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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Writing a business plan - checklist

Your business plan should be the roadmap for how you run your business - and it's vital if you want to attract finance. Follow our tips to create your plan.

  • Clarify the purpose of the business plan, and whether it will need to 'sell' your business to outsiders such as potential investors.
  • Review your SWOT analysis of the business (SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats); consider including a summary with the plan.
  • Begin the plan with background material on the history of the business, and an outline of your product or service and its USP(s).
  • Describe the market segments in which you compete, market trends and key drivers', and the nature of any existing customers or key targets.
  • Outline the main competing products and suppliers, how they compare with yours and why you will be able to compete effectively.
  • Explain how you market your product - its market position, pricing, promotion, and distribution channels - and how you sell.
  • Set out the structure and key skills of your management and employees; assess their performance and motivation.
  • Analyse your operations - premises, production facilities, management information systems - and any plans for improvements.
  • Provide historical financial information; highlight key figures (such as sales, key operating and financial ratios) and trends, and explain anything unusual.
  • Provide latest financials - an up-to-date balance sheet and profit and loss and cash flow statements.
  • Prepare financial forecasts for the next few years; explain key assumptions and any contingency plans covering key areas of uncertainty.
  • Make sure that the plan is short and focused; move any detailed information (eg market research, extensive financial information) to an appendix.
  • Write a one- or two-page executive summary at the beginning of the plan.
  • Read through the plan to ensure that it sets out a realistic strategy and action plan in a professional manner; ask advisers for their comments.
  • Regularly review progress again the plan and update it as necessary.

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