Business Planning

Gathering Information

Preparing your business plan starts with gathering information together on which you will base your decisions about strategy and objectives.

That information comes, as you would expect, from both inside and outside the business. SWOT Analysis can be a useful tool at this stage of Business Planning.

Do not underestimate the amount of information you already have within the business, for instance:

  • your sales records will give you excellent data on the buying patterns and desires of your existing customer base
  • your sales people will have information about the customers they currently service – and the potential customers which exist in the market place

Which other sources of information can you identify within your business operation. What about ‘shop floor’ workers and their ideas on product improvement and development? In some businesses, the van driver has a great deal of contact with customers – what information can he/she give you? With careful thought, almost all parts of your existing business can be a rich source of useful information.

It is often agreed that Pareto’s Law applies – i.e. 80% of results comes from 20% of effort. But do you know which 20% of your effort produces results? The information you gather at this stage of preparing your business plan will be useful in identifying the most productive efforts you make.


Your markets

  • Which markets, or market segments, are most profitable?
  • What plans do you need to attack new markets?
  • Are existing markets saturated?
  • Who makes up your markets?

Your products and services

  • Do they meet customer requirements?
  • Which are the most profitable?
  • What about price, service and quality issues?
  • How do they compete in the market place?

Your marketing effort

  • Are your existing marketing methods right?
  • How much do they cost?
  • How do you target potential new customers?

Your competition

  • Who are they?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do customers compare you and your competitors?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Your suppliers

  • What are relationships like?
  • Do you work with them to improve their quality of supply to your business – and thus to your customers?

Finance and cashflow

  • How does your cashflow forecasting system work?
  • Is it accurate?
  • What about your profit forecasts – do you keep them up to date and monitor performance?
  • Do you maintain tight budgetary control on financial matters?

Premises and equipment

  • Will your premises cope with your plans?
  • Are they used to best effect?
  • Is your equipment up to date?
  • How will you fund any improvements?


  • Do you have the right people to achieve your objectives?
  • Do they know what is expected of them in achieving those objectives?
  • Do you operate a training and development plan?

The management team

  • Who are they?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do they need training?


  • Do you know your own strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you need training?

The Right Information

When asking for information, you will want to ensure that the data you receive is timely and accurate. It should be based on objective facts, not ill-considered fantasies. And it should be presented in a form that is in tune with the information system you will be using to turn the raw data into plans for success.

Getting information is easy, getting the right information and at the right time is less so. Once you’ve got it, you’ll want the means of turning it to advantage. Read on!

Business Planning Guide © Crown Copyright 2011

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