Tips, guides, and resources to write a business plan.
Writing a business plan can be tough. You feel overwhelmed. Lost and even out of your league; especially, if it’s your first attempt at writing one.
You’ll find out pretty soon that the process is more difficult than you anticipated. And if you don’t dig in – you might find yourself giving up on the idea of creating a business plan for your new business.
Writing a workable business plan involves tackling several parts – you’ll need to answer plenty questions, fine-tune a mission statement, define in clear terms who your customers are, you’ll need to drill down to how large the market is.
That’s not all, in your business plan, you’ll need to answer the question of who your competitors are, what market share they control; and then, lay out a plan on how you’re going to grab a share of the market.
You’ll also have to make intelligent financial forecasts about how much funding you’d need to keep the business operational; plus a realistic projection of revenue.
So, you see, it’s quite a task to decide to write a business plan before launching your new business.
However, once written, the document would serve as a roadmap of the direction you’d like to take your business. It could come in as a handy tool when pitching investors for funding.
Now, that’s out of the way, here are smart tricks and tips that would make the business plan writing process easier.
Start with a WHY
Before jumping in to write a word for your business plan. Step back and ask yourself – why do you want to start the business.
People start businesses everyday for several reasons – to make money, to feel accomplished, to solve a particular problem, to give back to the community.
It doesn’t matter what yours is, the essential thing is – you know why you want to start the business.
Now, you may ask, what has start with a why got to do with writing a business plan?
A lot. Stay with me and I’ll show you.
Simon Sinek, the author of Start With a Why, writes:
People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.
Sure, the question WHY isn’t all that concrete. It is fuzzy. nebulous. And tends towards philosophical.
But, here’s an interesting find, once you’re able to answer with clarity why you are in business – why you want to start the business. It provides you with the framework to actually start answering questions like:
- Who is my product/service for?
- What problems do they face?
- Where are they?
- Is there any solution out there already in the market?
- How do we want to leave the customers after interacting/using our products/services?
You see, by clarifying your WHY, it becomes easy to tie-in the other more concrete business concepts.
Create a business pitch
Ok, this one is a bit counter-intuitive. Like, don’t you only create a business pitch when you have a business plan at hand already and asking investors for funding?
Here’s the thing, the business pitch in this case, is a one-pager. Nothing fanciful.
You’re trying to write down all the answers you came up with in the first step above – start with a why
The idea behind this trick is that it wouldn’t take you more than 60 minutes to write a one-page business pitch compared to going the full-length to write a business plan.
In the one-page business pitch, you’ll provide an overview of why you want to start the business; who the customers are; how you’re going to reach them; and how you’re going to make money.
It’s like a high-level view of the business plan. Here’s a good resource I found that would help you create a quick business pitch within minutes.
A good thing about the one-page business pitch is that you can share it with others and get feedbacks pretty quickly. Plus, it is a great starting point to write a detailed business plan later.
What problem are you solving?
Yes, it’s different from your WHY. But, it’s a crucial part of the puzzle. If you are not solving a problem, meeting a need, or making your customers’ lives better – you don’t have a business.
This question is a reality check. Your answers to this question will determine if your business idea is wishful thinking or whether it has some substance to it.
To get a real sense of the kind of challenges your customers are facing, you may want to consider going out to interact with them, ask questions; let them tell you what they feel about the products/services they are currently using and what improvements they’d like to see.
If this option doesn’t work for you, use online survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to create easy-to-fill surveys. Then, invite your ideal customers to take the survey.
Who are you selling to?
It’s not enough to know what problems you’re solving. You need to know who the solutions are for and you need to have an idea of how large the market is.
Sure, you have a solution to a problem. But, what if there’s no large enough market to make commercial sense?
Answering this question helps you avoid launching into a market with no real demand.
There are two ways you can do this – conduct primary market research such as using surveys to gather data or going out in the fields to talk to the people face-to-face
Or you can use secondary data from trusted sources to gain insight into the size, income level, and demographics of your ideal market.
Fortunately, you can do this yourself without paying expensive consultants. For the Nigerian market, here are some recommended secondary data sources to gather market insights.
National Bureau of Statistics – Everything you’ll need from the economy to housing, to population. Plus, data on consumer behavior. So, the platform is a great place to start.
National Communications Commission – if you’re interested in the media and or want data about the Nigerian internet users NCC has a detailed, regularly updated industry report.
Nigerian Stock Exchange – provides both real-time and historic data on the Nigerian stock market.
BudgIT – An independent platform that tracks government budgets and expenditure.
With these resources you should be able to gather enough market data to decide whether the business idea is worth it or not before proceeding to write a business plan for it.
Who are your competition?
Understanding your market is a two-prong process – you want to understand your customers in addition to getting to really know the other organizations you’ll be competing against for business.
Your business plan should provide detailed information on both fronts.
Now, the question is how do you research your competitions?
A pretty good place to start is to reach out to their customers. While researching your ideal customers, which in all likelihood, are your competition’s target market too you may want to ask them how they are currently solving their problems.
- Who are their current service providers?
- Are they happy with the services they are getting?
- Is there anything they would want to improve on?
The answers you gather through this process is a great place to start to identify and understand your competition.
You can take the research a step further by spying on your competition’s front-end process.
Here’s how it works – you can pretend to be a prospective customer, call in for a request, visit their brick-and-mortar store or their office.
Take note of how they attend to you. Observe their processes and take mental note of what you’ll improve on.
If they are online there’s a whole lot of information you can get by spying on the keywords they are ranking for, the ad campaigns they run, and the type of audience they target.
SEMRUSH, Similarweb, and this little known tool Sizeup are incredibly useful resources you can use to mine valuable data about your competitions online.
Make intelligent financial forecast
Now, we are getting to the nuts and bolts of the business plan writing process. You may want to put on your analytical hats.
The thing is, most small business owners find the financial part of their business plan a bit overwhelming.
Making a realistic forecast of the kind of capital your business will need, the running cost, and even revenue generation can be a little challenging.
Also, the fact that regardless of how detailed your plan may be things can happen which are completely out of your hands makes this section daunting to complete.
That said, a solid financial forecast provides you a bird’s eye view of the financial commitment you’d need to make. It also gives you an idea of the amount to ask for when seeking funding from investors.
Web-based tools such as LivePlan, GoBusinessPlans, and BizPlan Builder are nifty tools you can leverage to build out your financial forecasts easily.
Remember though to include all the critical parts of a financial forecast – Profit and Loss statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, sales forecast, and personnel plan.
What is your funding plan?
This section of your business plan helps you outline all your funding sources. And you well know, funding is a critical part of starting a business.
You need capital to invest in the right equipment, you need funding to hire the best talents, you need funding to rent an office space (if necessary), procure office furniture and supplies.
Now, you’re going to define in clear terms how you’re going to raise funds for your business.
Are you going to take out loans? or may be dip your hands into your life-savings?
Or perhaps, you’re going to raise money from friends and families. Seek out grants. Or chase investors for funding?
Here are some funding options open to Nigerian entrepreneurs you can explore to raise capital for your business:
Tony Elumelu Fund – A seed fund grant to African entrepreneurs. You can get up to $5000 US dollars when accepted; plus an opportunity to be mentored by renowned experts and professionals.
Bank of Industry – The Bank of Industry offers a number of funding options entrepreneurs regardless of level can access. Keep in mind though, most of the funding options are loans with one digit interest rate.
African Young Entrepreneur Empowerment Network (AYEEN) – An angel investor platform where you can pitch your business ideas to a panel of investors. After reviewing your pitch, the panelist can decide to fund your business.
Final thoughts on struggling to write a business plan
I hope these tips help you write a business plan as effortlessly as possible. However, the key is to not over-think any of the sections – take it one step at a time.
When you feel overwhelmed, step back, return to the basics, and try to keep things simple that way you’ll have a business plan you’re ready to execute in no time.
Do you have suggestions? Have you written a business plan before – what tricks did you use? Tell us in the comment section.