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Starting a Business: Contents of a Startup Business Plan (GCSE)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

For a start-up there are usually two kinds of business plan - a simple one and a detailed one. Some businesses need to produce both.

The simple business plan is rarely shown to outsiders of the business. It is written by the entrepreneur, for the entrepreneur. The simple plan helps summarise the key aims and targets of the business and the actions required to make the business a reality. It is likely to be written in quite an informal way. What would go into the simple plan? Areas such as:

  • The idea - a simple description of the proposed business
  • Where the idea came from and why it is a good one
  • Key targets for the business - sales, profit, growth (gives a sense of direction for the business), ideally for the next 3-4 years
  • Finance required - how much from the founder, how much to be loaned over how loan and from who
  • Market overview - main segments, market size (value, quantity), growth, market shares of main competitors (if known)
  • How the business will operate (location, premises, staff, distribution methods)
  • Cash flow forecast (important) + trading forecast

A detailed business plan is needed if a more complicated or larger business is planned as a start-up, or if the entrepreneur needs to raise money from business angels or get a substantial loan from a bank. Here is a summary of the key content:

Executive summary: a brief 1-2 page summary of the detail! Should contain nothing new, but highlight the key points

Market: a profile of the target market based on market research

Product: what it is and how it is different from the competition (the "unique selling point")

Competition: an honest description of the competition in the target market - what they do well, their weaknesses and their likely response

Protecting the idea: how the product and business can be protected from competition - e.g. patents, trademarks, distinctive approaches to marketing or distribution that competitors will find hard to replicate

Management team: a crucial area for any investor. Who is involved in the start-up and what will they be doing? What experience and expertise do they bring? Which management roles will need to be filled as the business grows?

Marketing: the key elements of the marketing mix should be explained here. Remember that for a start-up the marketing budget is likely to limited, so the plan should describe a credible approach to promoting the product and include realistic assumptions about how many customers will buy and at what price

Production /operations: this explains what is involved in the production process, what capacity is needed, who will supply the business, where it will be located etc.

Financial projections: a summary of the cash flow and trading forecasts. This section should highlight the key assumptions that have been made and also outline the main risks and opportunities in the forecasts (i.e. what might go wrong, or where things might prove better than forecast).

Sources of finance: here the figures from the cash flow forecast are taken and used to highlight what funding the business needs, and when.

Returns on investment: another key area for any investor. This is a description of how the entrepreneur expects investors to get a return on their investment. Who might eventually buy the business, when, and for how much?

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