What is a business plan? Making your plan work for you

A simple business plan definition would tell you that this is a document which describes your business’s goals, how you are going to go about achieving them and a timeframe for how long this should take. This definition would say that your full plan might also contain in-depth details about your company’s current state as well as financial projections and strategies for its future.

Essentially, any definition shows you that a professional business plan is your roadmap to success. Creating one might seem like a chore. After all, this is a document which requires extensive research to build. A great deal of thought to create. And expert knowledge if it is going to be of any use to you at all.

Because a smart business plan is a highly valuable resource. This is a document which you can constantly refer to in order to figure out what you should be doing in regards to your business. Is it time to expand? To grow? To better focus your money or attention? A good plan will tell you.

A business plan should not be seen as a tiresome obligation. It is not just a one-off piece you need to write to show to your bank or an investor. A professional business plan is actually the most effective and efficient tool you can use to guide your business for the next few years. Without one, you are taking a journey without looking at signposts, only vaguely sure of your destination.

So, a basic business plan definition might tell you what a business plan is. But it does not explain what a full and complete plan can do for you. Let us work together to see what your business’s numbers are telling you. We will create a business plan which includes everything you need to help your company thrive for the next 18 months and more.

Writing a business plan helps you in many ways

Writing a business plan is not something you can quickly fire out in a lunch hour. This vital tool and infinitely valuable resource will also, on occasion, need to be able to survive deep scrutiny by bankers, investors and other specialists who will need to see what they expect to see from a professionally-written plan – and a profitable and exciting business. They need to see a reliably profitable company – one with plans and sensible strategies for growth – which they can get behind. One which they will be willing to sign on the line and support

But it’s important not to overlook the personal professional benefits of a business plan:

As a key part of the business planning process, your plan should explain your business’s precise current position – your resources and capabilities. It should also explain where you are going – usually a time in the future, over a time period from one to five years, with your goals for the resources and capabilities you plan to have them.

Critically, it should also include a roadmap for how you are going to get there. This is a map which you can then refer to at any time you need guidance on your business’s future.

Writing a business plan helps you:

  • Set out your goals
  • Plan your sales and marketing
  • Lay out projects and how they can and will be improved in future
  • Check that your ideas are potentially profitable ones
  • Identify problems and your solutions for overcoming them
  • Plan your financial objectives and the returns you expect

Hiring a business plan consultant – the smart solution

Hiring a business plan consultant is the way many home-based, small and medium enterprises choose to tackle the challenges involved in creating an effective plan.

Having a team of professional business plan writers in-house is not something that most smaller businesses can afford. Outsourcing the work to a Virtual CFO ensures your team can concentrate on what they do best. While, at the same time, letting you know that your business plan is being created by an expert.

This is vital if you are going to get any value out of your plan at all. It is doubly as important if your plan is going to be scrutinized by a bank, investor or other outside agency. Oversights or the many common mistakes which people make when writing business plans are easy ways to get turned down for that all-important loan or miss that planned-for investment opportunity.

A business plan consultant lets you foresee and overcome all of those hurdles. Working together, we will make sure you not only have a clear, accurate picture of your business. But also a professional document which will give you the best possible chance of securing any financial deal that you might want to make.

Contact me and talk about creating your own accurate, fully realized plan. I regularly work with SMEs across Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, the UK, Switzerland and Northern Europe, including Norway, Sweden and Germany.

Business plan structure: what yours will include

Your business plan structure will be in a sensible, proven format. It is one which bankers and other financial experts understand and know to expect, as well as being one which is completely accessible to you and anyone who else who might need to access it – even if they do not have an in-depth knowledge of finances themselves.

The business plan headings you will see as part of your document will include:

1. Executive summary. This is a general overview which covers the rest of the document. Usually, around one or two pages in length, it is positioned first but written last so that it can refer to the other vital information within the plan.

2. Company overview and starting position. This is your current position as of now – an overall presentation on your company and its actual financial situation.

3. Market analysis. Covering all of your relevant peer group in your market niche, this analysis covers both your chosen market and competition within it.

4. SWOT analysis and mission statement. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. It is one of the most important parts of any business plan structure. It covers the chances and risks of various actions as well as including an action plan.

5. Marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy is a key business plan heading. It will help you focus your marketing spend.

6. Financial analysis and planning overview. This includes complete financial analysis and planning for a range of between one and three years.

7. Realization timetable. The realization timetable sets out clear timeframes for achieving the goals and objectives you have laid out in your plan.

Choosing the right business plan format

The perfect business plan format for you will depend on the purposes you have in mind for your plan. Business plans are essentially either:

  1. A traditional or standard business plan will include all of the headings and sections outlined above.
  2. A basic or simple business plan will tend to include much of the same but in far less detail.

A standard business plan will cover any eventuality. You can use it to present your business idea or your fully functioning company’s current state to someone like a bank or investor. You can also use it to properly plan future changes to your operations and expansion in the future. This is because a traditional business plan will capture a complete image of your company – one which is fully grounded in the realism you need in order for your plan to be a useful document.

To write an effective standard business plan you will almost certainly need assistance from a financial advisor. After all, business planning requires a depth of research and specialist knowledge – particularly when it comes to financial analysis and planning – that most people, even successful business owners, do not necessarily have.

A simple business plan, on the other hand, anyone might be able to create. You can find hundreds of basic business plan formats on the internet. However, these will, of course, be unlikely to be anywhere near as useful to you as a fully realised traditional plan. That said, if all you need is a simple plan, I can work with you to create one.

Getting the most out of your business plan model

I regularly work with business owners in every industry to create a business plan model which is perfectly matched to the particular needs of their industry and their business. I am passionate about helping business owners find out what their financial numbers really mean – the story which those numbers are telling them about their business now. And the way they can be used to create a more profitable future.

Combining an overview of your company’s current position, extensive competition and market analysis, full SWOT analysis including an action plan, planning of your marketing strategy, current financial analysis and planning for a future period of between one and three years and a realization timetable for achieving those goals, the business plan I create for you will be a vital resource for you to use in coming years.

I have already created business plans for restaurant owners, for beauty services, lawyers and legal firms, IT companies, supermarkets, retail shops and many others. Whatever business you are in, we can work together to create a document which is whole, accurate and realistic in a way which is stress-free and easy for you.

Get in touch with me now for a chat about your ideal business plan model. I work with companies in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, the UK, Switzerland as well as Norway, Sweden and Germany in Northern Europe.