It’s true what Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” Try to hold a conference without a plan and see what happens.
Even the most carefree vacation requires a modicum of planning. You’d at least need to decide on your general direction. You’d also need to pack some clothes, cash and your passport.
If a plan is required in the most spontaneous of trips, it’s absolutely critical when starting or expanding a business. Try talking to a corporate finance advisory firm to explore funding opportunities. Your business plan is likely to be one of the first things they’ll want to see.
If you’re here to learn how to write a business plan, follow these steps.
Step 0. Determine Feasibility
Technically, establishing feasibility is not a step in writing a business plan. It is a step you must do before; thus, we dub it step zero.
We include it here so you won’t forget this crucial step. Without a feasibility study, how would you know your business idea is viable? It won’t matter if you have the most comprehensive and detailed business plan if the business idea itself is flawed or impractical.
Step 1. Decide on a Business Plan Type and Structure
You can write the business plan in any way that works for you. However, there are two established business plan types.
Traditional Business Plan
The traditional business plan is the default. It is comprehensive and contains any and all information investors and lenders might ever need from a business. This is the structure to use if external parties are your primary audience.
Lean Startup Plan
A lean startup plan is a pared-down version of the traditional business plan. It is highly focused and may be a better option for startups, particularly those writing a plan for internal guidance.
Step 2. Write the Individual Sections of Your Business Plan
The business plan sections will vary depending on which type you’re making.
Traditional Business Plan Sections
A traditional business plan has nine key sections, but you may pick and choose the parts you need.
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary is an overview and should tell the reader what your business is and how and why it will succeed. It talks briefly but precisely and concisely about your mission, company location, product, service, and plans for growth. You may also include an overview of your finances, especially if you’re writing the plan to borrow money or ask for funding.
2. Company Description
The company description is where you describe your organization in detail, including the problem you solve for your customers. Showcase your company strengths (e.g., your experienced chief executive officer, strategic location, or unique proposition).
3. Market Analysis
The market analysis section talks about your market, the competitive landscape, your differentiation, and market opportunities. It describes the market to the reader and emphasizes why there’s room for your company and why your business will thrive in it.
4. Organization and Management
In the organization and management section, you discuss your legal form and organizational structure and provide information on the people occupying key roles.
5. Product or Service
In the product or service section, you describe your product or service, talk about its benefits, discuss the product life cycle, and provide background and additional information (e.g., pending and existing patents).
6. Marketing and Sales
In the marketing and sales section, outline your strategy for attracting and retaining customers. You should also discuss how you’ll generate sales.
7. Funding Request
In the funding request section, describe how much money you need, how you plan to allocate it (e.g., equipment, salaries, etc.) and your proposed terms (e.g., debt or equity). You must include a timeframe, as funding requests and allocations must be time-bound.
8. Financial Projections
How much revenue will the company be making in five years? Include graphs, forecasted income statements and other financial reports in the financial projections section to show the reader how profitable your business will be in the forecast period. Established companies may also include past income, cash flow and balance statements in recent years to support claims made in this section.
Collate all documents to support the assertions made in the previous sections and attach them as appendices. These documents may include supplier agreements, sales contracts, employee resumes, location maps, and cited market studies.
Lean Startup Plan
A typical lean startup plan has the following sections. You may pare this down or add elements from the traditional plan.
1. Key Partnerships
The key partnerships section lists the organizations you will work with to sustain your operations, including suppliers, manufacturers and subcontractors.
2. Key Activities
Use the key activities section to tell the reader how you plan to gain a competitive advantage and gain market share.
3. Key Resources
What resources do you have? Do you have intellectual property, a patent, a valuable piece of land, or an experienced staff? Talk about your resources in the key resources section.
4. Value Proposition
In the value proposition section, discuss what makes your business unique and valuable to the market.
5. Customer Relationships
Describe the customer experience and how your customers will interact with the business in the customer relationships section.
6. Customer Segments
Describe your target market and your customer demographic in the customer segments section.
In the channels section, write down the channels you’ll be using to market and sell to your customers.
8. Cost Structure
The cost structure section contains a breakdown of your expenses. It may also discuss how you plan to reduce costs or maximize value.
9 Revenue Streams
The revenue streams section itemizes your revenue streams. It discusses how your business will make money.
Step 3. Assemble, Review, Refine, and Adjust
After completing all the sections, put them together. Next, review and refine the individual components in the context of the whole document.
It’s also good practice to regularly revisit your business plan to see if you need to make adjustments.
In Sum: How to Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan essentially boils down to choosing a business plan type, deciding on your sections, writing the content for these sections, and putting everything together to create a cohesive document. It may seem simple, but it is a complex process with many individual parts that must be executed correctly.
Thus, it is best to work with business consultants and leave the matter in the hands of the experts.
Affility Consulting is a business consultancy firm in the United Arab Emirates. We provide business advisory services and can help you conduct a feasibility study in the UAE and write a business plan for your startup or established company.
Talk to us to learn how our advisory services can help your business.