10 Questions to Ask When Writing a Business Plan

When writing a business plan you have to ask these questions of yourself. If you can answer them well you will have a much higher chance of success.

1. Do you understand the business/opportunity?

You need to thoroughly understand and be able to articulate your business or opportunity before you can put together the document. This includes business structure, marketing strategies and financial requirements. By knowing what you are doing and having the right information you will be more accurate in your forecasts and analyses.

2. How are you better than your competitors?

You should be able to identify you competitors (by name), describe their strengths and weaknesses and be able to identify how you can compete with them. This is your unique selling proposition (USP). How will you do it better than them and how you will do it differently?

3. Who is your audience?

Determine who is the audience for your the business plan. Does the plan have more than one purpose? Will it be used by third parties to make decisions about your business? Although third parties are most often involved to source finance for the business make sure you don’t forget to include social and environmental benefits as well for all stakeholders.

4. Is the document professionally presented

When you submit a document it must demonstrate the expected level of professionalism to the audience. You must make sure that the language and tone of the document is appropriate and properly proof-read. The document must also show that effort and thought has gone into its development. Therefore, make sure it looks good and reads convincingly (perhaps use a technical writer and a graphic designer to put it together).

5. Can you provide evidence?

When you put together any business proposal you have to back up your claims with strong evidence. Simple assertions without proof will not be enough to convince people to invest or support your business.

6. Are you being realistic?

It is impossible to know the future and how your business will survive. Therefore when you make your predictions based on your research you need to take a realistic and conservative perspective. You must not be overly optimistic or the opportunity will look like speculation.

7. Are your risks transparent?

Madrigal’s approach is always to identify all risks in the business proposal and to clearly define how those risks will be managed and mitigated. Showing that you understand the risks and will manage them is a strong indicator of your ability to manage a business through difficulties.

8. Will you and your people be able to deliver?

Remember that a business is made up of the people in the organisation. The experience and capability of you and your team are what is going to make or break the business opportunity. Include the credentials, experience and expertise of your team members and also how you will fill the gaps (if you have them) by recruitment, outsourcing or using consultants.

9. How will you adapt the plan?

All management plans must be flexible and be able to adapt to changed circumstances. If you are relying on third party funding, for instance, that is halved will you be able to continue with the opportunity at half pace.

10. Have you sold the opportunity?

When you have put together the whole document are you able to articulate the benefits and the value in a short summary? You may have sold the business idea to your audience but you must always remember that in any organisation there is a proposal stage and an approval stage. Your contact may need to endorse your proposal to the next level so that it can be approved. You have to make sure that you proposal can support this organisational process with a strong executive summary.