If you lie in bed at night thinking about your million-pound idea (ice cream that doesn’t melt?) but don’t know where to start, a business plan could be your first move. But how exactly do you write a business plan? Here, Entrepreneur and author of Self Made: The Definitive Guide To Business Startup Success, Bianca Miller-Cole explains exactly where to start.
Quite simply, it's a document “outlining your intentions for the business,” Miller says. “You’re mapping out the answers to the important questions that come with starting a new venture, like ‘Who is this for?’ and ‘What will it cost?’"
Once your idea is locked in, the aim is to create a “comprehensive outline of everything that comes with being a business owner.” While everybody’s business plan is different, Miller has some key advice on how to nail yours.
1. Do your research
First things first: work our what your niche is, and build your plan from there. “Looking into the wider field will help you to understand your product or service, and the gap that it fills for consumers," Bianca says. Create a section outlining the market, and where your product or service sits within it. And as you're doing your research, Miller says, don’t underestimate the power of a focus group. "Try the market first - get out there and talk to people, and write down the key points they raise."
2. The four Ps
“Any successful plan should detail exactly what your idea is, and how you’re going to market it,” Miller says. "Once you’ve worked out who your consumer is, map out how to target them, keeping the four Ps - product, place, price and promotion - in mind." Do this via a mind map or headed columns, "identifying what makes your business unique (the product), plan where you’re going to sell it (the place), its cost compared to the market (the price) and the marketing or promotional strategy.” Include this analysis in your business plan.
3. The nitty gritty
It’s great that you’ve got a lovely logo or packaging ideas in mind, but Miller says you need to keep a track of practical things, too. “It’s so important to secure your social media domains and register as a business right at the start," she says. Note down what you have and what you're yet to do, keeping an eye on mounting costs and outstanding tasks. "It's also worth getting advice from an accountant about business banking, reading up on what you’re allowed to expense, and learning about trademarking."
4. Money, money, money
Next up, the financial element. “You should understand how much money you need to start your business, and the impact that will have on your current situation. Create a personal survival budget and a financial forecast within your business plan, on excel or via an accountant.” Once you know what money you need to survive (including rent, bills and so on), work out how many products or services you need to sell a month to offset this, as well as revenue predictions. "Doing this at the planning stages should help you avoid any early financial issues."
5. Expect the unexpected
“Keep your finger on the pulse and be willing to adapt,” Miller says. Having a plan is important, but you might find some of it is irrelevant when things are off the ground, or you have to face unexpected challenges. "Don’t spend forever in the planning stages - believe in yourself and go for it. Be prepared for obstacles and for your roadmap to change."
Consider us motivated.
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