Posted by: bevmeldrum | August 9, 2007

More About Business Plans

The majority of the work I have done for the last 5 years has involved helping people write their Business Plans. I’m one of the few people who gets quite passionate about Business Plans … that and legal structures, but that’s another story.

If we are honest, for more of us, the only time we think about writing a Business Plan is when we see the following phrase on the bottom of a funding application:

Please ensure you include an up-to-date business plan’

Panic sets in as we realise our last business plan is so out of date we really need to start again and with the funding deadline approaching that doesn’t leave us much time. We’ve all done it.

A good, up-to-date Business Plan can be one of the most useful tools for a social entrepreneur. Forget this notion that Business Plans are only really for the benefit of funders and lenders. As we talked about yesterday, look at your Business Plan as a roadmap showing you which direction to head in to reach your destination.

A good Business Plan will not only give your organisation direction, it will also enable you to communicate what you are trying to achieve to your staff, volunteers and everyone outside of your organisation.

Suddenly funding applications become quicker to write. Why waste your time re-writing your vision, aims, objectives and budget each time you write a funding application. Instead just copy the information from the business plan and tweak it if necessary.

Another tip is to initially write as much as you can in your business plan. Go into as much detail as possible. This then becomes your internal document that you use to develop different projects. Then, if you ever need to approach lenders for finance you can slightly alter the versions of the business plan you give to different lenders.

A high street bank will be less interested in your social outcomes and more interested in how you will become a sustainable business. Although a social lender will also want to understand your financial projections they will also be more interested in the social impact you will have. Your business plan will have a greater impact if you tailor it to the needs of the lender you are approaching, a bit like adapting funding applications to emphasis the interests of a particular funder.

It’s also worth asking whoever is dealing with your application what sorts of business plans they like to see. For example one officer in a social lender I know likes to know every detail – right down to the colour of paint and how the counter in a cafe will be laid out. A high street bank may be less interested in such detail.

But going back to the original point even though business plans are often seem as a document for funders and lenders they can be so much more and if kept up-to-date will end up saving you a considerable amount of time be an incredible tool as you develop your organisation.

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