Business Planning 1 – Preparing your plan for potential investors

In the lead up to our Sustainable Funding conference on 28 November, Andrew Jesson from Unity Trust Bank, blogs on business planning.

At some point all organisations will need to seek credit (from suppliers for instance) or borrow money from a Bank.

Having an up-to-date, attractively written and meaningful Business Plan will always provide a solid foundation with which to start negotiations in all business situations, whether you are requesting a bank loan, applying for grants, tendering for contracts, seeking credit from suppliers, employing new senior staff members, merging with another organisation, motivating staff and giving them a say in the future of the organisation, or merely because it is good practice to have a plan!

In common sense terms any recipient of your business plan will want to be re-assured that:

  • You are good at what you do.
  • You can deliver on your promises.
  • You are special and your products and services are better than anybody else’s.
  • You are good at business and are not likely to fail in the foreseeable future.

Why make it complicated? We all undertake business planning on a daily basis in our personal lives. We have to plan our time, our finances and the utilisation of our resources (cooking, shopping, travelling etc).

It is not a big jump to apply these skills to the organisations in which we work.

Try answering these simple questions for the place in which you work:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do we propose to get there?
  • Is it worthwhile?

Once you have the answers to these questions you have the rudiments of a business plan from which to hang all the detail.

So, how do you start the process of business planning?

  • It would be wise to have an initial discussion at Board Level to get a buy-in for the business planning process.
  • Establish what the Vision and Mission for the organisation. If this has never been discussed it may be an idea to seek the views of your staff, your customers, Commissioners and any other stakeholders such as the local community. You will be very surprised at how differently your organisation is viewed by each group.
  • An organisations Vision and Mission will be the overall reason for the organisation’s existence. This needs to be agreed and establish way in which you are going to satisfy and fulfil the Vision and Mission you have outlined.
  • At this point I would suggest that you introduce your Board, Management and Staff to an analysis of the Organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; the SWOT analysis. All views should be collated and prioritised. You may be able to identify some “quick wins” which require no further planning although most will have to be assessed as part of the longer term Business Plan.
  • The issues highlighted in the SWOT analysis will then enable you to assess the broad headings to be addressed in the Business Plan such as:
  • The market for your products and services
  • The staff and other resources required
  • The effectiveness of the management structure
  • An assessment of the customers and
  • The competition.

Essentially, what is special about your product or service which will convince your customers to buy in preference to others?

Look out for part 2 of this blog series – Writing the plan

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