Outline Structure for Business Planning

Using the right business plan structure is crucial when writing a business plan to start new businesses when you are applying for bank loans or needing to support your bank overdraft.

Most business plans are quite simple in their design and should be around 20 pages in length.

What The Document Says

A business plan is simply a document outlining business objectives and how these objectives are going to be met by way of tactical plans. Included in a business plan are business strategies, aims and objectives, people, pricing strategy, marketing and communications plans as well as key financial indicators.

Areas of focus

Business plan structureOf course, the entire plan is important but there are a few sections that the people who will read your plan and decide whether or not they will invest in your business venture will pay more attention and time towards. These are generally the executive summary (which is outlining your overall business and the investment required) and your financial forecasts.

It best to have your financial statements developed by someone who understands accounting as even simple questions about profits, margins and revenues can be tough to answer. The most important financial statements are profit and loss account, balance sheet and cash flow.

Suggested Structure for Business Plans

The following structure will be accepted by most UK banks (you can check with them first) but is at least the minimum required:

  • Title page and confidential clauses
  • Executive Summary (objectives, products and services, target markets, financial projections, investment required)
  • Products and Services (Products summary, pricing, margins, profit per unit)
  • External Analysis (economic indicators, market research and trends)
  • Internal Analysis
  • SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
  • Marketing Plan
  • Sales Plan
  • HR Plan (including CVs and bios of key staff)
  • Profit and Loss Account forecasts
  • Cash Flow Forecasts
  • Balance Sheet Forecast
  • Appendices for more detail

Starting to Write Your Plan

It can be difficult to begin writing a business plan and it's probably best if you start with your financial projections. Even a simple spreadsheet can get you started if you write down your product categories and how many you believe you will sell each day. Then you can set a selling price together with the cost of each sale to provide you with a margin and profit per item sold.

Once you have this data, it will give you an idea of the volume you need to purchase and probably provide you with more questions to answer. Those answers you can place within the structure above and start to build your plan.

Business Plan Help

There are many websites that will help you write your plan. Either from developed sample business plans or some of the widely used business planning software applications available on the market. Business Plan Pro from Palo Alto software is the most popular product but UK company Teneric also offer sample plans which you can adapt for your own circumstances.

All major banks have their own proprietary software products which they give away for free and this is always a good starting point because the format of the plan is how they like it. See more on how to write a business plan in our dedicated business planning section.

Recommended Websites for Business Planning

Use the following websites for more information about business plan structures.