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How to write a business plan

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❶Be careful of criticising or underestimating competitors. For instance, rather than describing the type of food you plan to serve in your restaurant, you could include a menu, and instead of explaining how your product works, you could include a series of images showing what it does.

Tips when writing your business plan

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What to include in a business plan?
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What agreements have been put in place if any? What equipment will you need to get the job done? For some businesses, equipment might be as basic as a computers and photocopiers, while for other types of businesses such as restaurants or hair salons, it may include a longer list of items such as stoves and kitchen essentials or hairstyling and barber chairs.

What will your normal trading hours be like? What are the expected peak trading times? An online store would likely be able to trade at all hours, whereas a brick and mortar store might operate from 9 to 5. How will customers be able to contact you when they need assistance or have a complaint? Some options include email, telephone, in store or through hour chat support. What payment types will you accept? Cash, credit card, debit card, cheques, PayPal? Will customers have the option of paying in instalments?

How will you ensure a consistently high standard of products or services? Who will be in charge of quality control? What procedures will be put in place? You should include two types of expenses in your financial plan; one-time start-up costs and regular monthly expenses.

One-time start-up costs may include things like your business license and equipment, while regular monthly expenses include things such as salaries, stock replenishment and marketing. For more information on start-up costing, cash flow statements and financial calculators, check out the downloadable financial templates available at Business. With this in mind, Open Colleges trainer and consultant David Lang has shared some insights on how to use business plan templates and where to get personalised business advice.

David Lang explains that while a template can certainly be useful when writing a business plan, there are a few things that need to be addressed before you get started. When considering what you are going to offer the marketplace you are entering, Lang says the following questions can be a good place to start. No longer is your business concept an idea in your head or spoken words floating off to the ether; the visions and expectations are documented clearly and concisely as a working concept.

Since you need to be careful about your expenditure early on, Lang suggests looking for free sources of information when you first start putting your plan together.

Talking with state and local government agencies that offer advice and guidance for establishing a business can also be a good idea. This gives you access to valuable industry insights, advice and support, and professional services are often offered at a subsidised rate. Even your trusted friends can be a good source of advice. So here are a few final considerations. Research shows that visuals can improve comprehension, transmit messages faster, and are more likely to stick in our long term memory than written information.

In fact, one study found that after three days, 65 percent of visual information was retained compared to just 20 percent of written information. So not only will visuals make your business plan more memorable, but graphs, charts, sketches and photos will also help you avoid lengthy descriptions and get your point across much faster.

For instance, rather than describing the type of food you plan to serve in your restaurant, you could include a menu, and instead of explaining how your product works, you could include a series of images showing what it does. The market is constantly changing, so your business plan should too. A well thought out business plan is an essential part of being prepared to head into the world of commerce.

By downloading this guide you agree to receive the latest careers tips and blog posts from Open Colleges. Here are some of the initial steps to take when writing your business plan. Title page The title page is the first page of your business plan and should include the following: Here are some of the points you may want to include: Relevant owner experience What qualifies you to run this business? Products or services What services or products will you provide?

What is the anticipated demand? Vision statement What are your plans for the future? What are your goals and objectives? Market summary Who are your customers? Finances What is your sales forecast? Business description Along with a brief vision statement that outlines the purpose of your business and what your goals are, this section will provide details about the history, structure and location of your business.

Products and services This section will look at the products and services you intend to provide and should address the following questions: Are your products or services a luxury or necessity? What qualifies you to provide these products or services? Who will your suppliers be? Market analysis The market analysis section is one of the most important parts of your business plan as it will help you gain a better understanding of your industry. Your marketing plan should include: Your objectives What are your business objectives?

A distribution plan How will your customers buy your products? A pricing and positioning strategy How do you want to position yourself in the industry and how will your pricing support this position?

Key marketing strategies What strategies will you employ to reach your objectives? Your proposed budget How much of your total budget will you spend on marketing your product or service? A timeline and schedule What objectives will you aim to reach within the next six months or one year? Management team This section looks at how your business or will be or is currently being managed.

Operations The operations section of your business plan will deal with the materials, facilities and processes that are necessary for the running of your business.

Suppliers Who are your main suppliers? Equipment What equipment will you need to get the job done? Trading hours What will your normal trading hours be like? Communications How will customers be able to contact you when they need assistance or have a complaint?

Start with an executive summary of the key points and purpose of the plan. Use charts if relevant, and include business or product literature as an appendix.

Get the plan proofread for clarity, spelling and grammar mistakes, and then show the plan to friends and business advisers for comments on how to improve it. Start with a brief history of the business. When did it start trading and what progress has it made to date? Who owned the business originally? What is the current ownership structure?

Describe your product or service without using technical jargon. If necessary, you can offer the technical detail for people who want to know more in an appendix to the plan. In general, what makes your product or service different? What benefits does it offer?

What are its disadvantages? How do you plan to develop the business? Define the market in which you sell and then focus on the segments of the market in which you compete.

How large is each market segment? What is your market share? What are the important trends, such as market growth or changing tastes and the reasons behind the trend? What are the key drivers affecting each important market segment? Describe the nature and distribution of your existing customers. Are you heavily reliant on sales to a few large customers? If so, how do you plan to diversify your sales? Define your principal competition. What are the advantages and disadvantages of their products and services compared with yours?

Cover issues such as price, quality and distribution. Then explain why customers will buy your product or service instead your competitive advantage. Be careful of criticising or underestimating competitors. What unique selling features does your product have and which of these features will you concentrate on? What is your pricing policy? Explain how price sensitive your products or services are.

Look at each product or market segment in turn. Identify where you make your profits and where there is scope to increase margins or sales. Explain how you set your pricing accordingly. How do you promote your product or service? Each market segment will have one or two optimum methods, for example, direct marketing, advertising or PR.

What channels do you use or plan to use, to reach your end user? Compare your current channels with the alternatives and note the distribution channels used by your competitors. If they are using some channels, such as the internet, more effectively than your business, outline any plans you may have to match them.

Analyse the cost efficiency of each of your selling methods, for example, telesales, a direct sales force, through an agent, or over the internet. If you have a direct sales force, include all the hidden costs, such as management time. Set out the structure and key skills of your management team and key staff. Identify any skill shortages, such as IT skills, and your plans to cover these. Explain your recruitment and training plan, including time scales and costs.

Analyse your workforce in terms of total numbers and by department. Compare the efficiency ratios with competitors or with similar industries. Useful figures might be sales, average salaries, employee retention rates and measures of productivity. Be realistic about the commitment and motivation of the workforce and spell out any plans to improve or maintain motivation. Consider how you would survive the loss of a key worker. Analyse the capacity and efficiency of your operations and your planned improvements.

Do you own or lease your premises? If you lease, do you have security of tenure or are you stuck in an unsuitable location? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the present location? Should the business expand or move? Explain how you organise production and what equipment you use.

How modern is the equipment and what is the capacity of your current facilities compared with existing and forecast demand? Give an overview of the management information systems you have in place, such as databases, networks, servers, and accounting reports and processes.

Are your systems reliable and can they cope with any proposed expansion? Also identify any quality or regulatory standards that the business must conform to, including environmental standards.

Your financial forecasts translate your planned strategy and tactics into numbers. Set out the historical financial information on your business for the last three to five years.

Break total the sales figures down into component parts. For example, show sales of different types of product or to different types of customers and show the gross margin for each component of sales.

Highlight any major capital expenditure made in the period and provide both an up-to-date balance sheet and profit and loss account. Explain the reasons for movements in profitability, working capital and cash flow and compare them with industry norms.

Provide forecasts for the next three years. These should reflect the complexity of your business. A small business may need only a profit and loss statement, and sales and cash flow statements. A more complex asset-based business, or one with complex working capital requirements, will need balance sheet forecasts as well. Use the same format as for the historical information, to aid comparisons. Clearly state the assumptions behind your forecasts. These should tie in with statements in the rest of the plan.

For example, if the plan states that the market is becoming more competitive, then profit margins will probably be falling. Look at the overall trends of the historical and forecast numbers. Do the forecasts make allowance for possible problems and delays?

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Tips on how to write a business plan for your new or existing business. Learn about what you need to include to make it as useful as possible. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to them and their cultures and to the elders.

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Write a business plan You might also be interested in. Business planning is essential for the success of any business. A business plan provides direction, keeps you on track and is usually a requirement when you seek melbourne.

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