Planning on turning your vision into a reality? Whether you’re starting a side hustle or a full-time business, it pays to know how to write a business plan that will set you up for success.
An actionable business plan gives sole traders and new business owners valuable benefits. It’s your guidebook for the future.
Not only can it set you up for success, but it’s useful if you’re applying for finance and tracking business activities once you’re up and running. Without these insights, it’s harder to make a profit and achieve your goals.
Finance expert David Koch (who is the founder of this website, Flying Solo), says: “A useful business plan should be something that gets you clearer about what products and/or services you’re providing and to who, and provides guidance as to how you’re going to do that. It should be fairly brief – ideally one page – and displayed somewhere so that it’s easily referenced on a regular basis. Of course, it will be updated periodically, but the best businesses make a plan, do the plan, and make sure they’ve given it a really good shot before revising the plan.”
There are many online templates for business plans, but before you start filling yours out, apply these principles to design a plan that sets you up for magic.
1. Create a series of small steps
Ask a runner what the secret to completing a marathon is and they’ll likely tell you, just put one foot in front of the other and start.
Business is similar.
Taking the first step is often the hardest (and the scariest). But when you break it down into a series of small activities, it’s much easier to tackle. Create a plan, commit to the first step and work your way through; this will give you clear direction and focus, without feeling so overwhelmed.
- Develop a basic blueprint to follow with digestible steps.
- Move from ‘thinking’ to ‘doing’.
2. Determine your vision and mission
What does your business stand for? The best vision and mission statements are strategic, brief and achievable.
They should reflect your brand’s values, your purpose and create an emotional connection with your audience. You can also use your statement to define your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
- Take the time to get it right.
- Be real and relevant, but don’t make promises or add anything unrealistic.
- Keep it short (a few sentences for each).
Find out the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement in Flying Solo’s free Starting Out Kit.
3. Make it measurable
Define SMART goals for your business; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced and with a realistic Timeframe.
Your plan should include short and long-term objectives, backed by a strategy to guide you on how to get there. Include clear-cut tactics and sales targets, like the number of new customers you plan to attract, organic traffic to your website and business growth.
- Create benchmarks and milestones to measure yourself against.
- Review regularly and adjust goals as necessary, according to changing circumstances or unexpected events.
- Don’t be afraid to pivot as you find different ways of doing something or receive feedback from customers that push you in a new direction, after all – it’s important to meet your customer’s ever-changing needs.
4. Bring the details to life
Bring your vision and business structure to life with these inclusions:
- History: Outline your business background and introduce key people.
- SWOT: Analyse the Strengths and Weaknesses of your idea and identify potential Opportunities and Threats.
- Finances: Forecast start-up costs, capital requirements and cash flow. Track your profit and loss with balance sheets and open a business transaction account to oversee expenses and keep personal funds separate. CommBank’s Business Transaction Account has a zero monthly account fee option and connects to accounting software.*
- Assets: What do you need to run your business? This may include equipment, premises, IT, licences and insurance.
- Strategies: For sales, marketing and customer retention.
- Don’t gloss over weaknesses – if you’re not honest about potential risks and challenges, you can’t create a plan to prepare for them, like new tech, staffing, legislative issues, cash flow management and changes in consumer demand.
- Calculate initial costs like registration, rent and utilities, suppliers, branding and marketing, and funds for day-to-day business activities.
5. Know your audience and competitors
The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to communicate with them and provide a product or service that meets their needs. If you don’t know what they want, how can you deliver the goods and succeed?
You’ll also need to understand your competitors. Look at what they do right, but find gaps by reviewing what they get wrong as well. This way you can use your competitive advantage and show customers your superior differences.
- Conduct market research; why are your customers shopping with you, what motivates their decisions and where will you find them?
- Analyse expected customers through their demographics, interests, location and psychographic needs.
- Think about the value you can offer.
- Identify direct and indirect competitors, include their strengths and weaknesses.
- Stay in tune with your customer’s needs and the problems you can solve for them by regularly reviewing and adapting.
6. Write down, share and revise
You don’t need anything fancy to pen your plan – just get your idea down!
Sharing your vision can help keep you accountable for your business venture. Seek feedback from your partner, a close friend or family member, business coach, financial advisor or colleagues – anyone who can offer constructive advice.
- Keep it short with user-friendly formatting and no jargon, the reader should have a clear idea of your vision from a 10-minute skim.
- Put your plan into practice, but use it as a working document only and update it as you go.
Flying Solo is proud to launch our first-ever free Starting Out Kit for side hustles and new businesses. Full of checklists and downloadables, you’ll learn how to nail your niche, write a killer business plan and marketing plan, and more. All thanks to our partner, CommBank.
This article is brought to you by Flying Solo in partnership with CommBank.
*You can view the Terms and Conditions for Business Transaction and Savings Accounts, CommBank’s Financial Services Guide and the Electronic Banking Terms and Conditions and should consider them before making any decision about these products and services. The target market for this product will be found within the product’s Target Market Determination, available here. Bank fees and charges may apply.
This information is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances. Any opinions, views of contributors, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available of compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in this information.
Feature image: Olya Kubruseva/Pexels