As business accountants we have helped draft, review or comment on a range of business plans from start-up to mature businesses across Perth and through the State. And while the variety, quality and depth of the plans ranged significantly (with or without support from the accountant) the following are the key steps in getting a great business plan going.
1. Identify the purpose of the business plan.
Many business plans are not created for the owner. The business plan might simply be a tool to get bank finance, entice an investor into your business or they might be drafted to assist in getting a government grant.
Understanding the key motivators and drivers for the business plan is important so that you can tailor your plan to the motivations and drivers of the audience. If your audience is a government department focused on creating employment in the Perth metro area your business plan should focus on that – not on the employment created in say Melbourne.
2. Write it down
It is incredible the number of “planning days” we have seen clients host with a business coach that does not actually create a clear and useable document. A series of concepts printed on a whiteboard or on butcher’s-paper are fine – but ultimately the plan needs to be documented.
If you document the plan: you can change it later-on. But if you don’t have anything at all you don’t have a business plan – you have a series of rough thought bubbles.
The documentation of your plan should also include the financial analytics drafted and developed with your accountants. Do not wait for the plan to be completed before you see if the plan can actually work.
3. Keep it short
Your plan must be easy to understand and deliver a message to your target audience. If you define your strategy and vision as a long winded “waffly” style of corporate speak you will not impress your audience – you will confuse them.
4. Show why you care
The reader of your plan is interested in you – or they would not read your business plan. Let the business plan clearly show the motivations, hopes and dreams of the business and how they originated.
Your passion should be outlined in your business purpose, values and ethos. These are not “Instagram type” waffle that means nothing. Your purpose, values and ethos should reflect the desired type of business and that should then be clear in your plan.
If you can integrate the “why” throughout your plan into the financial and accounting reports you have the ground for a great plan.
5. Back up your business plan
The business plan must be supported by a range of data and evidence to support what you are saying. The financial forecasts, cashflow analytics, customer segmentation, pricing strategy and legal structure must be part of your business plan and capable of being understood by another.
The presence of sound data is the cornerstone of proving good business governance in a business plan. And if your business plan does not include a cashflow forecast and financial sensitivity to it – you do not have a business plan. And almost every investor/bank/agency will look to the financial support looking for a 3-way integrated forecast.
The ability to fund your strategy is critical to the execution of your strategy.
6. Reference your data
Show credibility for your business plan by identifying and referencing third party evidence like your total industry value, market trends, cost of debt, prior financial results, board minutes and a range of external and internal authoritative reference points.
If you include third party evidence backed up with internal evidence, you have a much better chance of proving your business governance to the user of the business plan. Financial metrics can be reference to an independent accountant and their reports to support your plan.
7. Be objective
It is good to show your passion and enthusiasm. However, the facts should clearly articulate the compelling opportunity or the purpose you are delivering with your plan.
Trying to overstate the upside will simply show that you are untrustworthy. So indicating to a user the good and bad points of your research and how you have managed that position will generate more buy-in from a user as compared to a plan that is full of hope only.
Likewise, the use of emotive language or demonizing your competitors will not create trust through the document.
Getting a third party to tone down the plan and make your position objective will demonstrate maturity and integrity to the end user.
8. Change it
Business conditions change and so too must your business plan. Constantly evolving a plan and changing to new circumstances shows that you are thinking about the business, attempting new ideas and changing them to new conditions.
The business plan is commonly forefront of our mind when we meet quarterly with our clients. So looking, changing and reviewing your business plan quarterly with an external advisor – making your business plan a living document – is typically considered best practice.
No matter what stage your business is at Westcourt can help you take it to the next step. Our business acumen, breadth of knowledge and financial insight can help business-minded families grow and thrive.
New potential clients have the option of a complimentary 90-minute planning session where we can review, critique and comment on your plan and how your business is performing. There are some conditions (of course) so call us to find out how we can help.