Skip to main content Skip to main navigation
Skip to access and inclusion page Skip to search input

How to write a business plan

6-minute read

You've got a great idea and you're keen to get started. But for the best chance of success it's important to put together a detailed business plan that describes and establishes key aspects of your new enterprise.

Key take-outs
  • Business plans serve multiple purposes
  • Time spent on developing one is a good investment
  • You should review and update your plan regularly

Why do I need a business plan?

Every business owner knows that part of the challenge is juggling all the elements and demands that have to be considered, as well as regulatory requirements. You have to become an instant expert on areas that may be outside your expertise, such as commercial property, business insurance, advertising, marketing and employment law, plus much more.
 

A good business plan helps you separate out each aspect of your business, so you can focus on one factor at a time, rather than all at once. Other reasons to engage in this type of planning process are:
 

  • Helps you prioritise your efforts
    Stepping back from the granular details of starting and running a new business gives you time to reflect on the big picture, considering the things that will really matter to your future customers. That in turn will inform the priorities you need to focus on.
     
  • Gives you more control of outcomes
    The discipline of working through a plan – and constantly refining it over time – will encourage you to think about the factors that’ll most influence your likelihood of success. What’s working? And what isn’t?

  • Supports you if you’re seeking finance
    Banks and other lenders – or potential investors – will expect to see a solid business plan to reassure them that your new enterprise is well run.

What needs to go into a business plan?

Every business is different, so there’s no definitive business plan structure – but here are some key elements you should consider for inclusion. It’s important to think of your plan as a living, breathing document that evolves over time as you build your business and gain knowledge, insights and experience along the way.

 

1. Executive Summary

Leave drafting this brief overview until last. It should summarise and define all other elements of the business plan, and cover:

  • Your business vision and mission statement
  • Differentiation from similar businesses
  • Target market
  • Company description and operating model
  • Business ownership and management
  • Expansion plans
  • Short-term and long-term goals.
     

2. Business and market analysis

Here’s where you talk about what type of business you’re starting and how it’ll fit into the local and broader market. Include things such as:
 

  • Style of business and the products and services you plan to offer
  • Any competitive advantage you have
  • Market research and competitor analysis
  • Industry trends
  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your business idea.
     

3. Marketing strategy

However great your business idea is, you can’t just start trading and hope for the best. In this section of your business plan give some thought to:
 

  • Marketing budgets – launch and ongoing
  • Marketing objectives – what you hope to achieve in the short and long term
  • Target markets – there may be different sectors you can target
  • Brand position – the name and personality of your business
  • Value proposition – such as competitively priced or prestige
  • Digital optimisation – website and social media marketing
  • Key marketing mediums – from leaflet drops to broadcast.
     

4. Business structure and legal

You’ll need to choose a business structure (e.g., sole trader, partnership, company), which will generally reflect ownership and your desired level of liability. Other aspects to refer to in your business plan include:
 

  • Any licences you’ll need in order to operate
  • Insurance
  • Leases
  • Your responsibilities as an employer.
     

5. Operating plan

Here you can detail how you plan to operate on a day-to-day basis, covering areas such as:
 

  • Sales channels (how and where you’ll be operating)
  • Suppliers (how and where you’ll source any supplies or products you need)
  • Vehicles and equipment (buy or lease)
  • How you’ll take payments (see a section on this later)
  • Management team (day-to-day)
  • Roles and staffing levels (full-time versus part-time and casual)
  • Contingency plans (for downturn periods, staff issues, weather, etc.).
     

6. Financial plan

Here you can detail how you plan to operate on a day-to-day basis, covering areas such as:
 

If you need a business loan to support your business, lenders will want to see your business plan, including details of:
 

  • Start-up costs
  • Operating expenses including labour costs
  • Profit and loss forecast
  • Cash flow statement and forecast
  • Financial projections and ratios
  • Results and balance sheets (once you’re trading).
     

7. Action plan

This will likely be the most dynamic section of your business plan. It’s where you review and update business goals and note lessons learned and actions required in response to trading activity and market fluctuations.
 

List the actions you plan to take before you review your business plan next; and note down any ongoing actions that have yet to be completed.

Where can I get a business plan template?

A search online will reveal numerous downloadable business plan templates. Accounting software services such as MYOB and Xero publish templates online too.

To save you looking further, the Australian Government’s Business website has a free business plan template you can download in Microsoft Word format. Or you could simply create your own template using the headings listed in this article.

How should I take payments in my new business?

The methods you’ll use to take payments should be detailed in your operating plan. Will you be getting paid remotely, face to face, or online? Or any combination of those? One of the keys to getting paid fast is to make it as simple as possible for customers to pay you. So, it’s a good idea to choose options that help them pay you the way they want to.

 

  • Getting paid on invoice:
    If your customers will be making bank-to-bank payments, you can just give them the BSB and account number of your bank account. However, if you’d rather not share your bank account details, you can ask customers to pay into your account using PayID®, meaning you’ll only need to provide the unique number you’ve registered for the service – which could be your mobile number or ABN.

 

 

  • Online payments:
    If you’re building an eCommerce website using an off-the-shelf platform, it may already incorporate a payment gateway. But if you’re looking for your own way of accepting card payments online or by phone, you may wish to consider one of the eCommerce solutions provided by Westpac.
     

 

To sum up

The prospect of launching a new business is exciting and you’ll be keen to get started as soon as possible. It pays to invest time in detailing the mechanics of your business. A comprehensive business plan will set you off on a solid path to a successful enterprise, well prepared for the challenges ahead.

Read more

4 key steps when setting up a business

ABN, GST, TFN - setting up a business can be a minefield of confusing acronyms. Here’s what they all mean, plus four key steps to help set up your business.

Business basics for sole traders

Here are some of the first things you should think about to get your business off on the right foot.

6 ways to get your invoices paid faster

When your customers pay their invoices on time, you create stronger cash flow in your business.

Things you should know

The information in this article is general in nature; does not take your objectives, financial situation or needs into account; and does not constitute financial or taxation advice. Consider its appropriateness to these factors; and we recommend you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before making any decisions.

 

PayID is a registered trademark of NPP Australia Limited.