What Is a Business Plan?

Are you an aspiring business owner with an idea to grow into a business, but unsure of how to turn it into reality? Are you already trying out a business strategy, but it isn’t producing the results you expected?  One solution to your problem is to simply create a strategic business plan.

A business plan is a written document of how you’ll get your business to the next level — whether that’s starting up the company, growing the business, or preparing an exit strategy plan. It details strategies for many different aspects of the business to ensure that your goals are aligned with your mission and vision. It also provides a step-by-step process to achieve your targets, so that you and your team members are all guided on how to do it.

Benefits of having a business plan

Focused direction

At any stage of the business, there are lots of ways you could move forward. If you’re growing your business, you can choose to create new products, open new store locations, or determine key partnership opportunities to expand the business. However, pursuing several different things at the same time can be counterproductive. 

The best way to efficiently attain your goal is by having a focused direction. With a business plan, you can ensure that everything you’re setting up to do is aligned with your business objectives. As you go along implementing that plan, you also have something to refer back to when determining solutions for roadblocks or setbacks you may encounter. 

Eliminates ambiguity 

Sometimes, having an end goal isn’t enough. Operating a business will involve several people, and everyone won’t always be on the same page about how to achieve the goal. As the leader of the business, you have to ensure that all your key members understand how the business should be advancing. 

With a business plan, you can eliminate any ambiguity or vagueness about the business’s mission and vision. All members will be aware of the targets they need to achieve and how they’re expected to do so. The plan will also show them how they contribute to the business, allowing them to connect with the company’s goal much more easily. 

Confidence from stakeholders

Business partners, investors, and employees are some of the most important stakeholders in any business because they provide vital resources to keep the company running. Thus, reassuring them that the business is doing well is important. If they feel that the business is doomed to fail, they might think twice about continuing their engagement with you. 

Having a business plan can make them confident about the business’s success because it proves that your goals aren’t merely ideas. They’re achievable and can produce promising results. It also shows that several aspects such as processes, finances, and crisis strategies have been thought out, eliminating any doubts they might have about the business. 

Key components of a business plan

There is no standard template for a business plan. What matters is that it presents a comprehensive understanding of what you want for the business and how you will accomplish it. Below are some key components that are vital for any business plan to have. 

About the business

Before getting into anything, it’s crucial that you know your business as a whole. This will let you recall why you’re doing business in the first place. If you have that in mind, then all your plans moving forward will be grounded on a reason. 

To define your business, make sure to state your mission and vision, your products and services, and who your customers are. Doing a review of your company strengths and weaknesses can also be helpful. You’ll be able to see how the business could progress and what needs to be improved. 

The strategic direction

A strategic direction is the core of your business plan. Why are you creating the plan? What is it that you want the business to achieve? 

Putting your strategic direction into words will give your plan a structure. If you know where you’re going, you can determine how to move from A to B, from B to C, and so on until you reach the end goal. The things you need to plan out and prepare for will also be easy to determine. 

Competitive analysis

While you may know your market and customers, you should also know your competition. If you understand what they’re doing to capture the market, you can create a plan that will match or beat that. When you understand the competitive landscape, you may also infer which strategies might work or fail in the future. 

Leadership and staffing

You have to be clear about the people you need for your business plan to come to fruition. Properly listing the leaders and key members of the business as well as their respective responsibilities ensures that you have people assigned to the tasks you’ve set up to do. The size of staffing should also be determined early on, as this will matter once you implement the business plan. 

Operational plan

The operational plan is a major part of the business plan. It maps out the actionable items you need to implement. This includes the tactics for various departments such as operations, marketing, and finance, how their leaders and employees will function, and the targets they need to reach. 

Finances

In the end, businesses revolve around making money, so finances should be discussed in the plan. Aside from checking the current financial performance of the business, it’s important to factor in how much capital you’ll need, how it’ll be used, and how you’ll get that funding. Financial analysis and projections are good to have in this case as well. 

How to get started

Get the right people involved

When creating a business plan, the burden doesn’t always fall solely on the business owner. Although the business owner can work on it on their own, they can also work with their fellow company leaders or consult a board of advisors. Involving other people who have the right expertise and knowledge will allow you to build a better business plan, as you gain more perspective and broader insights. 

Also, remember that creating a business plan is one thing, but implementing it is another. Once you have a business plan in place, go over the plan’s organisational structure. This will let you see the key members that should be in charge of the various responsibilities. 

Use tools to fully understand your business

From defining your business and strategic direction to creating an operational plan, using strategy analysis tools is recommended. You have to do the necessary research and preparation to make sure you’re creating a robust plan from the very beginning. Utilising tried-and-tested methods and applying them to your business allows you to create strategies that will work for you. 

MOST Analysis, for example, is a framework that helps build an actionable plan specifically targeted to your business’s goals. It makes you define your mission first so that you can create objectives that directly align with that. Since you have a clear idea of your objectives, you can then determine which strategies and tactics are the best ones to attain them. 

Boardroom Advisors’ Scale-up Growth Diagnostic is also a good tool to review your current business, market, and sales strategies in order to identify the gaps in your business that need to be resolved. 

Contact your Regional Director of Boardroom Advisors

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran six of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.