The words ‘Business plan’ can feel intimidating if you’re new to business (and even if you’re not, let’s be honest). But it’s not all about figures and business terms. At the end of the day, a business plan is just a roadmap to help you on your way, a tool that sets everything out and lets you see the strengths and weaknesses in your business.
Rosie March is the founder of Poppy’s Parties, a Sussex-based business providing brilliant children’s parties. New to the world of business, here’s her experience of writing her first ever business plan – and tips for others in the same situation.
Don’t get bogged down in jargon
When I wrote my business plan for Virgin, I’d never done one before, and it was a terrifying prospect! Coming from my background, I didn’t feel especially qualified to use big business-like terms and jargon that I didn’t understand – so in the end, I didn’t use these terms, and I didn’t need to! It actually reflects better on your idea if you can explain it simply, and in a way that plenty of people will understand.
I found that the best way to tell a story in your business plan is to speak from the heart. Make it personable, make it funny, do whatever it takes to make it sound like you. After all, those investors are investing in you, not just your product.
Keep it concise
Become good at self-editing. Yes, you want to tell your story, but do you need thousands of words to do it? When you’re excited about an idea, it’s easy to waffle on, so be conscious of this and be strict. Your business plan should be long enough that you explain everything properly, but short enough to hold attention. If you’re not sure, it’s always good to get someone else to read it - I forced various family members to read mine, and the rule was if either of us got too bored I had to go back and cut something out.
Know your market
It’s vital that you know exactly who you’re up against and what you’re selling. When I wrote my plan for Poppy’s Parties, it was important to me that the committee understood the market I was in and the competition, because something I pride myself on is how unique our parties are. Don’t go in expecting them to know everything – communicate just what it is that makes your business so special, and show as thoroughly as possible how your business meets the market needs.
In fact, one of the things I was proudest of was that originally my business advisor said to me “They always come back with a few questions about what you’ve done and your plan,” which spurred me on to go through all of my facts and figures with a fine-toothed comb. I left no stone unturned!
When I got my loan, my advisor called me to say they’d had no questions at all and were really impressed with what I’d put forward. Yes, it was hard work, but the feeling of knowing it all paid off was worth it!
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