Nicola Peaty

The key information every business plan should include.

By Nicola Peaty

VG&A have been lucky enough to work with a few start-up companies from tennis for kids to beautiful cakes to luxury travel. All of them knew they had a talent or good idea, but it had to be matched by a thought through business plan which turns the idea into reality.

business-plan-flowerThere are plenty of templates available but a good way to start is to throw down all the thoughts on paper that you’ve probably been collating in your head as you process and mull over the idea of your business. Then you can apply some kind of order to your thoughts and check you have included all the essential points to ensure your business idea has the best chance of success. Plans don’t need to be pages in length as long as they cover the basics of your idea, the market and how to make money.

Section 1

Essentially all good plans should commence by succinctly defining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of your business:
* What service or product will your business provide?
* How will you provide the service/product to your market?

Sometimes called the ‘Elevator Pitch’, you should be able to describe your business idea clearly and concisely. You can then go the details about your service/product, how you aim to differentiate yourself and the delivery method to your customers.

This is also a good place to consider your brand and positioning which identifies what type of company you are promoting, plus how you will compete against any existing companies in your business sector. The name, logo and strap line will play a huge role in marketing your company.

Section 2

The financials are obviously vital when determining the feasibility of your business. Investment v Income:

* How much initial investment will you need? What are your initial layout costs? What are your ongoing costs?
* What is your pricing strategy? How will you cover your costs and then make profit? What time frame will you start to hit target revenue figures – 1, 2, 3 years?

Consider all the potential resources you may need such as employees, qualifications, certification, premises/venue, equipment etc. This is a perfect time to include sales and marketing costs if applicable such as a website, collateral and advertising for both launch and ongoing promotional campaigns.

Financials aren’t everyone’s core skill, so this is where you may need someone who can help you layout and present the figures in the best way such as balance and forecast sheets.

Section 3

Defining your market and identifying who will buy from you, will really help to sharpen your focus of who you will be targeting. How well do you know this market? Can they be segmented by similar characteristics? Do you have access and existing links with potential customers? Would a focus group help to give some market research and shape your business idea?

What do you already know about your customers’ purchasing habits within your sector and do you have something you can deliver to them which is either something completely new which fills a gap, or improved on what already exists? Either way, you have to be confident that there is a definite demand for your business idea and that you are in a position to deliver it and deliver it well.
Section 4

Unless you have developed a totally innovative idea, chances are, there are already competitors in your market. List them, understand them, and know how they operate and what position in the market they currently hold. This will help with your own positioning and pricing and marketing strategies. A SWOT analysis is a great tool. This will help you to take advantage of any weaknesses and look for the opportunities to create your USP and point of differentiation.
(See our blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-swot-pestle/)

Section 5

A good marketing strategy will ensure you can launch, build awareness and promote your company in exactly the way you want to communicate your new brand to your targeted audience. With a thought through marketing plan you can confidently control the messages about your business according to your brand positioning.

This is vital in your overall business plan because you need to show that you know how you can finally connect your product/service with your targeted market. You need to have identified which are the most appropriate channels for your customers and that all the necessary business information and product details are accessible to potential customers.

Section 6goals

Finally, you need to state your short and long term goals, both financially and as a business. This will help to shape the vision and growth of your company. It may change over the years, but at least you have a starting point and somewhere to focus.