How to write a winning business plan – Michael Tait sets out the format and content that has been successful for him.

So many of the companies I’ve taken on don’t have an ongoing business plan. They may have had one once. Possibly when they took on external investors or other financing but have since drifted away from having a proper plan that sets out exactly how the business will be taken forward. It amazes me that external investors such as private-equity firms allow this situation. I have seen it several times. What I can tell you is that every single troubled company I have taken on has been without a current formal business plan!

WINNING BUSINESS PLAN - Michael Tait Interim ChairmanA business plan for each fiscal period is an absolute must in my view. No company under my care will be without a deep and comprehensive roadmap. Business is like any journey. If you don’t have a map with specific directions and milestones you will likely end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

It’s not the job of investors to insist on a business plan. It is management’s duty to provide one. A duty also to themselves, the business, and the staff who all depend upon clarity of thinking and planning for the way forward. So, not just for investors.

Writing a winning business plan is not easy. It’s long and hard work to get a quality plan together. A business plan is a test and challenge of your strategic thinking. The writing of the plan forces you to rethink or re endorse the validity of your business choices and activities.

It requires considerable discipline to write a good plan. I have seen business plans that wouldn’t qualify to be on the back of a cigarette packet. What use are they to anyone, other than to demonstrate that management don’t haven’t the first clue how to build the business.

A winning business plan is your chance to demonstrate your grasp over market opportunities and your strategic thinking and discipline of business execution. It is also a powerful tool for getting investors onside and co-owning the way forward. Importantly, a business plan provides the performance criteria upon which success or failure is measured or judged.Winning business plan

I have coached and mentored many a CEO through the building of a winning business plan and helped the managers needing to contribute to this important process. When the plan is complete, everyone is on the same hymn sheet – investors, management and key staff. Everyone knows what is expected of them and why.

Despite the intense work involved, I have never had anyone say a business plan was of dubious value. Quite the contrary. Without exception, everyone has agreed the huge benefits of the process.

Below is a framework I generally follow for writing a winning business plan:

  • Confidentiality statement
  • Introduction
  • Description of business and history
  • Profile on management team, current structure and method of operating
  • Markets and competition
  • Top level summary of historic financial performance
  • Customer base profile, trading history by account, individual analysis on top customers, security of revenue stream and potential for new sales
  • In-depth analysis/assessment of current new sales pipe-line
  • Assessment/Forecast for coming periods
  • Products/Services – state of play on products and R&D programme
  • SWOT analysis, special considerations and conclusions
  • Mission and vision for the business
  • Key goals and objectives
  • Top level summary of financial goals
  • Method of accomplishment – strategy and key underpinning programmes and initiatives (Specifics and substance)
  • Sales strategy and organisation
  • Human resources plan and organisation chart
  • Board structure
  • Exit strategy
  • Financial plans (Spreadsheets – P&L, Balance Sheet & Cash Flow) – writing a business plan


Holly Reisem Hanna provides valuable business start-up advice in her article on How to Write a Simple Business Plan