Business Plan Help
Writing a business plan is one of the most important things an entrepreneur must do when starting a new business. However, writing a compelling business plan is easier said than done, particularly when time can be so precious. This article outlines the key resources available to UK entrepreneurs when preparing a business plan. Use them for assistance with the writing of the plan, as well as for understanding the implications of certain business decisions you make in the process, such as those regarding corporate structure, sources of funding, and more.
1. Business Plan Pro UK software
Business Plan Pro is the best-selling business plan software available for several reasons. It is easy to use, saves time, and has over 500 sample business plans to get you started. It also provides a structure whereby you can complete a plan in a methodical manner, while enabling you to benefit from a helping hand at every step.
Where: Business Plan Pro is available from www.paloalto.com/uk
Cost: RRP is only £79.99 for the Complete version and £129.99 for the Premier.
2. Business plan competitions
Numerous business planning competitions are taking place in the UK at any given time. These competitions test a wide range of skills that are often neglected by entrepreneurs. By producing a credible business plan and presenting your case persuasively, you will significantly enhance your ability to secure funding. These business plan competitions are an invaluable resource enabling you to road test your business plan in a safe environment before submitting the plan to potential investors.
The main advantages of submitting a business plan to a competition include:
- Tap into Increased Support for Entrepreneurs in the UK
- Obtain Critical Independent Analysis of Your Business Plan
- Gain Access to Mentors and Networking Opportunities
- Improve key Transferable Skills, e.g. Presentation Skills
- Enhance Your Understanding of What Investors Want
Where: Use a search engine such as Google to find a list of competitions
Cost: Entry costs are usually negligible, although some competitions limit entry to students or locals.
3. Start-up websites
There are a number of start–up websites that can help you understand what needs to be done and how. These websites normally consist of a mix of articles and relevant products and services from third-party vendors. Most also have specific business-planning sections to help you with your plan. The following three well-known UK sites can give you some further insights into the building blocks that make up a winning business plan.
4. Government sites
There are also a number of government websites designed to assist people in starting a business which can also help you in writing a business plan.
- Companies House www.companieshouse.gov.uk
The website contains information on incorporation procedures. It also provides annual accounts of companies which can be purchased so as to enable you to assess the financials of comparable companies.
- HMRC www.hmrc.gov.uk
HM Revenue and Customs has an easily accessible site where you can access information and calculators relating to employing people, paying VAT, paying Corporation Tax, and so on.
Where: As above
5. Local advisor
Despite the availability of a range of different online resources, there are occasions when professional advice is highly recommended. While there is undoubtedly a trade off (professional advice usually costs), there are some decisions that should be made only after consultation with professionals, such as choosing the legal structure of the company. While local accountants are a natural starting point, there are also a number of other bodies that can provide information and advice, and can point you in the right direction for more complex concerns.
- Business Link www.businesslink.gov.uk
Business Link provides information, advice and support to help people start, maintain and grow their business. It is an excellent site with some really great sections and clear sign posting to additional resources. There is also a postcode search facility so you can track down your nearest local advisor.
- National Enterprise Network www.nationalenterprisenetwork.org/
The National Enterprise Network (formerly National Federation of Enterprise Agencies–NFEA) is the membership body for Local Enterprise Agencies, and other similar organisations. It forms a network of independent, not-for-profit local agencies that provide a comprehensive range of free services including a facility to search for your local agency.
Where: As above
6. Funding websites
Entrepreneurs need to consider their financing at the start-up stage and most will look to outside help to assist them in financing the start-up phase. A good understanding of the implications of the various sources of funding is important, not least with respect to the various obligations arising under each. At its most basic, the sources of funding are either debt based or equity based, and each class confers certain obligations on the recipient of the funds. If the business plan is used to secure funding it will need to clearly outline the benefits to the investor, and the terms of investment, as they’ll be seeking to assess their risks, as well as the ability of the firm to generate free cash flows. Outside of the traditional sources of finance, it is also worth exploring the following sites, which explain the merits of grant or VC funding. Obviously the conditions for securing either are fairly strict, so both sites will indicate which issues you should consider, as well as information on the availability of the funding.
- J4B www.j4b.co.uk
The site allows quick and simple searches of the j4b database of business grants and loans — the most comprehensive database of its kind in the UK.
- BVCA www.bvca.co.uk
This is the website for the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA) which has over 170 full members and contains a directory that enables users to search for a local member.
Bplans.co.uk contains extensive business-planning resources and is also owned by Palo Alto Software, makers of Business Plan Pro. There is an extensive back catalogue of articles, with new additions a regular occurrence. It also contains a number of free sample business plans, some calculators. and links to a range of appropriate resources.
8. Scavenger by Cobweb
Scavenger reports are essential reading material for anyone starting up a business in the UK. The Business Opportunity Profiles are reports on specific industries and are updated frequently. With over 800 reports in total, the range includes everything from ‘Children’s Day Nursery’ profiles to ‘Coffee Shop’ profiles to a profile on ‘Complementary Therapy’.
Cost: Individual reports cost around £5.
9. Sites with demographic data
There are also numerous resources you can use in assessing likely demand for your goods or services. Websites such as www.caci.co.uk/acorn and www.upmystreet.com provide extensive free demographic data about areas based on UK postcode searches. These enable you to build up profiles of the local population and are ideal when you are looking to set up a shop to serve the local community specifically. If you want to consider setting up overseas, then websites such as www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ give an excellent insight into various local conditions in advance of undertaking more detailed localised research.
Where: As above
10. Your local library
Finally, libraries can be excellent resources, helping you access information from a host of disparate sources. They can be particularly useful for researching hard-to-access data relating to markets and potential suppliers.
The Business and IP Centre at the British Library www.bl.uk/bipc/ is just one example of a new resource specifically created to support entrepreneurs in the UK. It enables users to access a range of databases including Amadeus, Economist Intelligence, Mintel, Datamonitor, One Source, LexisNexis, Dialog and the Complete Business Reference Adviser (COBRA).
Alternatively, your local library may stock one of Pearson’s excellent titles on starting a business and writing a business plan. www.pearson-books.com/bplans
Summary and conclusion
Writing a winning business plan can take time and effort. However, utilizing the above resources should make the job a lot easier and help you to gain a thorough understanding of the fundamentals that underpin every successful business. Good luck!