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Online tools and resources to help you write an effective business plan

March 8, 2013

One of the keys to success in any venture is having an accurate and informative business plan. It will set a clear direction and ensure you spend your time productively. As a vital document, you need to invest time getting it right before you make any key business decisions.

There are numerous tools and sources of information online, that allow you to research and plan virtually any business idea. Here are a few of our favourites.

Free information to build your plan

You’ll find a good selection of articles and tips on writing a business plan right here on Bytestart, so it’s the perfect place to start!

Our guides on;

are just a few of our most popular ones.

The government’s Business Link website did have a wealth of information to help you develop your plan, but since the site has been subsumed by Gov.uk most of it has disappeared. You can however, watch a short video on writing a business plan on Gov.uk here.

Free advice and tools

The major banks will frequently offer some form of basic business planning tool, free template or advice with their new business accounts package, so it’s worth asking your bank what they can offer you.

Research your business idea

For a few pounds each, Scavenger gives you access to hundreds of reports and guides on many different types of business.

If you’ve ever fancied owning a coffee shop or starting a children’s day nursery, these guides will help you to work out whether you are suited to the business, what training you need, who your customers are likely to be and who you will be competing against.

Crunch the numbers

There are several handy calculators on BPlans, including a Cash flow calculator, a Break-even calculator and a Start-Up costs calculator that will tell you what capital you will need to start your business.

Buy a book

There are hundreds of books out there on business planning. Here are some of the top selling ones at Amazon UK.

Find sample business plans

You will find a wide selection of free business plan templates online. You can download a general business plan template from the Prince’s Trust or Business Wales websites.

If you want to find a sample plan for the particular type of business you are starting up, whether it’s a restaurant, a hairdresser, or a mobile dog-grooming business, you will probably be able to find a sample plan to help you.

Business plan software

If you don’t want to put your plan together from scratch yourself, you can buy software that does some of the work for you.

Rather than having to compile the information and set out the format yourself, the software takes you through the plan one step at a time and you input the information where prompted. These tools will also provide you with some tips and hints as you complete each section.

The most popular software is Business Plan Pro which also gives you access to 500 sample business plans.

An alternative for building a plan is EDP Business Plan Designer. This also uses a wizard to help you enter your information, and will automatically create sales forecasts, cash flow, profit and loss and balance sheets.

Get your plan written for you

If you aren’t confident of producing the plan yourself, your accountant or business adviser may well be able to help you. Alternatively, you can find a specific business plan adviser or writer to help you. Specialist help with your plan may be particularly useful if you are looking to raise funding.

Business Plan Services claims it can improve your chances of securing funding by 4,000%. The firm will work with you to look at what you want to achieve and advise you on the best route and can also physically write the plan for you.

Another option on this front is the Business Plan Team. They offer a full business plan consultancy, or can work with you online.

These online tools and resources will enable you to learn more about your potential new venture and help you to put together a strong and effective business plan. It may not be the most exciting of projects, but the time you spend on developing your plan will be well rewarded once you start your business.