Business Planning

Preparation Checklist

It can be tempting to open a new document and start typing. Don't. One of the things I've learned from years of writing business plans is the need to start gathering information before the writing begins. In the long run this will save you time and effort as you spend less time guesstimating the information you need.

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Why? What is the purpose for the business plan?

Who? Your audience and what they need?

When? Your timeline the plan will cover.

What? Your information sources and capturing what you need.

Getting started

You want to write your business plan. If you're looking for ways of doing this as efficiently as possible, my number one tip is to start information gathering before you start writing!

We have created a helpful checklist to highlight the types of information you may need available to download. Read on to learn more about what you can be doing before you start writing.

Why write or update your business plan?

When we help businesses to write their plans, this is always where we start. Finding out why the plan is needed is crucial to understanding what to include, what areas of research are needed and the tone of the plan. An update because the Board asked for it may reflect their need for reassurance that the plan and forecasts are still applicable if their industry landscape has had a major shift or change. Conversely, an entrepreneur wanting to test their start up business idea for commercial robustness needs a greater focus on customer and marketing research.

Who is going to read your plan?

Know your audience! Get the tone right, if the plan will be used by investors or a Bank Manager to approve an expansion loan, the contents and language will should speak their language. If the plan is for you the business owner to work out how to implement your idea then it just needs to make sense to you. If the plan is going to be shared across the business with all employees, there will be areas of detail (for example the founders personal financial position) that would be excluded.

When seeking funding, knowing what investors are looking for from your plan before you start writing can be really helpful. This article on Medium outlines some of the things investors are specifically looking for: What do Investors Want To See In A Business Plan

How long should the plan look ahead?

Usually business plans are developed looking ahead at a three year horizon. That said, if you are revisiting your plan in response to a major change, it may only need to focus on the next 6 to 12 months.

What information do you have to hand?

...and what information do you need to track down? The main content areas of a Business Plan are:

  • Company Overview and Team
  • The opportunity (Product or Service) and its market
  • How you will reach this market (Sales)
  • Operations
  • Measures and Financials

For each of these you will need to find the information from company systems, or if the information is in the heads of the founders or management teams, speak with them and get it written down.

Up to date market research from reputable sources. This will inform the direction and opportunities that lay ahead for the business.

If you have the opportunity to, speak with other involved in your business such as business partners or key customers. They will almost always have insights and useful information that will inform your business planning.

Download a Business Planning Preparation Checklist

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More from our Business Planning series

For support to write or update your business plan, get in touch or give us a call.

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