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The first step in planning your business venture, clarifying your ideas, aims and objectives, is to write a business plan.

Your plan is an essential document to ensure your ideas are feasible and is critical for banks. New suppliers and larger customers may require a business plan document, and it's also useful for progress tracking against business targets. To understand the structure of a proper business plan, click here and read our advice for structuring a business plan.

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Writing Your Business Plan - Get a Free Business Plan Template
How to Write a Business Plan That Works
Business Plan Guide
Final Tips for Business Plans

Writing Your Business Plan - Get a Free Business Plan Template

We have three templates you can use to do your business plan kindly offered by SCORE and Bank of Scotland. There are two for preparing the narrative of your plan (One for a startup business and the other for an existing business) and a cash flow template.

  • Template for start-up businesses: pdf startup template.
  • Template for existing businesses: pdf existing business template.
  • Financial planning spreadsheet for start-up businesses: Excel financial plan template.

These free business plan templates can help you quickly write a business plan. You can download the templates to your computer as they are Adobe PDF files. You can simply click each of the template links below to open now, or right click your mouse to save for later use.

If you want an excellent framework for building a business plan, you can also get a free business plan template from our partner site, Teneric. Click here to get your business off to the right start with a free business plan template.

Pr Plan Template Free Download

How to Write a Business Plan That Works

A basic business plan outlines the answers to questions about your intentions such as:

  • Is there a demand for your products?
  • How are you defining your customer demographics?
  • What are your explicit strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can you mitigate threats and exploit new market opportunities?
  • Are your competitors aggressive or passive?
  • Have you assigned key employees to your tactical plans?
  • How robust are your financial plans?

In order to answer these questions, your business plan should be a comprehensive summary of your business' background, goals, strengths and challenges. To get started, let's quickly look at what makes up a successful plan.

  • An opening statement/executive summary
    You should be able to sum up your general business proposition in a short paragraph to frame the entire plan for a reader. Most people add this last after they've written the plan but before submitting it to anyone.
  • External & Internal Analysis
    The next part of the business plan must assess both external and internal analysis to help support your business proposition. External analysis includes the current market, industry in general and economy. Internal analysis is all about your company and team.
  • SWOT analysis
    The analysis you've already done should create a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. List these out and compare them to your competitors. For example, does your business do something better than a competitor? This is a strength you should list.
  • Sales & marketing plan
    This is where you define your customers and how you'll communicate with them - including which channels you'll use (such as social media, email marketing, print ads etc.) and a rough budget.
  • Staff & team summary
    List out the people in the business, including their biographies, duties they'll undertake and their specialisms.
  • Financial plan
    Some businesses, especially small startups, can struggle at this stage. Ideally, you'll list a forecast of cash flow, profit and loss, balance sheets etc. - but often, when you're only just getting started, you'll need support on this.

Business Plan Guide

The first element of any good business plan is to have a good structure to refer back to. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing focus and failing to meet the expectations of investors or other people who read it.

We've got a free business plan template site that you can use - but let's go section-by-section to explore how to write a great business plan which gets your business on the right track.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary is just that, a summary of the entirety of the business plan. It will broadly outline what your business does, who runs it, what your competition looks like and what you'll be looking to achieve. The summary's whole purpose is to entice the reader to 'buy into' the report and read the rest of it.

The executive summary should include a conclusion that gives a clear reason to support the business plan. To create such a compelling conclusion, you should leave the summary until after you've written the rest of the plan so you can accurately summarise your analysis and goals.

External Analysis

Your external analysis is where you'll investigate the issues outside your business that impact its chances at success. This includes the state of the economy and forecasts for how it will impact your business.

You can obtain most of this information easily online - just be sure to cite your sources with footnotes to add authority to your plan. At a minimum, your analysis should include:

  • The economic situation and how it may change as your business plan takes place.
  • Competitor information such as growth, employee numbers, profits if available etc..
  • The specific market you're launching in - this can be information about user behaviour or the sector in general. For example, if you were launching a hospitality business in 2021, your business plan would include insight into how hospitality is recovering from the impact of COVID-19.
  • General market trends - are there trends that will influence your business? Do you have seasonal boosts or dips? Is your business type more popular on weekends?

Internal Analysis

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To carry out effective internal analysis, it might be a good idea to bring in an accountant or business professional to assist. This stage is where you'll analyse your business and its own assets, forecasts and potential margins. You'll need to cover:

  • Your business background and the problem you're solving.
  • How you'll solve the problem - what services will you offer, and how will you meet your customers' needs?
  • Product/service costs - how will you make money?
  • Profit/loss forecasts and margins - this is where you'll likely need a financial professional's help.

SWOT Analysis

Given the analyses performed above, you'll be in a good position to build a 'SWOT' analysis. Standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can bring in the insights above and categorise them into the relevant sections.

Crucially, you'll want to categorise your internal analysis into strengths and weaknesses. The external analysis instead feeds the opportunities and threats. For example, let's take a new coffee shop:

Project Plan Template -

  • Strengths - a coffee shop's prime location or coffee quality could be a strength.
  • Weaknesses - overheads and rent could be a weakness in this example.
  • Opportunities - a lack of strong competitors near the shop's proposed location and a nearby office complex full of potential customers would be an opportunity.
  • Threats - the source of the shop's coffee supply occasionally suffers droughts, worker issues etc. that can impact supply.

Sales and Marketing Plan

The sales and marketing plan, or strategy, is where you build on the SWOT analysis and show how you'll achieve your goals. You want to use this part of the plan to explain how you'll leverage your strengths, compensate for weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threats.

To do this, you'll explain:

  • Marketing strategy - how will you get your business 'out there' - which channels will you use? This will include things like social media, print advertisements, TV ads etc. Essentially, this is where you show how you plan to have customers find out about your business.
  • Sales plan - how will you price your goods and services? How will these costs change over time? Will you hold sale/discount events? Do you have different pricing for different customers? This part of the plan will vary wildly between business types but is a way to showcase how your business is going to continue making profit as it grows.
  • Operational plan - what's the team size of your current business? How will it grow and what will the structure look like as you recruit new employees? You should also plan for the physical location of the company - do you need office space? Will you need a warehouse in future?

Financial Plan

The financial plan is arguably the most critical part of the business plan - especially when you're looking to attract investment. It will include:

  • Sales forecasts - this is an estimate of what your sales may be in the future, based on the cost of each unit/service and then an estimate of profit.
  • Profit and loss forecast - you'll use the sales forecast to then present an overview of sales, cost of sales, overheads, profit and loss.
  • Cash flow - this is a statement of existing capital and how much your business generates over a given period.
  • A balance sheet - this is a 'snapshot' of your businesses current financials. It summarises what you own (assets), what you owe (liabilities) and the equity between those two figures.

Final Tips for Business Plans

If you've followed the steps above and downloaded this free business plan template, you're already off to a great start. To truly make your business plan stand out, here are some final tips:

  • Use clear formatting - avoid any unusual fonts or symbols etc.
  • Write for the audience - if you're looking to attract investment, the focus should be on the business' accounts and financial information. If you're using the plan to pitch for mentorship or an accelerator program, it should speak to the people who run them by showcasing good values and business sense.
  • Keep it short and simple - nobody likes reading reams and reams of content. In a time-poor world, keep your business plan short and to the point. Pare back your plan and refer back to each of our guide sections to ensure you're keeping to the 'meat' of the structure.
  • How does it look? - Before you 'finish' the plan, consider how you'll be presenting it. Could you break up blocks of text with graphs or imagery? Are all of your headings clear? Could you break longer sentences into bulleted lists?
  • The executive summary is everything - the executive summary is sometimes the only thing a banking professional will read. It's the segment where you'll win or lose your reader's interest - so make sure it's the best it can be. If you're spending money on business plan assistance, this is the area that matters most.

Follow the steps above and you'll be on your way to creating a great business plan that puts you on the right pathway towards success. Such an important document is always worth spending extra time and, potentially, money on if you need help with the critical financial elements.

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