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Double-check it all

Review your plan as soon as it's finished - have you covered it all?

After a lot of hard work, your business plan is written. It should, of course, be a document you review as your business changes and grows. However, you'll want to check everything over again the morning after, when you can be completely honest with yourself.

Do you now know where you're headed? Set out your strategy and action plan for up to three years if you can

Is it readable? Make it snappy, informative, and brief – put the detail in an appendix. For any outside readers, include an Executive Summary - a two-page encapsulation of the whole business

Make it realistic and avoid over-optimistic sales forecasts. Most businesses add at least 20% to their forecast expenses

Are you on top of the numbers? If your profit and loss sheet, credit requirements or other financials don't look right, then don't blunder on. For the financial assessment, get an accountant to help - it will be worth the expense

What have you missed?

Quote�Most businesses begin with an informal conversation�End Quote

To help you answer the above, here are ten items which should appear in every business plan. If you can't provide them, you probably need to do some more research. Don't be discouraged, though - most businesses begin with an informal conversation, and it takes effort to come up with the depth of information required for a plan. If you can tick all the boxes on these, you're well on your way.

A clear two-line description of your product or service

The total value of the market you're in, your current share, and your possible share

Competing products, and why you think you can outsmart them

How you're going to reach your potential buyers. (This one is crucial beyond belief - a good idea is nothing without the ability to market it)

Your workforce, labour costs, any areas in which your team is lacking, incentives for them to stay with you

Premises and capital expenditure (equipment). What do you need, what do you have, how long will it be before it's paid for, and how long are you tied in?

Complete accounts and realistic projections, based on an honest assessment of sales

Answers to some 'What If' questions. What if you had to cut your prices by 20%? What if another shop opened up next door? What if you were ill for six months? These will show your market resilience

Your options for expansion and growth - and how you'll cope with it

Month by month, clear knowledge of how much money you expect to receive, how much you'll be borrowing, and what repayments you'll be facing

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What next?

Our business plan checklist will ensure you don't miss anything.

You should revisit your plan every now and then, even after you've finished writing it. Read how here.

Ready to go and find some investors? See our advice on grants, venture capital and business angels.

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