How To Write A Bulletproof Business Plan

If you want to know how to write a professional business plan, you've come to the right place.


I write tonnes of business plans for clients, but most people who call us don't really want a business plan... they want the benefits that having a bulletproof plan of action gives them.


Business plans are essential if you want to secure funding for your business, either through bank loans or private investment, and they're the perfect tool for making sure your new business idea is a good one (and by that I mean that it will make money rather than lose money) before jumping head first into the unknown.


A good business plan gives entrepreneurs and business owners confidence knowing that there is a market for their products and services, what people are likely to pay, the best places to advertise and market their business, and most importantly - how profitable (or not!) their business is likely to be.


In other words, it's your personal roadmap for business success.


Alas, most people's heart will sink when asked for a business plan because it's a whole lot of work and requires skill sets that are often outside most 'entrepreneurial' people's comfort zones, which is why our 'done-for-you' business plan writing service is so popular with clients. We do all the leg work so you don't have too, but if you do fancy turning your hand to some business plan writing this blog will give you all the information you need to help you create your very own Bulletproof Business Plan.


The first thing you should consider is; what do I need this business plan for? Are you looking to secure funding? Pivot your business into a new sector? Map out how you're going to achieve that next phase of growth in a changeable economic landscape?


Every business needs a PLAN but not every business needs a traditional business plan.


Making sure you set realistic business goals, manage your finances and create successful strategies to help you achieve those goals (without running out of money in the process) is pretty damn important in any business, but that doesn't mean you need to sit down at a computer for days writing out a traditional business plan.


In my experience, the time when most entrepreneurs need a business plan the most is when they are looking for investment or applying for a loan.


After all, you know your idea is a winner, but how do you convince someone else? Particularly someone you're expecting to give you a boat load of cash to help you turn your idea into reality.


Or perhaps you're considering moving into a new sector - unchartered territory - and you want to make sure you fully understand what it is you're about to get involved with to make sure you don't fall foul of the law and that there's going to be enough profit in it to make it worth the effort...


The answer is to develop a solid business plan.


So, I'm going to take you through the whole process of writing the type of fully comprehensive 'Bulletproof Business Plan' that has seen 100% of our clients achieve the funding they need and guide their businesses from start-up to success.


There are 10 core elements to every 'Bulletproof Business Plan':

  1. Executive Summary

  2. Product/Service Overview

  3. Market Research

  4. Competitor Analysis

  5. Marketing Strategy

  6. PESTLE & SWOTT Assessments

  7. Goals & Objectives

  8. Operational Strategy

  9. Financial Projections

  10. Contingency Plan

Right, let's go through each of these in a bit more detail to help you better understand how to complete each section.


Executive Summary


Although this is the first section of your business plan, you should leave writing this until last. It needs to be strong, captivating and should inspire the reader to want to read the rest of your plan. Remember, keep it short, and try not to waffle!


This is where you will write a brief summary of what the business will be, what will you be selling, what services are you providing, and where will you sell/provide those services. Include the background to your idea (i.e. who owned the business previously, progress made to date, when did you start trading and what is the current ownership structure).


If you're looking for investment make sure to include a brief summary of how much investment you need, how it will be used and how it will make the business more profitable in the long run. This is the first section a potential investor will read, so make sure it captures their interest quickly!


It's also helpful to include the business owners/partners details here, including names, addresses and equity stake in the business (how many shares does everyone own, and who has ultimate control over decision making). What are the owners backgrounds, training and experience? What will be their primary roles in the business? Only include a brief summary here, and attach any relevant CV's in the appendix.


Product/Service Overview


Here is where you'll describe the product/service you will be selling in detail.


For example, if you're offering a service describe all elements including any maintenance services and add-ons.


Why will your customers buy from you and not your competitors? What makes you different and what benefit does it offer?


Tell the reader where you intend to sell/provide the product or service; such as geographical area you will cover, whether it is an on-line shop or physical premises.


Are you going to be selling business to customers (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B)?


How will you sell it? Will it be cash on receipt, will you offer 30 day credit terms or use an on-line payment system?


What will your pricing structure be? How are you going to decide how much you will charge? Make sure this part reflects what you have written in your cashflow projections.


Market Research


Your Target Audience

  1. Who are you aiming the product or service at?

  2. Are they the end user?

  3. What are their specific demographics?

  4. Where do they usually buy?

  5. If this is a large sector – which segment of the market are you concentrating on?

The Market Size

  1. How big is the market you are looking to tap into?

  2. How large could your share of the market be?

  3. Is there a gap in the market?

  4. Is it an existing market or a new product/service?

  5. How many people are likely to buy from you and how often?

Threats & Trends

  1. What are the current trends?

  2. What is driving those trends?

  3. What could change and when?

  4. How will your product/service disrupt the sector?


Competitor Analysis


For this section jump on to Google and search for businesses that are already operating in your sector - find 3-4 that have websites, social media pages and visible customer testimonials and research everything you can about what they're doing well, and what they're not doing so well


This bit can take some time but it also hugely valuable and insightful.


Consider:

  1. Where are they based? What geographical area do they serve?

  2. What's their pricing structure?

  3. What are their strengths?

  4. What are their weaknesses?

  5. How will you build on their strengths and avoid their weaknesses? How will you compete? Why will customer come to your business instead?

  6. How will your competition react to a loss of their market share? How will you respond?

You can learn a lot from your competitors so put the effort into this research. It'll tell you two important things; what to do, and what not to do.


Marketing Strategy


For this section consider how you will position yourself in your marketplace; are you providing a premium quality service, or will you cater to lower end budgets?


What will you focus on as your unique selling points (USP's)? Will it be excellent customer service? Features and benefits? Filling a hole in the market? Decide which ones you want to focus on and detail them in this section.


Where will you market/advertise your product or service?


Explain the different types of advertising you will use. Think about your target audience and where they may go to get their information from, i.e. google, newspaper, radio, and social media.


Ask yourself; where do my ideal clients go first to find solutions to the problems they are facing? Where are they looking for me? This is where you should be focusing your marketing efforts.


How will you market/advertise your product or service?


Describe how you will use each of your chosen marketing channels to tell your customers who you are and how you can help them. Consider;

  1. What do your competitors do?

  2. What are you currently doing, and what could you do to improve your results?

  3. How will this change across each of your target market segments?

  4. Are you marketing a specialist product with unique features|?

Then detail how much you will spend on each marketing activity - consider setup and on-going costs and make sure these are reflected in your cashflow projections.


Think about the hidden costs of marketing; how much time will it take for you or a member of your team to manage each marketing channel? How effective are you expecting each of your marketing channels to be? What are your target conversion rates?


Consider key financial metrics such as:

  1. How long it takes to make a sale

  2. The average expected order value

  3. How long it takes to get paid

  4. The likelihood of repeat orders

  5. The lifetime value of new customers

  6. Customer acquisition costs

And remember to build these into your cashflow projections!


PESTLE Analysis


PESTLE is a tool used by marketers to identify macro-environmental factors that may significantly impact a business, and is often used to inform and develop the 'threats' and 'weaknesses' sections of the SWOT Assessment. Here's what the acronym stands for:

  • Political - includes things like current and future taxation policies, government stability, availability of grants, funding and initiatives, effects of wars or worsening relationships with other countries, and current political issues

  • Economical - includes things like national debt levels, strength of consumer spending, current and future levels of government spending, current and future level of interest rates, unemployment and inflation, and supply volatility

  • Social - includes things like consumer attitudes and opinions, pandemic lifestyle trends, digital relationships, religious and ethnic factors, media views, major events, consumer buying patterns and influencer messaging

  • Technological - includes sector specific technology demands, how consumers make purchases, technological innovations relevant to your sector, rights to intellectual property and copyrights, global communication channels

  • Legal - includes changing legislation relating to employment, competition, health and safety, environmental initiatives, changes in the law, pandemic restrictions, trading policies and regulatory bodies

  • Environmental - includes things relevant to global warming, use of plastics, how we recycle and up-cycle, the potential environmental impact of our products and services (pollution/waste), our relationship with renewable energy, and the general attitude to these environmental factors from the government, the media and consumers


SWOT With An Extra 'T'


There are 4 main parts to a traditional SWOT Assessment, and here at Bulletproof Business Services we like to add a bonus 'T' that a lot of people don't consider, but which can make a huge difference to the success of your business.

  • Strengths (quality, management team, IP, unique selling point, branding, cash reserves)

  • Weaknesses (lack of finance, small customer base, insufficient skills, high operating costs)

  • Opportunities (gap in the market, increased demand, favourable economic conditions)

  • Threats (economic downturns, new competitors, changing technologies, Brexit)

  • Trends (increased technological automation, environment friendly initiatives, spending habits)

Strengths and weaknesses are typically things that are internal to you and your product/service, whereas opportunities, threats and trends are typically things that are external to you and your product/service.


Your PESTLE analysis will give you detailed insights into the potential threats and weaknesses your business may face, and this should be completed first so it can be used and referenced when developing your SWOTT assessment.


Goals & Objectives


What are you aiming to achieve in the short, medium and long term future of your business? In order to achieve great results with anything in life it's important to decide what your goals are using the classic SMART goals principal developed by Peter Druker.


In short, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based.


Consider; what's the end purpose of the business - will you build it up and pass it on to a family member? Setting it up and growing it to one day sell to a competitor? Will it be a relatively small 'lifestyle' business employing just you and a few staff, or will it be a multi-million pound global corporate one day?


Here's a few more things to think about when developing your goals:

  1. What level of income/revenue are you aiming for?

  2. How profitable will your business be?

  3. Where do you want your brand to be recognised? Will you win awards, be featured in the media?

  4. How many new customers do you want to have during each period? What will your retention levels be? What will be your customer satisfaction rating?

  5. What new products or services will you introduce and when? How will you improve your current products/services, and on what timeframe?

  6. What size will your team be, and when will you hire more staff?

Your short term goal should be the things you want to achieve in Year 1, medium term goals are years 2-3, and long term goals cover year 4 and beyond.


Use bullet points to create specific goals that inspire you. And remember, keep them SMART!


Operational Strategy


In this section you need to think about these 4 core elements of how you will manage and operate your business:

  1. Management & Personnel

  2. Premises & Equipment

  3. Legal Requirements

  4. Information Management Systems

So, let's take more detailed look at what you will need to consider for each of these elements of your operational strategy in turn.


Management & Personnel


Here you'll need to map out all the different roles in your business, how they connect to each other, and how each role is held accountable.


A great way to do this is to list out all the different roles you will need in your business (and you'll probably be doing most of them if you're just starting out) from HR, to sales and customer service, and then organise these into an organisational chart.


The organisational charts we develop always have 4 levels:

  1. Managing Director/CEO

  2. Director Team

  3. Managers

  4. Frontline Operatives

Thinking about it in this way helps to segment the different roles into departments, and helps with visualising lines of accountability in your business. The operatives report to the managers, the managers report to the directors, and the directors report to the MD/CEO.


Another really important part of this process is to decide on 3-5 key performance indicators (KPI's) for each role so that the people who fill those roles clearly understand how success and failure are defined in their area of the business.


Remember to include roles in finance, sales, customer services, production/delivery, and administration.


Once complete, look at where there may be skills gaps and consider how you might fill them. You might also want to consider the following:

  • What is your recruitment plan?

  • How will you train your staff, and what are the associated costs of doing so?

  • What salaries will you pay each person in their respective roles?

  • How will you achieve high rates of staff retention?

  • How will you measure productivity? (this part is where the KPI's become really important)

  • What will you do if you lose a key member of staff? What's your backup plan?

Premises & Equipment


Here you need to think about things like where the business will be based and what type of premises will be required to support your business operations - do you need warehousing to store stock or just a small office to give you a professional space to meet with clients and complete admin work? Do you need a premises at all... could you and your staff complete most of their work from home?


If you do need a premises, what type of lease agreement will you be looking to secure, and over what period of time?


Will you need planning permission to adapt the premises to meet your operational needs, and if you have a commercial premises in mind does it require a change of Use Class? If you have a premises in mind, it's always helpful to include a copy of the Heads of Terms (the 'contract before the contract') in the appendix of your business plan.


You need to consider what equipment you'll need to effectively run your business too - from computers to production equipment and logistics vehicles.


Some other things to consider are:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of this

  • Expansion plans - will you need to relocate? When might that happen? What would be the implications of doing so?

  • What are the production facilities like? When were they originally installed and what life span can you expect from them? Are they sufficient to meet your expected demand?

  • Who will your key suppliers be, how will you select them, and what will you do to replace them they stop supplying you?

  • Can you move in and start trading straight away, and if not can you negotiate a rent free period?

Taking on commercial premises isn't always the best choice early on, but in some cases is essential - either way, it's a huge commitment so make sure you do your research and build all the costs into your cashflow to prove affordability and start-up capital requirements.


Legal Requirements


This is some serious stuff, and will vary from industry to industry, so it's important to make sure you understand ahead of time what the legal requirements are of operating a business in your sector.


As the list varies so much depending on what your business does and who it serves I'm going to focus on giving you the main things every business needs to be aware of and strongly encourage you to research what other legal requirements there are in your particular sector (or you can give us a call and we'll do all the hard work for you).


Here are the main ones you need to make sure you have covered:

  • Insurance - you're likely to need a combination of public liability, professional indemnity, and employers liability (this is a legal requirement if you employ even just one person - in fact, it's the only type of insurance that's legally required, and the Health & Safety Executive has the power to fine you up to £2,500 for every day you go unprotected... ouch!). You might also want to consider Directors' and Officers' Liability Insurance (D&O) which covers you as a director for any claims made against you directly

  • Mandatory Qualifications & Industry Specific Accreditations - some professions require that you be qualified to a certain level in order to legally provide services, or that you are registered and accredited with the relevant industry regulators

  • Licensing - you may need a specific type of license in order to provide certain products or services

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) - this is a relatively new regulation that was introduced here in the UK in May 2018, and relates to how you collect, store and process data as a business. Every business who collects, stores or processes any type of personal information is required to register with the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) and follow these guidelines

  • HMRC Registration, VAT & PAYE - All companies must be registered with HMRC (and Companies House in the case of Limited Companies), and you must register for VAT Services if your turnover exceeds, or will exceed, the VAT threshold (currently at £85,000) in a 12 month period. If you're employing people then you will also need to make sure you register for PAYE services with HMRC an