Why is a business plan important? A business plan is like a roadmap: you can start driving without one, but you’ll be more likely to get lost on the way.

To save yourself driving in circles, prepare a business plan from day one. This will help you focus on the details of your venture and give you the chance to do important groundwork before you begin trading.  

Typically, a business plan will include detailed insights such as market analysis, competitor research, audience profiles, marketing goals, logistics and operations plans, cash flow information, and an overall strategy on how they will grow. 

This guide will demonstrate why a business plan is important, including:

  • Planning for viability and growth
  • Setting milestones and objectives
  • Supporting decision making and avoiding mistakes
  • Securing finance and investors
  • Minimising risk

1) Plan for viability and growth

If you have a business idea brewing or want to turn your passion, hobby, or side project into a full-time job, first do your research to understand if your business will be viable. A business plan can help you confirm that your business idea is sustainable in the current market.

To do this, carry out market research. Considering answers to the following questions will start to give you a more detailed picture of where your business belongs in the sector:

  • Who are your customers? 
  • What do you offer them? 
  • What problems are you solving for them?
  • Why would they buy from you over your competitors?
  • Who are your competitors? What are you doing differently? Are you cheaper?
  • Who dominates the industry? How can you improve on what is already out there?

Answering these questions will highlight gaps in the market that your business can occupy and give your company a better chance at survival long-term.

2) Setting milestones and objectives

You may have in mind some future milestones that you would like to hit. In your business plan, it’s important to plot some top-level goals, then plan what objectives will get you there.

As an example, for an artisan craft business, one goal might be to sell 1,000 handmade products in the first year. Setting an objective such as ‘Use social media advertising to drive half of the sales’ will help you focus on the activity you need to achieve the goal. 

Or if you offer professional services, like marketing support or a financial advisor, you might want to grow your client base by 50%. In order to grow this number consistently, you must also keep your existing clients on board. Therefore, an objective might be to improve customer relations to retain clients for longer. Then you can begin to research strategies to support your overall business goals.

By checking in regularly on your business plan, you will be able to track your progress toward important growth milestones and change tactics as you learn more about your customers. By having your plan in writing, you are setting yourself up to grow at a faster rate than businesses that don’t create a business plan.

3) Supporting critical decisions and avoiding mistakes

Your aims and objectives will keep you accountable when making decisions for your business. As you grow, you will encounter chances to invest back into the business. Consulting the long-term vision you set for yourself will help you separate the ‘needs’ from the ‘wants’. 

Including financial information such as cash flow and forecast reports in your business plan will make it easier to make informed decisions when it comes to major spending, growth or expansion. You will be able to know with confidence whether an idea aligns with what you have set out to achieve.

Consulting a detailed plan will also help you avoid common pitfalls of start-ups. You will have already done your research and spotted any gaps in your knowledge or strategy before it becomes an issue. Some mistakes that unprepared businesses make include:

  • Not enough demand for what you’re selling
  • Cash flow issues due to poor forecasting.
  • Too much competition in the marketplace, when you don’t have a marked difference to them.
  • Setting your price mark too high or too low for the industry.

4) Securing investors and financing

Business plans are typically a requirement if you are looking to secure finance. Whether it comes from a bank, an outside venture capital firm, or a friend who wants to go into business with you. They will want to see the forecasts that prove your business is viable in the long run. 

Also, if you ever consider selling your business in the future, a business plan will be needed to pitch for a higher valuation.

5) Minimise risk

Another exercise to include in your business plan is a SWOT analysis. This is a process of identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that face your business. By doing this activity you are reducing risk by highlighting areas that may need contingency plans, and a thorough SWOT analysis will allow you to plan in advance for potential difficulties.

With all the data you’ve pulled together on your market, operational plans, finances and sales projections, you will have reduced any potential risks that arise from being uninformed. In doing your research, you can spot potential issues before they arise in real life, and create contingency plans as a safety net. 

As the saying goes “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. Revisiting your business plan regularly will help you avoid as much risk as possible when you start trading. It will also keep your mind focused on the bigger picture instead of the daily trials and tribulations of running a  business.

Making informed business decisions

Now that you are equipped with answers to ‘why is a business plan important’, you can start preparing a business plan to set your new venture up for success. 

When you’re starting a business, it’s important to keep on top of your financial admin from day one. Countingup offers a business current account and an app with built-in accounting software, that will save you time and money when it comes to your bookkeeping. Find out more here.