Five tips on how to write a winning business plan

Starting a business later on in life is a daunting prospect. However, despite the hype around young entrepreneurs, businesses started by those over the age of 50 are actually far more likely to succeed, supported by career and life experience and, as a result, a wider and deeper knowledge of your industry. According to research from the Cranfield School of Management, businesses run by owner-managers over 50 drive up revenues at their companies three-and-a-half times faster than GDP growth: 11.5pc compared with 3.1pc.

Older entrepreneurs or olderpreneurs also create jobs at a rate more than seven times faster than the UK economic average. The signs continue to be encouraging. Since January of this year, more than 600 Brits in their fifties and beyond have set up new firms using cash from Start Up Loans, the government-backed enterprise initiative

But a business is made or broken in the planning stages – a well written business plan is crucial in ensuring a clear path to follow with solid objectives and ultimately – success.

1. Ensure your plan is well-structured

Ensure your business plan is a sharp, well-structured and sassy pitch setting out very clearly what your business does. Do not mix it up with a business model, which outlines the practical understanding of how your business will work.  Think about your target market, how the business will work and how this business is different to, or can compete with others in the same space.

2. Understand your market inside out

Undertake market research in the early stages of planning your business and ensure your plan includes a reference to the size of this market and how you will access it.  It’s vital to know who your competitors are.  Know whether your market is predicted to grow or decline so you can identify exactly where you fit into that market.  Are there relevant specifics, such as your location that makes a difference to what you’ll be doing?

3. Transparency

Transparency is a vital element to building strong business relationships and will inspire confidence and trust from potential investors. This means that your business plan must  be open to changes – it is crucial that you listen to investors and benefit from their advice. If they feel you are unable to follow their line of thought and unwilling to follow their guidance,  potential investors may be put off.

4. Consider funding

If you are seeking funding for your new business, outline the type you need, the terms and time period required and how the funds will be used to grow the company. Thoroughly research your potential investors before pitching to them.  Before you can decide if they’re a suitable fit for your business, ensure you know what they do, how they work and where they have previously invested. Check if they have invested in any of your competitors, which could present a conflict of interest.

5. Do the maths

Time and time again, we see the innovative business plans of bright and enthusiastic entrepreneurs come apart at the seams when asked about the numbers by razor sharp business minds. Your business plan should document all costs, including start-up expenses, cash flow and realistic sales predictions.

A business plan is never truly complete. It should be constantly reviewed throughout the process of setting up your company. Ultimately, a focus on the end objective and commitment to your idea are the best ways to ensure success.

Debbie Sheldon is Head of Business at business and work specialists Work Avenue