How to write a business plan

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It’s an important first step for any new business but what are the key ingredients of a robust business plan? Carrie Taylor-Mell, Team Manager for Small Business Banking at HSBC UK and Stefan Johnson, International Trade Finance Manager for HSBC UK, share their insight and expertise on this vital topic

Why do you need a business plan?

The main thing a business plan does is make you plan! “Writing a business plan forces you to review everything at once,” says Stefan. “Your value proposition, marketing assumptions, operational plans, financial plans, even your staffing plans.” It helps you take a step back from your business and evaluate things, and can give you clarity about the goal of the business. Thinking about your business on a deeper level in this way, can also help you spot gaps or challenges.

A business plan enables you to plan ahead, tracking progress, achievements and milestones. It’s a way to lay strong foundations for your business. A well thought through business plan can also help you attract talent and investors, and explain your business – it’s not just about accessing funding.

What makes a good business plan?

“Make the plan professional,” says Stefan. Remember that first impressions count.

Start with an executive summary. Keep the business plan concise. “Overly detailed business plans are often quickly shelved,” he adds.

Make sure you’ve checked the plan and corrected any errors. Include a cover and have a contents section so the plan is easy to navigate.

Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. “Be realistic and back up any claims with evidence,” says Stefan. This includes thinking about what might go wrong and assessing and mitigating risks. 

Be flexible too – circumstances might mean your business plan needs to change. And just like your CV, you should update your business plan as your business develops and grows.

What to include in your plan

These are some of the key ingredients you need to include in your business plan:

  • Business and products

Give some background, for example, details of when you started and the structure. It’s really important to also talk about yourself. What makes you and your business different? Describe your product or service and give details of your experience in the industry.

  • The market and your competition

Talk about any customers you already have lined up. Explain the competition and why customers will come to you rather than them. How do you stand out from all the other businesses out there?

“The easiest way to stand out is you. You are your business. Put your passion on that paper,” says Carrie.

  • Marketing and sales

What is your pricing policy? How do you plan to sell? Explain your supply-to-end user journey. What kind of marketing are you going to do? For example, social media or direct marketing?

  • Management and personnel

Set out the team structure and the key skills of staff. Be realistic about workloads.

  • Operations

Do you have an office space? Mention accounts and IT systems and even regulations you need to meet. 

  • Finances and SWOT

The financial forecast displays your business in numbers across the short, medium and longer term, showing desired turnover and the profit you’d like to achieve, as well as anticipated costs. Using tools such as those available through HSBC’s award-winning business banking app. The HSBC Kinetic Current Account*, can help you manage your business finances with helpful cash flow forecasting to make informed decisions.

“Set honest and achievable goals,” says Carrie. “If you won’t make a profit in the first 12 months, say so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if your business is going to achieve long-term goals.”

Use SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), and identify key objectives that will make a significant difference, and stick to them on a specific and planned timescale.

Final thoughts

“Be yourself. Be determined. And let the passion for your business shine through,” says Carrie.

However, aside from the paperwork and planning, starting a business also requires resilience. Carrie reminds entrepreneurs to be kind to themselves:

“Anything worth having takes hard work and dedication. So don’t be so hard on yourself if some days don’t go to plan. Dust yourself off, get back up, go back to the plan, readdress your focus and go again.”

HSBC Kinetic brings you more than just a business bank account – it aims to make business banking simpler and faster, giving you the freedom to run your business. It’s designed around the small business owner and alongside the features you’d expect such as making and receiving payments, and managing standing orders, it also gives you control of your business finances with categorised spending and cash flow insights.

HSBC Kinetic also offers customers a little help to kick start their business – by teaming up with some great partners that offer everything from discounted business broadband to inspirational office space. Full details available in the HSBC Kinetic app.

You can apply for a new business account in minutes with HSBC Kinetic. So if you’re a sole trader or single director shareholder limited company, find out more at

Simply download the HSBC Kinetic app and apply in minutes.

*HSBC Kinetic is subject to eligibility and Credit Check. Terms and conditions and fees apply.

This article was written as part of a paid-for advertising content campaign with HSBC.

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