Guest post by Ali Golds, MD www.operation-enterprise.com @opEnterprise; Entrepreneur and Speaker

Starting a new business is a really exciting time; lots of new people to meet and places to go, and a real sense of something with great potential for the future. However, it’s also a time of uncertainty and challenges, so writing a business plan is a must.

There is a school of thought that says business plans are unnecessary, or that you should be able to write one on one side of A4. No. And no again.

In order to really flesh out your idea, you need to plan properly and in detail. You need to research and develop, scope out and explore; particularly if you are hoping for some outside investment but also for your own peace of mind. After all, this is a big investment of time and effort and you really need to know if, on paper at least, it will be worth it in the long run.

A business plan is not something to write and then put on the shelf. It’s a living document – it’s there to be continually reviewed and updated so that you have a clear picture of where you are headed and what you need to do.

Of course, some people have more than one idea and are torn between them. That’s not a bad thing; after all, in the last blog we looked at skills and identified that entrepreneurs are ideas people, with creative minds. I’d expect you to have lots of ideas! However, you can’t pursue them all, so writing a business plan for the two that seem to be the most viable is a sensible move forwards. It will allow you to look at them both with fact rather than emotion and to assess which would be the best to start with. It may not be the one that you love most, sadly that’s sometimes the case but it will be the one that will give you more income and – who knows – perhaps you can indulge your favourite idea on the back of it in the future.

There are many business plans out there, each one a variation on a theme but they should all cover the same, main topics:

  • Company information
  • Marketing
  • Operations – staff and suppliers
  • Finance

Don’t forget that this is YOUR business plan so it needs to be tailored to your business, and the things that you need to know. Whilst you can’t leave out the main elements, there may be areas that you wish to expand on and others that are less important. Don’t feel constrained by the boxes or headings. Adjust and adapt as you see fit.

Make sure that you research thoroughly and carefully. Call competitors. Speak to potential clients and suppliers. Get some advice from recruitment agencies if you think you’ll need staff. Take advantage of a free hour with a couple of accountants and talk through your financial concerns. Make an appointment with the banks, and see what they can advise.

There’s a lot of help and support out there – the planning stage is definitely the time to make the most of it!

See you next week for my final piece in this series about starting a business!

PS. If you would like a business plan pro-forma, do email me – ali@operation-enterprise.com

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