all great businesses there exists a deeper purpose. (Think of it in these terms, the best doctors make good money but they are also dedicated to making a difference.) If your not sure, answer these questions:
- what about your business drives you to get out of bed each morning
- what makes you angry or passionate
Organisational Outcomes – what are the 2-5 key outcomes you want to achieve and when. These are things that would indicate that you have achieved your above Purpose and can include things like:
- number of customers
- spend per customer
- bottom line profit
- business protection
Organisational Principles – what are the half dozen or so key principles that will drive your organisation?
Operational issues for Business 1 – the importance of this depends on your situation but in general most hairdressers know how to be good hairdressers. And the same goes for mechanics, electricians, professional service providers and so on. Having said that, where most people can improve what they’re doing is the development of documented systems for literally everything they do. Also keep in mind that for many businesses their most important marketing tool is great customer service (leading to word of mouth referrals). In fact, we recommend that you dont just stop at ‘great service’ but actually aim to thrill your customers. Sometimes it doesn’t take much effort or cost to provide something thats over and above what you promised. One way to do thsi is to sit down with your stakeholders and brainstorm:
“What could we do to thrill our customers.”
Marketing Issues for Business 1 – go through and answer each of the following:
- Target Markets – describe your target market as specifically as possible. Many new business owners worry about losing potential customers and make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Don’t make this mistake. Narrow your target market.
- USP – this is your Unique Selling Proposition. What is it that set you apart from your competitors.? Note the word ‘unique’. This needs to be something that nobody else is offering. For example, your USP can’t be ‘great service’ because all your competitors would say the same thing. and its therefore not unique. Even ‘best service’ is probably not unique. But what if you said ‘our service is so good that we guarantee your satisfaction or your money back”. OK, now your getting there. The whole point of this is to stand out from the crowd and you do that by being unique.
- Image – this is about your brand. Unlike what some experts say, we dont regard your brand as being everything; but we do regard it as being important.
- Products and Pricing – think laterally with your products. Could you package them? Could you ass something which is low cost but adds high perceived value? Could you turn a service into a DIY product?
- Marketing Materials. What materials will you need in terms of websites, flyers etc?
- Lead Generation – how will people get to know about your business? In the online world, this is also known as ‘traffic’. There are generally 3 types of lead generation – Advertising, Referrals (or Word of Mouth) and Public Relations. Describe under each of these what you intend to do and what your call to action will be, eg buy now online, email us, call, etc.
- Lead Conversion – once you get a lead, how are you going to convert that lead? Do you need systems for answering phone calls, responding to emails, etc.
Operational and Marketing Issues for Business 2, etc – if you have more than one main source of revenue, then you may need separate Operational and Marketing sections for each source. What constitutes a separate business? if in doubt, we recommend separate sections for different Revenue Sources. In this instance, more is generally better than less.
Finance and Admin Issues – this commonly includes things like:
- Finance – setting up your financial system properly provides peace of mind; up to date financial figures at your finger tips (even when your not at your computer); easy meeting of your BAS and tax requirements without needing to engage expensive accountants. Issues include banking, GST registration and method of bookkeeping (we highly recommend Xero).
- Cash – this could be included in Finances but warrants separate mention. Probably the biggest reason why new businesses fail is lack of cash. Some people find a formula which provides short term profitability. But for most businesses the simple fact is that no matter how good you are at what you do, it usually takes time to turn your new business to profit (esoecially if your paying yourself a reasonable wage).
We like to think about it as big heavy fly wheel (like a larger version of one of those fun round things that used to be in the playgrounds). To begin with your pushing this wheel with all your might and it looks like nothing is happening. But then you notice just a hint of movement. So you keep pushing with all your energy and effort. The wheel is starting to move slowly (some sales but still in loss). So you keep pushing with all your might and the wheel starts to turn a little more – but the cash is dwindling more. Without continuing the story, you probably get the idea. Your either going to be like the guys who have enough cash and make it to the end – or like the thousands of small business entrepreneurs who go broke each year.
Dont waste all that time, energy and money. Make sure that you have plenty of cash at the outset.
- Insurance – you should consider all the critical insurances like Public and Product Liability; Key man Insurance; Income protection for yourself and Workers Comp for any employees.
- Legal – make sure you are fully protected even if it means spending a little money. If you have one or more fellow owners, make sure that the interests of all parties are clear through a Partnership or Shareholders Agreement. We have lost count of the number of joint ownership situations that have ended up in a s legal battle simply because they didn’t think it would end up being an issue. We cant recommend this enough; jot down your ideas and then take them to a lawyer to draft an agreement on both your behalfs. (We have specialist lawyers we can recommend for this work.)
- Delegating, Outsourcing and HR – your people are the most important part of your business. There is nothing more important you can do that to find the right people and delegate to them.
- Security – an important part of protecting your business. Think IT security, as well as physical security.
What About a Budget?
Your budget should go hand in hand with your business plan. The main reason for doing a budget is to ensure that you have enough cash. You will probably also need one if you are raising capital or seeking funding.
Your Next Step?
Your next step is to decide how you want to develop your business plan – the Single Person Approach or the Multi Person Approach (see above). Then proceed accordingly.
If you feel as though you could do with help, check out the services we provide:www.smallbusinessauthority.com.au
PART B. BUSINESS PLAN TEMPLATE
[Less than one page. Complete this section if you propose raising funds, especially from investors who are not known to you.]
[Provide a general outline or background of what the business will do. Complete this section if you propose raising funds, especially from investors who are not known to you.]
[Why you are doing this beyond just making a profit]
[the 2-5 specific organisational outcomes which will demonstrate that you have achieved you purpose]
[up to say 6 principles which will guide your business decisions and action]
Operational Revenue Business 1
[issues associated with delivery of the service to your customers]
Marketing Revenue Business 1
[divide under the Steps of Target market, USP, Image, Products & Pricing, Marketing Materials, Lead Generation and Lead Conversion]
Operational and Marketing for Other Businesses
Finance & Admin
[divide under the headings of Finance, Insurance, Legal, HR, Security]
[Include a summary of the budget supported by a full budget spreadsheet. For a sample spreadsheet, go here] link to spreadsheet
[If you are making an offer to investors, here is the place to confirm that offering]
Next Action Steps
[What needs doing next?]
Distil; 1800 distil (1800 347 845); firstname.lastname@example.org