A guide to developing your business plan

Developing a business plan provides you with clear sense of direction, as well as usually being required by lending or funding institutions to support your loan or grant application.

The following offers you a free template for preparing a business plan, which you can either use as is, or modify and simplify it to better meet your requirements. The template provides you with a suggested list of key topics or sections to appear in your business plan, together with a brief summary of the type of information to be included.

Some of the sections will require you to prepare more detail than others – with some sections possibly only comprising a couple of paragraphs of information (eg exit strategy), whilst others may comprise a couple of pages (eg. a description of the nature of the existing competition in the marketplace)

Major Topic


Executive Summary

A maximum one page summary of the business, objectives, assumptions, approach, factors for success, cost and revenue summaries.  This should have a “selling” focus to it, whereby you are promoting

Table of Contents

To navigate the document


Company  Description

Overview, line of business, ownership, governance, objectives, location, image


Product or service    

The products or services that you intend to deliver – including pricing models, distribution methods and customer service procedure


The Market

Who exactly is your target market and why? Describe your customer demographic profile. What could be the opportunity for market expansion, based upon consumer trends



Who are the competitors that exist now and who might emerge in the future i.e. who might be looking at the same approach to the same market


Marketing and sales plan

Describing how you plan to reach your target market – perhaps including internet promotions and any other advertising campaigns


Potential Risks  

Vulnerabilities of the business, what would make it not work, what could emerge that is outside of your control –for example a change in legislation


Operational Plan & Staffing

Infrastructure – including equipment & machinery, delivery processes; licensing requirements; accounting methods; auditing, customer database .


Financial Plan – costs and forward projections

Establishment costs – including inventory, on-going expenses such as leasing, insurance and equipment maintenance; wages; and revenue projections


Exit strategy

Longer term future plans e.g. expand by bringing in a partner, transfer control to a relative, or sell the business.


Proposed Time-line

Subject to approval, the implementation schedule – milestones for implementation such as company registration, equipment purchase, staff recruitment, website and promotions

Appendix – Supporting Documents

This could include copies of any existing registrations, or any relevant policies or procedures that have already been developed for the business

Here’s a short video clip that explains the key elements that need to be considered in preparing a business plan. Although it does not use exactly the same structure as the above template, it still offers a similar message in terms of what you need to research and think about…..

More small business resources

If you’re starting out, then check out Selecting a Business Name

See also Seven Common Business Pitfallsif you want to avoid the most common causes of new business failure

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