The 2nd edition of The FT Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan: How to Win Backing to Start Up or Grow Your Business (FT Publishing, 2015) builds on the success of the 1st edition of 2011, which was exceptionally well received by entrepreneurs, managers, employees, consultants, academics and students.
They liked the style, the approach, the tools and the case studies. But, most of all, they liked the perspective.
The book is written from the perspective of the backer. It guides you all the way through to addressing the issues that are likely to concern your backer.
It urges you to tailor every word, every number, every fact, every assertion in your plan to the needs of your backer.
The reason behind this emphasis is simple. The vast majority of business plans received by a financier ends up in the bin.
Put yourself in their shoes. They see SO many business plans, dozens and dozens of them, every month, that unless it is evident that the plan writer has done the homework and taken the trouble to address their likely concerns, in the bin it goes – even if the business proposition contains elements of (unproven) promise.
This book will show you how to design, craft and shape a plan to the needs of your backer.
Readers’ feedback also included a number of most useful recommendations on how the book could be improved, which have happily taken on board for this edition. Here are the main changes:
Further drawing out of the specific challenges faced by start-ups – particularly on pinning down your perceived market niche and your perceived competitive advantage
A new chapter, by specific request, on pitching the plan
A new chapter on performing against plan, taking in key performance indicators and milestones
A new appendix showing an example business plan in its entirety, from start to finish
A new appendix on what to read next
The main aim of this book, as in the first edition, is to help you write a winning business plan. But the secondary aim has always been to give you a good read.
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Reviews of the 1st edition of this book, published in 2011
‘Vaughan Evans provides a thorough yet practical guide to writing a business plan. I particularly like his emphasis on market demand and competitive analysis because often we entrepreneurs tend to go with our gut feel rather than proper analysis. Miscalculate these two critical areas and you will probably enter the wrong business. I have been there before and no matter how good your team or execution is, it will be an uphill battle to convince investors if those two areas aren’t compelling. Evans gets the priorities behind business planning right.’
Anthony Karibian, co-founder, Euroffice Ltd and XLN Telecom Ltd (both sold September 2010) and latest start-up, B. Online
‘Raising capital is rarely straightforward. Evans’ excellent book shines a light on what suppliers of capital expect in a business plan and why. It is an invaluable resource for all managers and budding entrepreneurs.’
Hugh Lenon, Managing Partner, Phoenix Equity Partners, and Chairman of the British Venture Capital Association, 2010
‘Evans has nailed it! Clear, readable, no-nonsense thinking about the fundamentals every business plan must address. If writing a business plan is your next step, this book’s for you.’
John W. Mullins, Associate Professor of Management and Chair in Entrepreneurship, London Business School, and author of The New Business Road Test and Getting to Plan B
‘This guide cuts to the heart of what needs to go into a business plan – in any number of different scenarios. It is admirably clear and cleverly illustrated by real-life examples. It ought to be required reading for anyone contemplating any form of investment, even if they think they know it all already.’
James Brocklebank, Managing Director, Advent International
‘At last! A book that explains how to write the kind of business plan that investors and lenders actually want to read. A clear and concise book – I haven’t seen one that approaches the subject so straightforwardly. Evans uses his vast experience in advising real companies and financiers to make this guide authoritative and authentic, yet also practical and easy to follow.’
James Courtenay, Global Head, Project and Export Finance, Standard Chartered Bank
‘Where was this book when I was producing business plans? With his extensive experience and unique style Vaughan Evans has produced a comprehensive, clear guide which unravels the mystique of business planning. Peppered with good examples it is an essential reference for those contemplating a start-up as well as existing businesses moving to their next phase of growth.’
Grahame Hughes, co-founder, Haven Power Ltd (exited 2010)
‘Many investors say they back people, not businesses. Yes and no. People matter, of course. But so too do the markets the company addresses, the nature of the competition that’s waiting around the corner, the value proposition the company brings to market... That is what a business plan should focus on and that is what is set out so lucidly in this book. It is written for managers and entrepreneurs to present to investors by someone who knows only too well what investors need to know.’
David Williamson, Managing Director, Nova Capital Management
‘Vaughan Evans’s considerable experience in creating business plans and evaluating them on behalf of investors is very much in evidence in this eminently readable book. From my private equity perspective, a plan submitted along these guidelines will stand out from the rest. It will speak the language of potential investors.’
James Pitt, Partner, Lexington Partners
‘The fact that most new businesses fail is well known. The distinctive feature of Writing a Business Plan is the recognition that most businesses fail even before they are launched – they fail to attract financial backing. Vaughan Evans’s emphasis on rigorous strategy analysis as the foundation for any business plan is based in practicality. His emphasis on understanding customers, recognising competition and appraising resources is relevant to all the critical phases of new enterprise creation: attracting backers, launching the business and developing it into a self-sustaining enterprise. This book offers a robust, realistic and readable framework for successful business planning.’
Robert M. Grant, Eni Professor of Strategic Management, Bocconi Univeristy, Milan and author of Contemporary Strategy Analysis
‘We engage advisers like Vaughan Evans to forensically examine the business proposition of a potential investee company. Evans himself has been doing this for years and focuses in his book on analysing those issues which are most critical to driving enterprise value – market growth, competition and a robust, distinctive strategy. Follow his advice, tackle those issues head on in your business plan and you’ll be taking your first step towards getting funding.’
Ken Lawrence, Partner, Gresham Private Equity
‘A good business plan does not get you the backing, it gives you an opportunity. It raises the right issues, which later you need to address with your backer. With a bad business plan, you are dead on arrival. Follow Evans’s book and you’ll get a good one.’
Jose Maria Maldonado, Partner, Bridgepoint Capital (Spain)
‘Vaughan Evans knows the way an investor’s mind works – the deliberations of risk and return over major issues – and here he introduces the reader to this mindset. The result will be a business plan that will have pre-empted all the key questions likely to be demanded by investors. Now they are in print. This is an invaluable guide for a private equity backed growth company such as ours.’
Stephen Lawrence, Chief Executive, Protocol Education Ltd
‘Whether a start-up, early stage or mature business, this book provides essential and in-depth guidance on how to prepare a compelling business plan. With an emphasis on achieving credibility with the various readers of the plan, the guide offers more than just a template for producing a business plan. It brings together valuable real life examples as well as some priceless advice on strategic and operational issues. It should prove an invaluable tool for any company, large or small, that needs to produce a credible business plan.’
Vince O’Brien, Director, Montagu Private Equity and Chairman of the British Venture Capital Association, 2005
‘“You can get it if you really want”, but only if you have a good plan to get you there. Writing a business plan is one of the most important jobs anyone in business has to do at some point in their working lives. And yet in almost twenty years of reading business plans as an investor I only rarely come across a good one. In this well written book Vaughan Evans has produced an insightful and practical guide to writing a business plan, born from a wealth of experience. Follow it and you stand a much better chance of getting “what you really, really want”.’
Andrew Ferguson, Managing Director, Baird Capital Partners Europe Limited
‘Business planning in large organisations is sometimes done by rote, an extension of the budgeting process. Evans is right. It should be done properly or not at all. Properly means in-depth analysis of markets and the business proposition. This succinct, punchy book shows managers how to do it properly.’
Christine Harvey, former Director of Business Analysis and Planning, GlaxoSmithKline R&D
‘We receive dozens of business plans a year from SMEs. If entrepreneurs invest the time to read this book, it will make our life simpler and their chances of obtaining finance so much higher.’
Peter Wright, Investment Director, Finance Wales
‘This book provides an essential toolkit for anyone needing to assemble a business plan, with their ideas presented in a concise, no-nonsense way. Lively, contemporary case studies and essential tips, coupled with easy to follow writing, make it a perfect read for all levels of experience.’
Bill Priestley, Managing Director, LGV Capital Limited
‘The first question I always ask when looking at a business concept is “do they have a well thought out plan?”. If not, then it’s normally “decision made”. Getting backing for your business is about selling a well thought through concept and ensuring you provide the reader with the information and analysis needed in a clear and convincing manner. This book is written from the viewpoint of the potential backer, targeting his/her key questions. It provides a no-nonsense, easy-to-follow guide that will ensure you deliver a persuasive plan.’
Robert Samuelson, Executive Director Group Strategy, Virgin Media
‘As a private equity investor we see many business plans that fail to meet the “Seven C’s” outlined in Vaughan Evans’ excellent book. If you are seeking financial backing, this step-by-step guide is the place to start.’
Paul Gough, Partner, STAR Capital Partners Limited.
‘Over the years there have been many guides to what you should put in a business plan. The crucial difference with Evans’ book is that it tells you why and how as well. It does so in crystal clear, jargon-free language, from an author whose experience in sifting the strategic wheat from the chaff on behalf of top investors is second-to-none. Not only will putting his advice into practice enhance your funding prospects – it will help you think more incisively about your business as well.’
Richard Kemp, Managing Partner, Sephton Capital
‘Let’s get real: the majority of so-called business plans we see are built of straw. They can be toppled over by an investor’s puff. Build a business plan with bricks, one that can withstand the hurricane of investor analysis, and you may get funding. Evans shows you how to build.’
Jonathan Derry-Evans, Partner, Manfield Partners
‘I have not met many entrepreneurs who actually enjoy taking out the time needed to put a proper business plan in place. After all, we could use that time to make some sales calls, think up some new ideas... and the list goes on. However, Vaughan Evans has shown in this excellent book that business planning is not only essential for success but it can also be a whole lot of fun – especially when you succeed in raising the capital you need to start or grow your business. This book will prove useful for both new and experienced entrepreneurs.
Loxley McKenzie, Managing Director, Colordarcy Investment Limited
‘Well, we've seen them on TV - those aspiring entrepreneurs, long on passion but short on next year's forecast sales and profit figures. Sometimes even last year's performance is rendered vague and unquantified. But, as Vaughan Evans points out in this excellent guide to creating a business plan, backers need evidence as well as passion before they sign up to an investment. That's the strength of this book – it is slanted towards the initial market for the business plan – the backer – and once that perspective is established, the criteria and priorities follow. The book will help transform what can be an intimidating challenge into a well-informed, skillful task that might just make the difference in attracting a backer.’
Greg Spiro, Managing Director, SpiroNicholson
‘Just as when you sell your product or service, you have to differentiate yourself AND your business in the minds of investors to raise finance. Simply having a great product or service is not sufficient. This insightful book – rare in its genre – walks you through how to do just this.
This is a book that's well worth reading and having on your shelf even if your business idea is an early dream at this stage.’
Mike Price, Managing Director, Better Strategy Limited
‘Evans provides detailed and hugely practical techniques, templates and focussed case studies to enable entrepreneurs and developers to prepare materials and documentation that for many would otherwise be sourced from high-priced hired hands. Written in a cheery and non-patronising style that generates enthusiasm for the task. Evans' light touch mitigates the drudgery of accounting and forecasting methodologies without any sacrifice to rigor and focus. His approach to demand forecasting is succinct and masterly. No less so his differentiation between advertising and marketing. The guide’s positive spirit should feed through to the business plan itself and thus to the ultimate objective of raising support from internal and external backers.’
Stephen Uhlig, Managing Director, Colinette Partners
‘I enjoyed this book immensely. As someone who has written business plans, indeed advised others on how to do so, this book provides new perspectives on the challenge. It's full of practical tips and detailed guidance. For those more financially challenged, the chapter on Financials and Forecasts provides the most straightforward explanation of the critical terms, their meaning and how to calculate them that I have seen.’
Andy Tomkins, Managing Director, Atomki
‘Over the years I have written a few business plans for my own start-up businesses, however a year ago I needed to write one for a successful company which was poised for expansion and decided I needed some external, low cost assistance. I scoured the (on-line) shelves and bought a market leading book as a guide. I ended up with a reasonable plan, but it was a struggle. The book was long-winded and complex, as concerned with the minutiae and financials as the business rationale. Business planners today have it easy. This book is exceptional. Short and sharp, it goes straight to the meat – what we need to get right to meet the demands of the investor. It is lively to read, full of insightful guidance – based on Evans’s years of experience of what works and what doesn't. It is dotted with great examples, from Levi Roots to LoveFilm, and deals with the financials succinctly and sufficiently. This book is a must and will save SME owners, both those starting up and those wishing to inject some strategic direction into their businesses, not just their hair but tens of thousands of pounds in consulting fees. It should result in what we all want – a great business model, saleable to investors!’
Amanda Hills, CEO, Hills Balfour Limited
‘This book is very useful and well written. Comprehensive yet concise and written in a chatty yet credible style. Very enjoyable as well as instructive. Excellent.’
Ian Lang, CEO, Higher Level Systems Limited