Monday, 18 April 2011

How to Right a Business Plan Wrong - 10 Top Tips

For the regulars visiting this blog you will know that I am in the process of setting up a traditional tea room business in Cardiff, South Wales, that celebrates home made, fair trade, fabulous cake, coffee and loose leaf teas. I started this mission in June last year (2010) and am focussing the next few weeks on bringing you up to date on the story so far as I build up to open in Spring 2012.

August - October 2010 

Anyone can start a business, you see that happening every day. I notice usually when I think that someone is doing a bad job of running a business particularly bad tea rooms, café's and coffee shops. When you sit down to a sticky table, or get told to clear your own tray, or people there to provide a service to you are plain rude, I just think how do you people make any money? I could do that better! Have you ever had the same thought?

Watching Mary Portas giving what seems to me like pure common sense to people in business always ignites the entrepreneurial fire in my belly. Why do these people go into business?

So two interesting points here, anyone can go into business and do it badly and most of those people don't seem to have a passion for what they do. To make my tea room business a success I would need to be thorough in the start up and entirely committed to seeing the vision through.

Writing the Business Plan

I love spreadsheets!  Spreadsheets were my first stop in getting organised.  I opened an Excel sheet sometime in June last year, saved it as "Business Plan" and put it in a shiny new folder named "Tea Room". This was not my final business plan but more a document (currently running at 13 tabs) which held content on all of my ideas, to do lists, research, website links, legal documents, contact details, properties more to do lists etc etc. One of the most inspirational professionals I have had the privilege to work with in my corporate career taught me the importance of being thorough. For many people being slightly OCD about thoroughness is an ingrained personality trait, for me it is a learned behaviour that I now cherish. Using my spreadsheets I intend to get from vague dream to smoothly operating profitable business with as few hiccups as possible!

During the period of August to October 2010 I wrote, edited, re-wrote, reviewed, peer reviewed and developed the tea room Business Plan. Jane Way, my Business in Focus adviser, was a fantastic resource in tweaking my plan and helping me find my way. As I have laid out in past posts, the best business plan is a tool that helps you make decisions to produce a SMART plan from overview of dream to making your business a cash generating reality. If you Google 'How to write a business plan' you get an awful lot advice.  Having trawled this advice and written my own, and if I say so myself rather awesome business plan, here are my top tips to writing the best plan you can.

My Top 10 Tips to Writing a Business Plan  

1. Who do you know? - Research is key, go and find some people who have been there first. Email me if you have questions and I shall try to help. I went to two people I know who have started their own business to find out what they did, what they wished they had done better and how they wrote their business plan. If you do not know anyone personally go and meet someone new, I had great fun going to Totnes and meeting the MOST wonderful owners of Greys Dining Room Totnes.

2. Bring some structure to your life - Use a business plan template. There are many free business plan templates out there, here are some free ones to have a look at; HSBC, Business Link,  Microsoft Office Business Templates. I ended up paying for a template to help me get started, I found the suggestions and examples of other plans really helpful in understanding what sort of information was suitable; Business Plan Writer. When I completed the template I must admit that I did finish it off in Word after all!

3. Tailor your plan - Many templates are so generic that you do not need half of the sections, or you may need other sections that are missing. Try to find a plan that you know has been used by people in your industry already. I spent several hours discussing the company structure for my business, before I finally realised that it was completely irrelevant. My structure is utterly flat, me at the top and me at the bottom.

4. Keep it real - Be realistic.  This is obvious. But really, when you sit down to write and then when you review be critical of yourself. It is so crucial to dream big and be passionate but don't kill your dream before you start, by dreaming too big.

5. Phone a friend - If they are not already entirely bored of hearing you talk about your business idea then make sure you get your friends and family to help you read it. It may be simple for you to write a plan but don't be worried if you find the whole experience frustrating and at times too complicated this is natural!

6. Professional Advice - By the time I met Jane Way, it was a huge release for me to talk to someone who makes a profession out of listening to business ideas. There are discussion forums on this topic so get online, also don't be afraid to talk to your bank or try your local council website to see if they have some suggestions.

7. SPaG - Please spell-check, punctuate (I am exempt from correct punctuation in this blog by the way) and make sure your grammar is spot on. Nothing undoes a beautifully crafted sentiment more than a typo!

8. Financials - Get some figures, this can be another big stumbling block for people writing a business plan, but it is crucial to get your figures right.  Even if you aren't going to the bank or other friendly cash lender cap in hand, you have to get your cash flow projection sorted to get a handle on your costs, sales and profits. Good to get some professional advice here too but if you can find your way around a spreadsheet make that do the hard work.

9. Back it up - Go and buy an external hard drive, memory stick or use your smartphone! Back up all your work. No matter if you are an IT genius or a PC novice make sure you make a copy of your work as you go. Don't be heart broken by losing all your hard work.

10. STICK WITH IT! Even if you feel that you are more of an ideas person or a practical person, you have to sit and go through the business plan process. Think of it as one small sacrifice that you only need to make once in order to safeguard your dream.

Let me know your comments, have you written your own business plan before? What worked for you?  What didn't?


  1. Tips are very useful,Seeking a professional advice and having a back are very good strategy on making a business plan.Good job.


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