What makes a good business plan?
Let’s start with the question, “What is a business plan?”
Put at its simplest, a business plan is a written description of the future of your business; a road map that shows where you are going and how you plan to get there. It’s your GP, your Game Plan.
A lot of people assume that it is something you draw up when you are starting a business and that once you are up and running it can just go into a file somewhere. But successful business people know that a good business plan is much more than that. It is a dynamic document that should develop and evolve as your business progresses, responding to the current reality that you are operating in and reflecting your future goals. A business plan should be a friend for life!
The act of writing a business plan can be a huge benefit in its own right. It can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business idea, where you might need help from other people with specific skills and questions you may need to answer. Having written the plan, it is then an invaluable tool, not only in setting up the business but also it can be useful in developing relationships with potential customers, suppliers and, of course, the bank.
Another great use of a business plan is as a way of monitoring yourself. When you are in the driving seat, the only person holding you accountable on a daily basis is you. So your plan can become a baseline against which you can measure how well you are doing.
How do I structure a business plan?
You can find a template on the Nyamuka Zambia website on how to structure a business plan but the key to any business plan is that it should cover all the major aspects that go to make up a business. It’s not enough to have a great idea for making something really innovative if you don’t know how you are going to sell it, how you are going to distribute it or how you are going to fund the process before you get paid. So a good business plan will cover all these aspects and allow you to see if the constituent parts will work together to ensure the business is feasible to start with.
No two businesses are the same so no two business plans will be the same either but there will be things that they all have in common. The major pillars of any business and therefore any business plan are:
- A clear idea of what your business is about
- A strategy for how you intend to set up and grow your business
- Analysis of the market and the competition
- Details of how you intend to market your business
- An operations and management plan
- Key financial figures including cash flow projections
How long your business plan should be will vary depending on how complex your business is but it should be long enough and give enough detail to allow readers of your plan a clear picture of what you have in mind but focused enough to capture the essence in as few pages as possible. .
Many of the people who may be reading your business plan will not be technical experts in your field so the style you use should reflect this. It is wise to use the sort of language that an educated layman would understand. You may also need to prepare different versions of your business plan. The one you use internally within the business may not be exactly the same as the one that you prepare for a potential supplier or financier as different audiences will be interested in different things.
It will take time and effort to construct a good business plan, working and reworking it until it starts to work for you. But once your plan is ready to go, that is the first stage completed for a whole new adventure…and remember your business is your friend for life so keep reviving and refreshing it.