man writing a business plan with a pen.
Tips to write a business plan

What to Include in a Business Plan

Knowing what should be included in a business plan is important to get it right the first time and ensure it covers everything. Creating a business plan helps define your idea, identify any potential issues, set your goals, determine your financial plan, and track your progress. It’s essential before you start putting together your new business.

A business plan isn’t a legal obligation, but any potential investors and lenders will ask to see your business plan before agreeing to offer a loan or fund your new company. It eases any worries for you as a business owner, by showing that everything is thought out and planned. But it also helps impress and reassure stakeholders.

You can include whatever information you want in your business plan, but most follow a similar structure with seven or eight key sections. To help ensure the contents of your business plan are on track we’ve put together a checklist of the main areas to cover. These are the key sections of any business plan:

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The executive summary

An executive summary is like an abstract at the start of an academic essay or the blurb on the back of the book. It’s the first thing anyone looking at your business plan will read but should be the last thing you write. Essentially this section provides a clear overview of the document and picks out the main highlights.

The executive summary should be clear and concise within just one page. This could sound challenging but once you’ve written the rest of your business plan it should be easy to pick out and summarise the gist of your plan. The main points to cover in your executive summary are:

  • The business concept – what your business will do
  • Goals and vision – what you hope to achieve
  • Product/service description – what will you sell/provide and how does it differ from competitors
  • Audience – who is your target market?
  • Marketing strategy – plans to reach and convert your audience
  • Finances – your current finances, estimated income and profits, and how much further funding you require
  • The team – management and personnel involved in the business
two people working on laptops.

Company description

After the opening page, it’s time to get into the meaty contents of a business plan. A company description is just what it sounds like – introducing the name of your business and outlining what your company will do. This section should detail your business structure and model, the company’s vision and goals, and introduce the team behind it.

Provide any relevant background information about your business and the wider industry here. The main things to introduce are the products and/or services your new business will sell, who the audience is, and how it will address their needs and wants. A company description explains the idea of your business and demonstrates its viability.

Market analysis

Include an overview of your target market with industry research and analysis that clearly shows where your new business fits into the sector. Competitor research and analysis should be covered here to show what other options are available to your audience. Highlight successes and failures and how your business will navigate these.

An audience deconstruction is helpful here too, going into greater detail about your target customers (such as their demographics, values, wants, and needs). Provide an estimation of the market size to show an opportunity for your business. It’s also important to make clear how your organisation will differentiate itself from the current market.

Products and services

Go into greater detail about the products and/or services that your business will sell and provide. Here you should explain what they all are and why they’re better than what’s already out there. Think of your unique selling points (USPs) and include them here. It could be cheaper costs, a better service, or anything else to stand out.

In this section, you can cover the pricing of your products and services, alongside production and manufacturing processes for products. Any patents, technology, and intellectual property are important to tick off as well. You can also mention suppliers for materials, goods, and services that your business will rely on to operate.

Management personnel and structure

Pull back the curtain and reveal who will run your new business. List all the positions and provide some background about each member of the management team and personnel. If you’ve got a set hierarchy then include a diagram to make it easy to understand the business structure and chain of command.

Full transparency and showing that the people behind your business idea are experienced offers trust for anyone reading the contents of your business plan. You can also include any potential openings for new positions if the company meets its targets and explain who is responsible for and how the hiring process works.

Include the business structure of your organisation in the eyes of UK law, which should be one of the following:

  • Sole trader
  • Limited company
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability partnership (LLP)
people in a business meeting.

Financial plan

One of the main sections of a business plan that will interest those reading it is the financial plan. It’s no good having a great idea but not the numbers to back it up. Going into detail is important but the level of information you include will depend on the type of business you want to launch, its size, and industry.

Existing firms should include any financial statements and balance sheets to show your current financial state. Start-ups can add these in after a few months of trading but should include:

  • Estimated income
  • Predicted overheads and outgoings
  • Profit targets
  • Existing finances
  • Required funding
Money saving ideas for businesses

Marketing strategy

Your target audience needs to know about your business before, during, and after your launch. Defining a marketing and advertising strategy helps get this off the ground. The demographics of your target customers will inform the channels you use and the strategy you take to reach the right audience and convert.

The marketing strategy section of a business plan doesn’t need to be too in-depth. However, it should cover a few key areas:

  • Costs – how much will your products and services sell for?
  • Budget – the amount you’ll spend on marketing and advertising activities
  • Product or service – what you’ll sell and how it’s different to others in the market
  • Promotion – the ways you’ll get your products and services in front of your ideal customer (like online, print, TV and radio advertising)
  • Places – where will you sell your products (including regions, online or in stores)?
billboards in a city centre.

Logistics and operations

The workflows your business will use to operate smoothly are important. Go into as much detail as you like – it can be a good way to lay out how your company will work every day. This can include elements such as the suppliers you’ll use, how long any manufacturing processes may take, and the facilities you’ll use.

Other operations and logistics factors to include are the equipment you need, inventory, and shipping and fulfilment requirements. You might also want to cover waste management here, showing how you’ll follow the waste hierarchy to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials within your new organisation.

Cover all the key sections of a business plan and you’ll boost the chances of your start-up securing investment and becoming a success.

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