A great business plan: an essential tool for small business that focuses your working energy and helps you achieve your goals. So where do you start?

You more than likely have a lot of ideas you’d like to share, but popular opinion says your business plan should focus on: (1) the chosen direction for your business; (2) objectives for the next three to five years; (3) your day-to-day operations and financials; and (4) the steps that will allow you to achieve your goals.

Getting started

Have a look online for the best business plan template for you – there are lots of different structures to choose from. Once you’ve chosen a favourite, start capturing the contents of your plan by noting down ideas and key points under each heading. Then sort them into a logical order before writing them properly into the plan.

Who your plan is for

Your business plan will be read by your staff; potential investors and lenders; potential business partners; buyers; and probably many others. So with all these audiences in mind, it’s good to keep the language as simple as possible. Avoid any unnecessary information or words and try to write in bullets or use visuals if you can; it just makes it easier to read. A good tip is to keep numbers realistic and stay conservative: it’s usually better to under-estimate and over-deliver.

Critique for success

Once your business plan is complete it’s a good idea to have it reviewed by your mentors and advisers. A business plan needs a few sets of eyes and a thorough critique to ensure it is robust in its objectives and considered in the path to achieving those. Another good idea is to get someone to read it through and spell check it too – investments or other funding and typos don’t usually go hand in hand.

Evolve and grow

A living document, don’t file your business plan in the bottom drawer to gather dust – keep it front and centre. Your business plan will grow and change over the lifetime of your business. To make it really effective, refer back to regularly. To make it relevant, keep it up to date. But most importantly if you start writing it today you need never look back – only forward.