What are the advantages and disadvantages of a business plan?

The hands of a businessman in front of a spiral notebook containing business plan ideas.

Almost every business starts with a business plan. These documents are used to map out the steps you want to take to get your business off the ground. However, do these strategy documents work for all businesses?

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an investor, business plans are considered an essential part of starting a new business. For business owners and other stakeholders, it acts as a manual that can be used to chart a business’ success. Similarly, business plans can generate confidence, helping to convince potential lenders that investment is a risk worth taking.

However, business plans can also be expensive and time-consuming to create. Additionally, there is also no guarantee that a business will succeed just because a sound plan has been put in place.

To help you decide if a business plan would benefit your new venture, this guide runs through the main advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages of a business plan

Although a business plan takes time and money to create, it can help save both in the future if done properly. Below we take a look at some of the key advantages of creating a business plan:

1. It helps you forecast future steps
The primary purpose of a business plan is to give you (and investors) an idea of whether your business has the potential to be successful. By mapping out your next steps and setting milestones, you can spot strengths and weaknesses in your ideas and set targets. This is helpful as it may prevent you from proceeding with a business idea that may end up costing you money.

On the other hand, these initial forecasts may provide the positive projections you need to actually get started and even attract outside investment. Even if your business plan produces an uncertain forecast, it still provides a small glimpse of the direction your business wants to head in and how it may perform on the way. This is valuable information, both for business owners and third-party stakeholders.

2. It is required if you want to apply for credit
In order to secure a business loan from an official lender, a business plan is essential. Most banks will not even meet with you to discuss financing unless you have a business plan to present. This is because financial institutions like banks and credit unions need a way to accurately gauge their lending risks.

A well-thought-out business plan gives you the opportunity to show lenders how organised and prepared you are. It should explain how your business will use any capital you are lent and how you intend to make repayments. This level of detail can help to instil confidence in your business by persuading lenders you are a good risk.

3. It helps you to identify future cash flow issues
A business plan should contain detailed cash flow forecasts and analysis. This shows potential lenders how money is expected to travel in and out of your business. It can also be useful for owners to determine if/when the business is expected to have cash flow problems under certain strategies. Having this information at hand can make it easier to financially plan, ensuring the business is always properly funded.

4. It helps you to allocate resources
One of the biggest challenges for new business owners is resource management. From how much inventory you should buy to setting initial budgets, these decisions can be difficult. A business plan encourages you to create a workable budget and allocate resources before you start spending. This ensures you can afford everything you need and you don’t overspend before your business can start making money.

5. It helps you better understand your competition
Creating a business plan requires a great deal of industry research. While you may think you have a strong handle on what you want your business to achieve, only by analysing your competition will you be able to see the full picture. A business plan can help you produce highly valuable insights into competitor demographics. This includes existing consumer trends and preferences, as well as costing insights. These findings are not always viable without conducting business plan competitor analysis.

6. It can help to secure talent
In order for a business to be successful, attracting talented workers is crucial. A business plan can help to secure this talent by setting out a clear vision for the business. From management to skilled entry level staff, by showing individuals the direction and potential of the business, you can start to build a strong and coherent team.

The disadvantages of a business plan

Business plans can be time-consuming and expensive to produce. On top of this, there is also no guarantee that they will be accurate or help you to achieve the investment you are looking for. With this in mind, below we outline a number of disadvantages when it comes to creating a business plan:

1. It may not be accurate
Putting together credible business plans is a highly skilled process. For this reason, many businesses seek the help of experienced business advisors when creating one. However, even with the help of a broad range of expert opinions, there is no guarantee that what is produced will be accurate. Industries and even wider business climates can change very quickly. This means that even taking the time and money to create an in-depth business plan can be risky.

2. It can make you become ‘tunnel-visioned’
In a world where nothing is 100% certain, treating your business plan as an uncompromising manual is a bad idea. The fact is, they are nothing more than a set of forecasts. If followed religiously, these strategy documents can ultimately do more harm than good. This is especially true if you become tunnel-visioned by your business plan and fail to adapt when market forces and changing economic environments demand it.

3. It can waste precious time and money
Creating a business plan can take a lot of time and money to produce. It may require the help of third-party experts, such as business advisors, lawyers and accountants, all of which will charge for their services. Additionally, it can also take you and other employees away from the day-to-day tasks involved with launching a new business. This can lead to precious resources being wasted on a task whose cost may exceed its benefits.

The above points show that although business plans represent an essential component for most new businesses, comprehensive plans may not be 100% necessary in all circumstances. Luckily, if you are looking to put one together but are struggling to know where to start, the Markel Law Hub can help. We have a simple, easy-to-follow business plan template for you to download. To learn how you can access the Markel Law Hub, click here.

Business insurance from £5 a month