It is a generally agreed notion that having some sort of plan when starting your business is a good idea and makes good sense. A plan can be as general or as specific as you want it to be. At the very least, your killer business plan needs to include what your business name will be, where you will operate from, what you will be selling and how you will make a profit. Beyond those four important answers, the plan can be less specific and include many optional targets, conditions or different kinds of information.
Your killer business plan doesn’t need to be long, they don’t need to have complicated financial details created by a wizard accountant nor do they need to be written using a thesaurus to make every word sound smarter. The first step is to decide why you are writing a plan; is it for yourself or for someone who will be backing you, financially or in other ways?
If the plan is for you, then the plan should be written in whatever manner you will enjoy writing and reading it. You could list down points, write short paragraphs, draw or do whatever comes natural to you. The important thing is that you include the information listed further on in this post.
If, on the other hand, the plan is being written for others to see, you need to consider it to be your brand’s business card. If your business is a serious business, such as a legal office or clinic, then a killer business plan for you would be a detailed and structured one, written in an adequate font and with all the details the backer would need to know (more on that below). But, if your business is a creative web design business, a bakery or an escape room, you should be less strict about presentation.
Add colour and images where it makes sense to put them. Show the backer what kind of business he/she is backing. You wouldn’t expect a business plan from Disney not to have its characters all over it. Your products not as famous as Disney’s? It’s ok, with a killer business plan they just might get there.
The executive summary
This is considered to be the most important part of your business plan, irrespective of whether you will be showing the plan to others or not. That is why in order to have a killer business plan you need to write the executive summary at the end. Think about it, when you were back at school and practising writing summaries, did you just write the summary from your head or did you summarise an existing text? The same goes for executive summaries, first write the whole business plan and then summarise it for the reader. As you write the other chapters of your plan, highlight the most important phrases or points to include these in your summary.
I put the executive summary on the top of the list simply because when presenting a business plan it makes sense to have it at the front, so that the reader can see what the business is about in one or two pages. The summary is your most important chapter, especially if you are seeking some backing. In it you must present yourself, present your business, explain how your business will succeed and, commonly forgotten, what you would like from the reader. Whatever you are requesting; money, a partner, goods or services, a property, grants, make sure that it is immediately clear to the reader. Be sure to also include what you would like throughout the plan, wherever it makes sense.
When you do get down to writing your summary the first paragraph you write could easily make or break it. Consider this paragraph to be a hook that needs to capture your reader’s attention. Use compelling language that makes an impact. If you are lost for how to start, allow me to provide you with an idea. Treat your first paragraph as though it will be written in a fictional thriller novel. Write about the current situation, exaggerating how miserable your potential customers are with the status quo and what potential exists. Then, on the last line of this paragraph, introduce the hero of the story, your business.
The business description chapter and the rest allow you to be as detailed as you wish. Keep in mind that the goal of your business plan is to succeed to convince the reader that your business is viable. Too long, and the reader might be bored, too short and the reader might not really understand or have enough information to go by. It is best to list what you will write about before you get down to writing it. In a killer business plan this chapter is more commonly understood to be the “What the business will do” section.
In this chapter provide more details about the business and the environment it is (or will be) operating in. Explain, or better yet, illustrate how your business structure is set up; is it a one person show or is your business split in various departments? The defining portion of this chapter is showing the reader that you understand the industry you are in, understand what the future might bring and how your business is, or will be, equipped to take advantage and grow. Include a sneak peak of your products or services to see how well matched they are to profit from current and future scenarios.
Market & competitors analysis
I must assume that you have already carried out your market research and you have the information necessary for this chapter. Put simply, market research is proving that there is a need for your business. If you have not carried out market research, ignoring any research carried out with friends and family, you should stop writing the plan for now. It is impossible to have a successful business with no customers and it is impossible, especially as a new entrepreneur, to guess what your potential customers want. Don’t waste your time on a “perhaps”, build a business on a “my research proves”.
Once you have done your market research you just need to explain it to the reader. Include details such as how you carried out the research, what your findings were and any unexpected feedback which you received. You could and should include the findings of the research as an annex of your plan. Think of this chapter to be the “Why the business is going to do what it will do”.
You also need to give attention to your competition. No matter how big or small they are, you should consider that they are going to be constantly seeking ways to take your customers from you. The bigger players might ignore you at first, seeing you as a small fish, but if you want to have a killer business plan you will need to include possible actions to compete with them. In this way you will show the reader that you know your competitors and you appreciate their capabilities. List your advantages over them and their advantage over you. Explain possible reasons why customers chose the competition and the difference in your products and services. In other words, write a SWOT analysis.
Sales & marketing
So far we’ve covered the What and the Why. It’s time to discuss “How your business will become a success”. How will you be seen by your target market and how will you convince them to buy your product or service. It is also just as important to consider how your brand will be presented and how it will be associated. Is it a low cost brand? Is it ideal for professionals? Will it be synonymous with reliability? Product marketing makes a sale, Brand marketing makes a customer.
In a world where everyone is shouting their marketing message, how will you be different? You will probably not have the big budgets of your competitors, so how will you stand out? Guerilla marketing is one solution for attracting attention at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising options. Detail how you intend to carry out successful marketing campaigns over time and what the return in sales and profit is expected to be.
This would be the last chapter you’d need to write, if there weren’t the executive summary to do next! Before starting this chapter, depending on the amount of backing you are seeking, you might want to discuss it with an accountant. The business financial reports could be quite a boring chapter but in order to complete your killer business plan, there are things to could do to give it a positive spin.
Write a summary of your financials, focusing on key targets of growth which you expect periodically. Include visuals like graphs to ease the reading and understanding of this chapter and be sure to be as concise as possible. Include detailed financial reports, such as cash flows, balance sheets and profit & loss documents at the back of this chapter and refer to them in your summary. Prove that you have checked the numbers and they show great potential. Be sure to detail how investment will be made diligently. If your financials or your summary appears shaky, the reader might get the impression that you do not have sufficient information to back your previous claims up.
After you have completed all the chapters, including the executive summary, you should feel more confident in your business. If you don’t, it might be because you have noticed a flaw or that you are missing information about a certain area. If that happens, it’s ok. Better to have spotted it now and fix it quickly. If you will present the plan to a backer be sure to read it several times for sense and punctuation. Hand it over to a friend to check that it is easy to understand, even by a non business person.